Standing Out From the Flock


January 27, 2013 by Beth

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received some phenomenal customer service. It seems as though so often we’re willing to rant about the people who treat us poorly, but we often forget to speak up about the companies that are doing it right. Better yet, we can learn some great things from the individuals who take the time to make sure that we receive all that we expect when we do business with them or their company.


Last year, our family took off for a fantastic vacation in Sandestin, Florida – we eschewed the condos and high rises for a modest cabin in a state park (Topsail Hill Preserve State Park – highly recommend!), where we were rewarded with 3.2 miles of uncrowded (i.e., not rows upon rows of umbrellas and hundreds of people) white sand beaches, bike trails and access to the incredible natural landscape within the preserve.


This photo is from the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park website – go visit!

We brought along a copy of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, written and illustrated by David Sibley, so that we could explore the area. If you’re not familiar with Sibley guides, they are really phenomenal, even (especially!) for complete novices like me and competent birders like my husband. As an example, here’s one of the recent illustrations from Mr. Sibley’s blog on the Sibley Guides website:


Lo and behold, when we flipped over to page 93/94 to track down details and identify what we thought might be one of the ospreys or kites that had captured our imaginations and fascinated us at home, we found a complete misprint in the guide – pages out of order and quite a few missing. Disappointing, but certainly not the end of the world.


After returning home, I left a comment on the Sibley Guides site to inquire about perhaps swapping our copy for a corrected version.

I received a kind email from David Sibley directly, letting me know that they would most certainly assist. Pretty impressive, I thought. He’s very well-known, and most certainly very busy, and he monitors comments and reader feedback on his site. He grew even more in my esteem.

I passed along my mailing address as requested and thought nothing more about it.


Then, I received an email from Andy Hughes, director of design and production for Alfred A. Knopf Publishers. Mr. Sibley had passed along my mention of the defective copy, and Mr. Hughes sent a very nicely worded email inquiring into the specifics. When I responded with the page numbers and printing details on the book edition, I received yet another considerate note. The publishing house was in the midst of a reprint, and wanted to ensure the error did not occur again.

Wow. How many companies do just enough to silence the complainer (and I should mention I was polite and factual, rather than demanding and ugly) and ignore finding the root of the problem and fixing it permanently? Now both the author and the publisher had my respect.


Then, I received a note from Arthur Riscen, executive editor at Andrew Stewart Publishing, which handles production of the Sibley Field Guide to Birds East for Knopf. Mr. Riscen advised me that I would receive a postage paid, pre-addressed envelope to return the defective book, if I would? So that he might forward it to the printing plant to figure out what went wrong and avoid the error occurring again. Here’s a portion of his note:

It has been brought to our attention that you recently purchased a defective copy of this title. I do apologize that this book wound up in a store and eventually in your hands. I also wanted to thank you for bringing it to David’s attention. I have put a new replacement copy of the book in the mail to you today and it should arrive by early next week. I took the time to check the pagination of the entire book just to make sure all was in order. You will also find complimentary copies of two 2013 Sibley Calendars. Just my way of again saying thanks for helping us by bringing this mistake to our attention. I hope you can use and enjoy them. Please do let me know that everything makes it to you and again I apologize for this error and any inconvenience it may have caused you.

When is the last time you took care of a customer, client, friend or family member with this attention to detail?


Mr. Sibley, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Riscen, as well as their respective companies, have set the bar high. You can be quite certain they’ll have my patronage for quite some time, and clearly I’ll recount their story publicly. I’m off to download the Sibley app for my iPhone, and my future birding and book purchases will most certainly be from these gentlemen.

How will you impress your customers next?


One thought on “Standing Out From the Flock

  1. […] is a post up today over on Magpie Marketing about customer service, and why I will be a lifelong fan of David […]


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