Turning an experience around

In November of 2008, one of WRDW’s most popular primetime network programs wasn’t shown due to a technical error. A fan of the show emailed to ask if the episode would be re-aired. Believing that the show was available online, someone in the newsroom sent the viewer a link to our website. The viewer’s response, excerpted below, was forwarded to me.

Why did you even bother responding to my Email?  First of all, it took you three weeks to respond, and secondly, you gave me bogus information because complete episodes of [the program] are not available at the [network] website.  Have a good day!

Before responding to the viewer, I first confirmed that the show was no longer available online. Then I contacted the director of station programming to see if she knew if the episode would be re-aired.

Once I had thoroughly researched the problem, I composed a sympathetic email to the viewer. I addressed him by name and expressed our regret that the show was no longer available and that we hadn’t checked first before responding. Since the viewer had sent his message to our editorial email box, I went on to let him know how to receive more immediate help:

We also apologize that the response came so late.  Our [editorial] inbox is usually only checked every week or two; it’s more for general comments and questions for use on air, rather than customer service.  If you ever need us, please check out the [contact] page for a direct point of contact.

Despite all my research, I was unable to find a way for the viewer to watch the episode he wanted to see. I let him know the steps I’d taken and what the unfortunate results were. Then I closed the email with:

I wish we could have been of more help to you in this matter.  Please let me know if there’s anything further we can do.

Best wishes,

Heather Meadows
Web Producer

The next morning I received a more sympathetic and subdued email from the viewer. He actually thanked me, even though I had been unable to do anything for him.

I forwarded the message to the original journalist to let him know the issue was resolved. He responded,


That’s impressive. … You did the footwork— and they realize it.

He also forwarded the entire exchange to our boss, who then wrote to me,

You truly did a great job in turning this viewer around.   Kindness goes a long way, doesn’t it?  Thank you.