Turn Goof-ups into Gold
- The Sequel
It’s like déjà vu all
My article, “Turn
Goof-ups into Gold”, advised business owners to take advantage of
mistakes – to show their customers that they are sorry for the mistake,
that they accept responsibility, and will do what it takes to make
things right. This sort of unexpected and uncommon response is likely to
turn an unhappy soul into a fiercely loyal lifetime customer who will
tell lots of other folks how wonderful your company is.
Just when I thought
it was time to find other topics to write about, my friend Dave (his
real name) bent my ear about an unfortunate experience he had with a
local business, Bob’s Automotive (not their real name.)
He took his car to
Bob’s for new rear shocks. In the process of removing the old shocks,
the technician (When did we stop calling them mechanics?) damaged the
rear anti-lock braking system sensors. The tech looked the make and
model up on the web and found out that this is a common problem.
Apparently the sensors are positioned in a way that makes them
susceptible to being easily damaged when working on the shocks.
Dave was informed of
the problem and Bob’s made him this offer: “If you’ll buy the parts,
we’ll install them for free.” And, the service manager presented this
deal as if Dave was getting the offer of a lifetime. Quite the big
favor, in the service manager’s mind.
By the way, the parts
ran $400. Dave didn’t ask, but I’ll bet anyone a lunch that Bob’s marked
up the parts to get to that price.
reasoned protest - and he’s an attorney, very skilled at arguing his
case – Bob’s wouldn’t budge. Either pay the four hundred bucks or drive
your car away with the ABS warning lights glowing brightly.
So Dave did pay the
$400. And he vowed to never go back to Bob’s Automotive.
Since that dark day,
Dave has told innumerable people about his experience and of course,
he’s identifying the shop by its real name. As you can imagine, Dave’s
description of the situation is more colorful than mine. My own
vocabulary has been enriched by this experience.
Here’s one way the
auto shop might have handled this calamity:
“Sir, I want to let
you know about something that happened during the replacement of your
shocks. Our technician accidentally damaged your ABS sensors. We did
some research and found out that this is an extremely common occurrence.
We replaced the sensors at no charge and everything is back to original
condition. Just so you know, the sensor replacement would normally be
well over $500 for parts and labor, but since it’s our mistake, of
course will be no charge to you. By the way, we learned a valuable
lesson and now know how to avoid this same error on your make and model.
We very much appreciate your business and hope to be of service in the
What a lost
opportunity – a golden opportunity - for this auto shop. Had they
handled it this way, Dave would now be a raving fan. He’d still be
telling folks about his experience, but in glowing, positive terms and
heartily recommending this shop. You can’t buy that kind of
advertising for $400.
Instead, they made an
enemy of Dave. He’s now on a mission to tell every man, woman and child
in North America to steer clear of the place. I expect him to re-join
the Catholic Church any day now, just so he can get the priest in the
confessional and tell him about his ordeal.
The shop also lost an
opportunity to illustrate to their employees what kind of values they
hold dear. Holding themselves accountable and doing the right thing
would have shown their team what the ownership is made of. Not just
words, but action. We put our money where our mouth is. Instead, they
have signaled that side-stepping responsibility is an acceptable
Four hundred bucks.
For a measly $400 this company could have acquired a life-long customer,
his unending word-of-mouth support and the dozens of new customers Dave
would refer to them … plus all the new revenue they’d represent. This
company would have been reaping the benefits long after the $400 was
Instead, they put
$400 in the cash register.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.