No matter how committed to excellence you are, things occasionally go wrong and a customer has a less-than-satisfactory experience with your business or product. The way in which you handle the situation will not only greatly impact that customer’s opinion of your company’s integrity, but can actually help you reinforce your brand image.

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Case in point: Todd Copilevitz and his memorable stay at the New York City W Hotel. Copilevitz is Director of Interactive Strategy for The Richards Group, a Dallas-based advertising agency and editor of the blog, Advertising Ourselves to Death. W Hotels is Starwood’s luxury-end “boutique” brand known for attracting A-list celebrities and the young-and-moneyed hip.

Copilevitz arrived at W at 9:30 p.m. “in desperate need of quiet and sleep,” he wrote in his blog’s account of events. Despite having a reservation, his room wasn’t ready. Only one person manned the front desk, which was overwhelmed by a lobby full of other guests checking in. The situation went from bad to abysmal after Copilevitz was finally shown his room – which, to put it mildly, failed to meet the standards one would expect.

Finding the name and email address of W Hotels’ president, Ross Klein, in a book on his room’s desk, Copilevitz composed a scathing email relating his experience and expectation that W Hotels would make right, or he would see that his office never again booked at a W property. “Let’s be honest here,” he wrote in his blog. “I was venting. At most, I figured I would hear from some marketing drone a week or so later.”

But he was very wrong. At 3:10 a.m., his BlackBerry buzzed. It announced an email replying to the subject: From a miserable room in your hotel. The replier: none other than Ross Klein.

Klein’s reply went above and beyond the generic “sorry for your inconvenience” and offer to comp his stay. He apologized for not being in town to personally handle the situation, acknowledged that the room should have been out of service in preparation for a total renovation of the property, that W would find him other accommodations either there or elsewhere, and that he would follow up. But what really impressed Copilevitz was this sentence: “There is no way we could accept that you pay for this experience either in currency or emotion.”

Copilevitz wrote, “How’s that for an understanding of his company’s relationship with its customers? …I have heard a dozen different takes on building brands and the brand promise, the brand equity, blah, blah, blah. Never before have I heard anything as succinct or powerful. Needless to say, when the president of the chain speaks, things get done. Night #2 was much nicer. But in that one brief email, Mr. Klein took a tired, —— off critic of his company and turned me into a guy who really wants to believe that Ws are something different. And I’m willing to give them another try.”