Turn Goof-ups into Gold
Every company makes
Every single one.
Including yours and mine. This is one thing all businesses have in
common. We all goof up from time to time.
I'm a big believer in
using systems to prevent mistakes before they happen. I also
think that each mistake is an opportunity to improve your company by
identifying and fixing the root cause of the errors.
I’ll take that second
concept a bit further and boldly proclaim that each mistake is not just
an opportunity, but a golden opportunity … especially if the
mistake affected a customer.
between companies is not whether they make mistakes. The
difference lies in what a company does about it when it makes a
Some companies blame
anyone or anything other than themselves. If the error affected a
customer, they might correct the outcome but frequently fail to
apologize. They act like you’re imposing when you ask to have the
mistake corrected and think they’re doing you a favor when they correct
their own goof-up.
A culture of blame
exists in these firms. Their mantra is “It’s not my fault.” When bad
things happen, the Blame Game starts.
immediately spring into action to correct mistakes – especially for
customers. They apologize. Depending on circumstances, they might offer
the customer something extra to show the customer they’re serious.
A culture of
accountability exists in these firms. Their mantra is “Fix the
problem to the complete satisfaction of the customer.” When bad things
happen, words like “fault” and “blame” aren’t even on the radar screen.
Clearly, the second
type of company is where you want to be. Many companies, maybe most, are
in this category. Most businesses do a pretty good job of making things
right with the customer.
But, I’m going to ask
you to kick it up a notch to turn costly mistakes into profitable
Let’s say Bob’s
Computer Repair gets a call from their main contact at Big Company, Inc.
telling them that Bob’s driver delivered a freshly repaired monitor but
didn’t return the power cord.
Bob’s Computer Repair
has a culture of accountability, so the rep apologizes, arranges to have
a driver deliver it right away and offers to credit the account to make
up for the aggravation. So far, so good. Every company should handle
this situation the same way. Even though the rep did everything exactly
right, most of Bob’s competitors would do the same, so it was good, but
What if Bob’s takes
the time to find and fix the root cause of the error? Now they begin to
separate themselves from their busy competitors who, as soon as the
customer’s problem is resolved, get back to their hectic routine. (Hey,
if you’re busy putting out fires all day, every day, it’s tough to find
time to install a sprinkler system.) This is the first way to profit –
by driving repeat mistakes out of your business and enjoying the
resultant productivity improvements.
But, here’s one more
step: bring the customer back into the loop. What if someone from Bob’s
contacted Big Company, Inc. and it went something like this:
“Thank you for bringing your missing
power cord to our attention. As a result of this situation, we reworked
our procedures. Each product that arrives for service now gets a tag on
which all accessories received are documented. During shipping, the tag
is matched against the accessories. Nobody – including you – should ever
fail to get all your accessories back with your repaired equipment.”
Almost nobody does
this sort of thing. This level of dedication to quality, customer
service and follow-through puts Bob’s in rare company and helps create
strong, life-long customer relationships. And, we all know the value of
customers who are also raving fans.
Acknowledge the error and
thank the customer for bringing it to your attention.
Immediately correct the
problem and make sure the customer is happy. When appropriate, offer a
Find and fix the root cause
of the mistake to prevent it in the future.
Let the customer know about
the improvements you’ve made. Regain their confidence and strengthen the
We all make mistakes.
You may as well profit from yours.
Bill Collier is the author of “How to
Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life” and is
the St. Louis area coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps
businesses teach their employees to think and act like owners. He can be
reached at 314-221-8558 or email@example.com.