I have been in business for nearly 40 years. At his point I feel an obligation to help, advise and lead others coming behind me. One of the things that is integral to the successful operation of any business is how you respond to mistakes. It really doesn’t matter if the mistake was done by an employee, yourself, or just some glitch. The most important thing to do right away when customer has a complaint is acknowledge something went wrong. Apologize. Accept responsibility. Find a way to remedy it swiftly. It will do more for your business than expensive advertising if you treat your customers with care.
I had three instances lately that made an impression on me for better or worse.
- We needed some work done on our office building and we were having a hard time finding a company to handle it. When we finally found one, I followed instructions and emailed the signed paperwork to them. I was told by the young woman on the phone she would call me when the permits for the city were ready. That was on a Wednesday. I waited a week and no one reached out, so I gave them a call to ask how it was going. This is the response.
Her “Oh, it’s been ready since last Friday. It’s here on our desk.”
Me “It is? No one called me.”
Her “Well, we were told you were called and told to come sign the permit paperwork Friday.”
Me “Sorry but no one ever called me.”
Her “Well, the girl who told you quit. But before she left, she said she called you and told you it will be ready on Friday.”
Me “You continue to say that. It is as if you don’t believe me. You are in a business, and as a business person it is a good idea to just accept that something went wrong, and apologize. That is just good business practice.”
Her “Well, sorry that happened, but she said……”
Me “I will come in the morning and sign the paperwork.”
- In my professional life I work with amazing, caring people. I am fortunate that I can pick and choose who we, as a company, deal with. One particular day I found a discrepancy on a fee owed to us. We were owed more than what we received. I called one of the companies’ contacts, and he began with an apology, a promise to promptly look into it, and it led to a succession of communications from two more people about the problem, how glad they were I’d noticed it, how they were determined to put in place procedures to prevent it from happening again and how much they appreciated me. (What a comparison)
- I ordered some important health products for someone doing an Ayurvedic detox. We were in a hurry. I ordered on a Tuesday and was so busy I didn’t notice I hadn’t received a confirmation of the order until the following Monday. I called the company and told them. The woman immediately sprang into action to help. She didn’t see an order from me come in until that day! She thought perhaps a computer error or I hadn’t hit the final sale button or something. She took immediate responsibility and expressed the order overnight and it came today, cost $0.
And that is how to run a business. And us ‘mature’ folks need to let the younger generation know how this is done.