GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: What to do when things go wrong; and they will

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

In business, as in life, things go wrong. It can’t be helped; we are all human, and we all make mistakes. No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try to be careful, every so often something will go wrong. The important thing is how we recover. The trick is to “Recover Boldly” as business writers Todd and Deb Duncan write in their excellent book: The 10 Golden Rules of Customer Service.

They go on to say that the faster you solve a problem, the faster you remedy the situation, the better your company will be viewed. Indeed, I know that my clients often tell me stories about great partnerships being forged with their customers by the way they handled a problem.

Here is what you should do when a problem occurs:

  • Deal with it quickly: forget about whose fault it is, solve the problem, there will be plenty of time to figure that out lately. The problem might even have been caused by the customer herself…so what? It doesn’t matter.
  • Apologies for the problem no matter what. No argument, no dispute, just face up to the problem, apologies and get to work solving it. Remember what you feel like when you have to call a company to tell them about a problem? You expect the worst, always. So, think how relieved you feel, when the person on the other end of the phone sympathizes with you, and gets to work fixing the problem.
  • Fix the problem quickly: faster than you even said you would. Get on it immediately and problem that goes unsolved for too long, will start to rot your customer relationship.
  • Deliver a solution that is more than your promised, and more than the customer expected. This is where you have the opportunity to shine. This is where you get to recover boldly. Give the customer the solution and more. Give them a discount on their next purchase. Give them a free meal if you own a restaurant. Do something that will literally turn the proverbial lemon into lemonade. Whatever the cost of what you give them, it will be worth it in all the free advertising they will give you in return, by telling everyone they know about how you solved their problem. And if you in the end, were not the one who actually caused the problem… that’s even better!

Remember the story about the Nordstrom’s employee who took back a customers tires and refunded his what he had paid for them….even though Nordstrom does not sell tires? We’ve all heard and read that story a hundred times… and that’s the point isn’t it?

One of the best ways to grow your business is based on the way you handle customer problems. The word of mouth publicity is priceless!


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