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The Problem’s If the Customer Doesn’t Know

Most organizations that realize they’ve made a mistake in caring for, servicing, or communicating with customers, expect to correct the mistake.

Organizations need to go the next step, though — not an extra step, mind you, just the next step — and notify the customer of the fix, or the de facto experience is the same as letting the mistake stand. At the very least, the organization undercuts its own reputation for care, service, or communication.

Here’s a lightly edited set of emails (with all names turned to generic roles or functions) that illustrates this point. The correspondence begins with a communication from a research company to the board members of a nonprofit organization.

Subject: Research Company’s Trustee Survey — Last Chance

Dear Liz,

We are asking you as a current or immediate past trustee of Nonprofit X to complete your board survey today. Our Special Program offers you an opportunity to grow and strengthen the Nonprofit X community, but this work begins with the board. Your views on strategic priorities and your own experiences as a leader of this nonprofit are critically important. Please respond today.

The survey is simple and takes only 10-15 minutes to complete. To enter, use your individual survey link below. This link is intended only for you. Do not share it with or forward it to anyone else.

Click here to begin:
[survey link]

Time is short — the survey will close at the end of the day on Monday, September 23.

The survey is being conducted by the Research Center. All of your responses are strictly confidential. Only the research team will have access to your data, and no one from your nonprofit will see your responses.

If you have any questions, please contact us at program@researchcenter.

Please know that your participation is very valuable and greatly appreciated.

Associate Director
Research Center
Mailing Address
Phone Number

If you are not interested in participating in this study, please click here to be removed from the study list.

As a trustee and past officer of the nonprofit, I completed the survey promptly, and I hoped that the results would help the nonprofit I cared about and supported. But I was exceedingly unhappy a short while later when another trustee forwarded me his copy of the same email, with this note:

Tried to take the survey. Link is dead.

Thank goodness he let me know, instead of just blowing it off. We still had a chance to fix the link and collect the data we needed. I sent a quick follow-up message to Researcher.

Subject: Link is Broken! FW: Research Company’s Trustee Survey — Last Chance

Can you fix and resend, please?

Not to me — I’ve already taken the survey. To the list of recipients from Nonprofit X that you emailed this morning.

Thanks so much.

Liz Kislik

Here’s what I got back less than three hours later:

Dear Liz,

Thank you for being in touch. We have addressed the technical error and everyone’s survey link is now working properly. Please let me know if you encounter any other issues or have any questions.


Research Specialist
Research Center

I was so relieved that the Research Center was able to address the problem. But how would all the non-responders know? How many of them might have already deleted the message because of the bum link? I wrote another email:

Thanks, Research Specialist. Did you resend, or are we hoping that people will think to check again if they haven’t already deleted the email with the broken link?


And here’s the disappointing answer:

Dear Liz,

We did not resend the link, but I invite you to encourage board members to check the email again. Based on our response rate next week, we may send out another reminder which will make the survey fresh in everyone’s inbox.

Thanks again for your help.

Research Specialist

I did not appreciate being “invited” to do the final step that the service provider should have done to resolve the problem completely, so I bucked it to the nonprofit’s president, who handled it nicely. But after fixing the link, shouldn’t the provider want to close the loop to ensure the board’s “critically important,” “very valuable,” and “greatly appreciated” participation? And shouldn’t the provider have done so for its own sake as well as for the sake of its client, the nonprofit?

Correction is crucial, but it takes insight to finish the job completely — and make sure the relationship is working as well as the link ought to be.

Onward and upward,


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