Blunders, Debacles, Mistakes – Disguised as Business Opportunities

by Jen Gluckow

Sometimes things go horribly wrong. Way wrong.

Your factory, your store, or your agency botches an order and a customer is real upset. Accounting is rude to the customer. The hold time for service is way too long.

These mistakes are unavoidable consequences that happen to companies fortunate enough to do a lot of business. Got consequences? The reality is: these situations are actually opportunities for your company to learn how to cope under pressure and how to deliver real customer service. In short recover and prosper.

Outstanding, personal customer service is underrated as a priority in business. When you consider how automated the marketplace has become, its a tragedy for big business and an OPPORTUNITY for you.

Providing superior customer service is one of the few controllable variables in business. You may not be able to control what caused the mistake, but you can totally control how you respond. The companies with fast, helpful and, courteous response time and the ability to fix a mistake beyond the expectations of the customer, can gain an edge over companies ten times their size, especially in customer retention.

I had dinner with my family at a neighborhood restaurant and four of the six entres arrived ice cold. I informed the waiter and he handled it gracefully. First, he apologized and then thanked me for letting him know. He immediately returned our plates to the kitchen and replaced our course with freshly cooked dishes. The manager appeared at this point to make sure that we were enjoying everything, and although satisfied, my family and I debated if we would ever come back.

At the end of the dinner, the manager unexpectedly placed a huge tray on the table that had each of the restaurants desserts, and told us it was complimentary (so much for the diet). When the waiter delivered the check, he explained that the cost for one of entres had been removed from the bill as well.

They knew they messed up, and they were smart enough to go above and beyond to make up for the mistake. I realized that the staff had just turned a negative start to our dinner into a positive, memorable ending. Plus, when my family and I return, we now know which desserts are must-haves!

Whats your process for dealing with mistakes? Who has the authority to help a customer? Take a lesson from my neighborhood restaurant:

  1. PAY ATTENTION. Listen to the complaint. Let the customer express their frustration.
  2. LOOK THEM IN THE EYE AND Apologize for the error and make sure the customer knows you understand the problem.
  3. Respond IMMEDIATELY and prioritize making amends. Fixing a sale gone wrong will pay for itself.
  4. Take RESPONSIBILITY. Dont blame the factory, dont blame the project manager, just own it and move on. Deal with internal issues privately. (See step 8)
  5. THANK the customer for informing you of the problem. They just did you a favor by alerting you to something that may be a grossly overlooked company issue. Its much easier for them to leave silently, discontinue service, and write a horrible public review.
  6. FIX IT. Give the client exactly what they originally wanted. If that solution is unavailable, keep offering options until you find something agreeable.
  7. Go above and beyond to ensure the client feels you appreciate their inconvenience and, in some cases, financial loss. Do something thoughtful, unexpected, and memorable.
  8. Deal with internal issues that could cause a similar event in the future. Develop any needed protocol and shift responsibilities if necessary.

Theres a reason salespeople with a background in hospitality are leaders in the field: theyre proactive with upset clients. When faced with a debacle, remember that it is an opportunity to show strength through recovery.

Learn how to make customers loyal to you and improve customer relationships!

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