The Art of Recovery

One of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your customer is to make a mistake and be average at fixing it.

A quick illustration…

We recently bought some furniture for our new home… a relatively painless process, at least the buying part. One of the reasons we selected what we bought is that all of the pieces were in stock and could be delivered on the date requested. Without that assurance, we would be sleeping on the floor and eating on TV trays…not a good situation after a month out of the country and moving the week you get back…even though camping in Colorado is nice this time of year. Well, you probably can guess the outcome…the delivery truck came…but without some of our furniture. The delivery folks had no clue, “we just deliver what they put on the truck, we don’t sell it”. A call to our sales person determined he had forgotten to notify us that the pieces were on back-order, this even after he assured us everything would be delivered to our satisfaction. I, of course, diplomatically and calmly voiced my displeasure (honest, I was nice). So, here was the salesperson’s big chance, right? opportunity to really show me what he and his company were capable of. Instead, here’s what he said, “what would you like me to do?” and “we’ll get it to you next week…guaranteed” A broken promise, you have my money and I don’t have my furniture…not good.

Mistakes are bound to happen…in any business…we all know that. We also know that the correction of those mistakes is paramount to a successful future for any organization. But, just “fixing the problem” isn’t enough any more. A simple “I’m sorry” and a discount doesn’t make much of an impression when there are so many other products and services to choose from. And, while this seems likes it’s leading to a customer service lesson, it’s not…it’s a marketing lesson. Every mistake, every service screw-up, every fly in the soup is a wonderful marketing opportunity…it’s the most likely place for you to beat the competition and gain lifelong customers…for three reasons. 1. you have their undivided attention…this happens very rarely; 2. the customer expectation is that you will fail…or at a minimum that you will be average (offer the proverbial 10% and apologize). In their minds, you’ve already let them down. Now, it’s just a matter of getting out the door before you can cause any more damage; and 3. your competition isn’t likely to do much better…the odds are that disgruntled customers are leaving your competitors at least as often…and for many of the same reasons. In other words, screwing up is actually a pretty good place to be…if you’re up for the challenge.

Again, simply recovering from a mistake is not the opportunity…that’s expected. Your best chance to act remarkably and regain the trust of your customer lies in how you recover. At the end of the experience, two things need to happen: 1. the customer must feel special; and, 2. they need to shake their heads in disbelief at the lengths you took to earn their faith. The only way to accomplish these two goals is to act with sincerity, empathy and honesty…tell the truth, try really hard and be remarkable.

Marketing takes many forms, and it often happens behind the scenes or after the initial sales transaction, like when there are issues. So, the next time there’s a problem, don’t just fix it, make their heads spin!