A carrier delivers a box from a retailer and leaves it out in the rain, thus ruining the contents. Who do you blame – the store or the driver?

A shirt arrives in the mail, but has a defective seam. Do you find fault with seller or their manufacturer?

You buy a loaf of bread and find that it is moldy – are you aggravated with the store or the baker?

Every organization has a host of partners upon whom they rely to deliver goods and services on behalf of the organization. Those who do service best treat these relationships as part of their internal workings and realize that the organization owns the liabilities others may have caused, rather than redirecting their customers elsewhere.

How do you handle something that was not in your control, but had an impact on your clients? The answer should be: “as graciously and expeditiously as you would handle a mistake you made yourself.”

There is a technical accounting term FOB (“Free on Board”) to determine at what point responsibility of the goods and costs of shipping them transfer between the seller and the buyer. While FOB is used for commercial transactions, the concept can apply to organizations as they consider how to establish customer service policies and relate to their ultimate consumers.

Responsibility and ownership do not transfer when the box is delivered, the shirt is shipped or the bread makes it into the cupboard. The original organization is wise to service the transaction far into the future, regardless of where in the chain a misstep occurred.

A sign in an auto dealer maintenance shop reads: “They buy the first car because of the sales department and every other car after that because of the service department.”

Consider your FOB to mean Forever Our Business and handle issues that arise with aplomb – no matter who caused them.


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