Like it or not - CEO’s are Chief Customer Officers

Several years ago I was in Europe for an event we held for Yello customers in EMEA. I was walking back to my hotel after dinner when I learned of an issue one of our large enterprise accounts was having with a critical integration. It was after 5pm eastern on Friday, and obviously much later in Europe. I wasn’t familiar with the leadership at that customer directly so I reached out to the key contact at that company immediately on LinkedIn. I wrote the following:

Thank you for connecting with me! I’m in Oslo and was made aware of the issue you’re experiencing with the integration to (the ATS provider).

First off — I am incredibly sorry.

Second — I have reached out to the head of the (ATS provider) to see if I can get ahold of him when he is back on Monday. I happen to have an in person meeting with him already scheduled for Wednesday, so we should have updates soon.

We are treating this urgently and will do everything possible. I can be reached at (myemail) and my cell is 312–XXX–XXXX as well. I return to the States on Sunday. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll keep you posted. Thank you so much.

Within 10 minutes I got a call from the customer who I had never met before. We spoke for close to a half an hour while I walked through the dark streets of Oslo at midnight. It was not a pleasant call of course, but by the end, our customer knew that he was in good hands. He knew that he and their situation were more important than anything else in the world. He knew that he was valued. He appreciated it immensely.

This past Friday for a new startup I am working with, we were running a big pilot. A key partner custom crafted a one-of-a-kind product for us. The company is in stealth now, so apologies for being a bit evasive!

To run the pilot end-to-end, we needed to get the custom product delivered. There are several 3rd party delivery services available now that are well-funded and complete millions of deliveries each year. We spoke to the main players in this space letting them know about the pilot opportunity. After vetting the services, we decided on one to partner with for this pilot.

The product was going to be ready to be picked up from the South Side of Chicago at 2:30pm to me in River North a few miles away. We set the drop-off time to be 4:30pm at the latest, even though it’s a 15 minute drive max.

The driver was supposed to be assigned 20 minutes or so prior to the pickup time of 2:30pm, and this occurred at 2:36pm. A little late, but no big deal. They then didn’t pickup the product until 4:14pm. Not great, but we said it needed to be delivered by 4:30pm and it looked like the vendor could still get this done. 4:30pm on the dot and got the notification from the vendor that the delivery was made!

Ok, key learning opportunities … Next time specify a shorter time window, or we could optimize for the pickup time not the drop off time, or we could change the notification style to not create concern… lots of ideas!

My building’s doorman didn’t call up to let me know about the package, but I decided to head down and pick it up. I checked the front table amongst the other deliveries and it wasn’t there. Checked the package room, wasn’t there. Asked the doorman and he said he hadn’t seen it. Looked at the confirmation from the 3rd party delivery service and I saw a picture of my building, not of the package delivered there.


Went to the Help section of the app and waited on hold to get someone from customer service for what seemed to be an eternity. Nobody picked up. Then decided to email, text and then call our main sales contact for the 3rd party delivery vendor. She called back quickly and said she was going to check right away.

This was bad. This was really bad. How do we call the partner that spent so much time and energy on the one-of-a-kind product and tell them it was never delivered? This was our first test. Would they trust us again?

20 minutes go by and my sales rep calls me back. The product was stolen. It was apparently the second item stolen by this driver on Friday and the service was made aware of it by me. They locked the driver out of the system as he was now unreachable and off the grid. A few minutes later a sales manager called and asked what he could do. I said I’d really like to get this resolved asap and he said they would be back in touch soon.

It has been crickets. I even reached out to the CEO of the 3rd party delivery services provider on LinkedIn that night and haven’t heard a peep.

Fortunately our creative partner was forgiving and was willing to try again. We joked that what they created was so amazing, the delivery driver stole it!

When telling this story to friends and family over the weekend, it just was unfathomable that this could occur, but in life, things happen. We need to get over it, learn the lessons and move on quickly. Life is too short.

This weekend, I kept thinking about walking the streets at midnight in Oslo speaking to my customer. The Yello team and the ATS provider were able to resolve his issue within a week or so and he and his team were grateful for the attention and consistent communication along the way.

This customer’s company was deeply impacted by COVID-19 and still is right now. I believe a key reason we continue to be partners today is the trust that was developed a few years back.



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