File this under how to handle an epic fail. We didn’t even know Bonobos had had an epic fail on Cyber Monday until we got our Quora newsletter this week, in which the top question was: “Why did Bonobos have such an epic fail on Cyber Monday 2011?” Apparently, the e-retailer was overwhelmed with traffic for its up to 60 percent off discounts and had to take down its site for days. But before it could, the startup accidentally charged customers who hadn’t made orders, served up agonizing slowness and surfaced repeated 404 errors—a nightmare for a company that strives for Zappos-esque customer service.
In the Bonobos office, it was apparently all hands on deck with the customer service team, a.k.a. email@example.com. The Twitter popped off with apologies and self-deprecating jests, hashtag #SaveBonobos. “We experienced 10x more traffic than we planned for. And we planned for a ton,” UX lead Jon Schlossberg wrote on Quora in the (unofficial) post-mortem. “The incredibly high volume revealed several major issues with our infrastructure, the worst of which resulted in charges to customers’ credit cards without an order being placed.”
In order to avoid serious harm, Bonobos pulled the site and decided to take a rain check on Cyber Monday deals. The company is close to having refunded all the inaccurate charges and given all affected customers “a personal apology that included $20 store credit.”
Read the entire ~1,500 word apology, which has been upvoted 200 times on Quora as of this writing. Some other key excerpts:
On the tech team:
They’ve maybe slept a total of 5 hours in three days. We have our internal resources, our web dev shop, three senior engineers from a Magento specialist agency, and a SWAT team from Magento itself– led by their CEO– actively working on the site.
I’ll reveal more here when we’re further out of the weeds.
On customer service:
Nearly everyone who works at Bonobos has stopped what they do normally and are pitching in to answer phones, emails, tweets, Facebook posts, grab lunch and dinner and second dinner for everyone, and in general contribute to the highest morale I’ve ever seen at this company (which is saying a lot).
For example, Andy Dunn, our CEO, has been balancing time coordinating the tech team’s efforts, keeping the entire staff updated on progress, sending inspirational emails, and… answering customer phone calls til 3am.
The culture in the Ninja Dojo is phenomenal. I say this as an outsider—as a designer, I’m usually not answering phone calls— who has been assimilated the past three days. And that culture can be largely attributed to one man/unicorn: our Director of Customer Experience, John Rote.