I started this blog post two years ago and it’s just been sitting there. The title stares at me every time I log in. And I keep passing it by. Since it is just about the 2 year anniversary of “the incident” I think it’s time we explore this topic.
The back story:
Two years ago we decided to sell our home in Ohio and move to North Carolina. What we thought would take a while turned out to be a really fast process. And stressful. So, so stressful. Anyway, there was huge crack in our front brick walkway that had caused part of the walk to drop over an 1″ and created a trip hazard, not to mention looking really horrible. It had to dug up, the brick salvaged (so it would match), dirt & gravel added then the brick re-laid. Here is where the problem arose. There was a pattern to the sidewalk. A zigzag down the middle with half bricks outlining each side. Now, there is another 15 feet of sidewalk clearly visible to match this pattern to. At this point you have probably already guessed what happened. The pattern didn’t match correctly. Not only didn’t it match, but there were bricks left over. Common sense would dictate that if you take out 50 bricks, 50 bricks should go back in, right? Nope. I didn’t totally lose my cool, however our house was being listed in 2 days with an open house in 4 days so I wasn’t happy. I made a call to the owner of the company (which wasn’t the person doing the work) and explained the situation. His only response “But, is it good enough?”
Now, that was two years ago, the house sold in 10 days and I’m now happily on a mountain in North Carolina. So technically, I guess it was good enough (maybe because I don’t have to look at it every day). But that response still shocks me as much today as it did the day I heard it.
Mistakes happen, sometimes we can fix them, sometimes we can work around them, sometimes we have to start all over. What is important, and what others remember about you, your service or your product, is how you react to those mistakes.
First, if you screwed up, take responsibility. Own your mistakes. Don’t try to blame someone else. People see through that quickly and lose all confidence and trust in you. None of us like to mess up, but you will be respected more for taking responsibility and hopefully salvage the relationship. Maybe the mistake is actually that of your vendor (this happens to us on occasion). To your client, that is still YOUR mistake. They don’t buy from your vendor, they buy from you. I’ve had to explain mistakes from vendors before and I try to do it as “this is what happened and this is how we are going to fix it.” It is still my responsibility to get it corrected and make the client happy, therefore I have to own the mistake.
Second, don’t get defensive. This is a hard one, especially if the other person is angry an d it truly is not your fault. Try to calm them down by offering to look into the details, exploring any possible solutions, etc. If you automatically turn the blame back on an angry customer (even if they are wrong) you may never get them to look at the situation reasonably. They may lash out on social media, which makes you look bad. You may never win them back as a customer AND you now have (undeserved) negative feedback about you on social media. Ask questions, have them state the facts of what they wanted/expected vs. what they received. Asking questions in a attempt to clarify what happened can sometimes make the customer realize that the mistake is actually theirs without you having to point it out. They might not admit it, but it this realization is usually enough to calm then down so you can work out a resolution.
Third, try to find a solution to remedy the mistake. Even when it’s not your fault. Especially when it is not your fault. We have had it happen more than once. Sometimes mistakes are our fault and we will do everything possible to fix it (yes, even if it means losing money on the order). But we have had instances where the client made a mistake and we help them find a solution that will work if at all possible. That might mean calling in favors, it might mean working late to make sure they will get their order. If there is any way possible we make it happen. I can’t even image having a client call and say they received their order but part of the imprint was left off and responding with “but, is it good enough?”
Sometimes how you react to mistakes makes more of an impression that anything else you do in your business.