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It’s Not the Mistakes Customers Remember – It’s How You Fixed It

  • February 1, 2019
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

So, it all went wrong, you screwed up a customer’s order. It didn’t arrive on time, or they got the wrong item, it was damaged, or any one of a number of things went wrong and they are seriously unhappy. Perhaps it was a major contract, or it happened to one of your best customers, maybe it was the deal that would have taken your company to the next level. But now your reputation is at stake. What you do next will determine whether you keep the customer, or word spreads that you screwed up and you not only lose this customer but a bunch of others too.

The first thing to do is not panic. Here are three steps you can take to help you recover from even the messiest screw-ups.

Admit Responsibility

There’s no getting around this. Humiliating as it may be, if it’s your mess, make sure you own it. Customers can smell a cover-up a mile away, and even if you get away with it initially, when they find out down the road that you tried to deceive them, you’ve not only lost that customer for life, you’ve lost everyone they talk to about you in the future. Even if the mistake was made by an employee, you are ultimately responsible for the outcome. Accepting that responsibility takes courage, and integrity, and the initial fallout may seem enormous but in the long run, this is the best way to regain any ground you lost. And, one more thing, apologize in person!

Make Amends

It’s not always possible to fix things immediately, but you do need to find a temporary solution to the pain the customer is suffering. Even it costs you to make arrangements to ease the inconvenience the customer is feeling, do it—it really will be cost effective in the long run.

Fix it and exceed their expectations on every level

Now it’s time to show the level of integrity you and your company hold dear. This is your opportunity to make it right and let your business shine. Ensure your staff are friendly and do not come across as begrudgingly putting this right. This is a time to be contrite and offer some way of making up for the inconvenience; perhaps a discount, or something extra, or even a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine. Something that shows you are genuinely sorry you screwed things up. Always remember that it’s not the mistake that is remembered but how you put it right.

Mistakes are inevitable. You or someone in your company will make them, and eventually – you’ll make a big one. How you recover from that mistake will make or break your relationship with that customer, and with their network of family and friends. And, the recovery may cost you. However, the expense will pale in comparison to the cost of bad publicity for your business. The average dissatisfied customer tells 11 people about their experience. On average, each of those people tell six more people. That’s a minimum 66 potential customers you may have lost because you were unwilling to incur the expense of making it right for one customer. If you are able to keep that customer in spite of the mistake, you can be guaranteed they’ll be talking about you – in a good way, and others will hear about what you did to make good what was potentially disastrous. Companies that do this are rarer than you might imagine. If you become that kind of company, customers will seek you out.

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