When things go wrong

No one likes to admit that despite customer care programs, things can go wrong.

No one likes to admit that despite all the customer care programs, the fact that you are the best customer service-oriented company in town, things can go wrong.

These kinds of situations test the real measure of your company’s willingness to showcase that customer care is not just a slogan on your wall. If you are into slogans,  remember this one when it comes to rectifying a problem: You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.

Simply making it right when things go awry is one of the most powerful ways that a business can generate not just customer appreciation and goodwill but also loyalty and repeat business that will generate much more revenue than the initial sale. Not to forget of course the value that a positive experience will have on your customer’s family, friends and acquaintances.

This past month I had two experiences, one good and one bad that highlight how important it is to do it right when you are making it right.

The first experience involved my vehicle. I brought it into a shop for a new set of tires. When I returned to pick up my vehicle the service manager admitted right away that they had damaged my vehicle while it was on the lift and will do whatever is necessary to make it right.

He went with me to look at the damage. Gave me the name of a body shop that would do the repairs and furthermore there would be a rental vehicle made available while my vehicle was in for repairs. Later on that same day the store manager phoned to also apologize and reiterated that they would do whatever it takes to make it right.

In the second instance I was out for dinner with a group of people in Vancouver. I happened to be sitting across from our guest speaker. Things were going along fine until he held out his hand to show us the live, green caterpillar he found in his meal.

One of the restaurant staff who happened to be close was called over. When shown, she let out a shriek and backed away. This brought over our waiter and the maitre d’ who then, rather than apologizing, tried to cover up the problem by telling the story of how they use only local organic produce and sometimes you can expect things like this will happen. And that seemed to be the end of it … as far as they were concerned. They did take the critter away but left the salad.

When the bill arrived someone asked what was done for our guest speaker. The answer, ‘Oh, we didn’t charge him for his salad.’ Needless to say they just lost 14 people who won’t be returning and left our guest speaker who travels across North America, visiting other communities, with a really good story to tell about the organic meals they serve in B.C. that come with real, live creepy crawlies.

Here are a few tips for you and your staff to remember when things go wrong:

Own up to the problem right away. Apologize, don’t make excuses. Outline how you will resolve the issue. Provide an explanation of what went wrong. Find a way to compensate your customer whether it is in the form of a discount, gift card or merchandise. Do all of the above as quickly as possible and follow up to make sure your customer is happy.

Do it right and your reward will not only be improved customer satisfaction and loyalty but the creation of a powerful ally and advocate who will have good things to say about you and your business.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached at joesmith@shaw.ca.

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