To Err is Human

It’s highly likely that if you’ve been in business long enough, you’ll make a mistake that impacts a client. When it recently happened to my company, we handled it in a way that simply seemed right. But we learned a valuable lesson that I think you’ll not only appreciate, but also will be surprised by.

Lesson Lived and Learned

Our entire business is built on the premise that “people are people—first and always.” To build and sustain ironclad relationships that earn loyalty, we live, breathe, and encourage our clients to focus on the little things, they make a huge difference. Simple actions nurture the human need to feel cared about and are essential for shaping a culture where people want to work and companies people want to work with.

While this has been our operating philosophy forever, the following note from a valued law firm client opened our eyes to a pervasive lack of customer commitment:

I received your card and gift today, and I must say, in all the years I have been working, never in my life have I received such a gift. In today’s business world, rarely do you see or hear of a business that truly cares about customer service or loyalty. I am truly impressed with how you handled this, and how even as the owner of the company, you were fully engaged in seeing this through and making it right. That is something that you rarely see in today’s business world too. You are a true testament of what customer loyalty and relationships mean, and I look forward to sending you many more baby gift orders in the future.

Back Story

Now for the gory details that inspired the note. This client placed an order to welcome a colleague’s new baby. We mistakenly re-processed the firm’s last order instead of the order that was actually placed. After receiving our acknowledgement that the order had been shipped, the client called with news about our mistake and concern that the recipient would receive a second gift, making the firm look disorganized. I would add that she didn’t want to disappoint her boss either.

We immediately worked on retrieving the shipped package, which is no easy task with any mass shipper. After several days of intense communications with the hub in the community where the package was sent, we were successful. In the meantime, we processed the correct order and expedited shipment to make up for lost time, the cost of which we picked up. Apparently what set us apart was acknowledging and owning our mistake with the client, and following up by sending a thoughtful note accompanied by a small thank you gift showing our client how much we appreciated her recognition that we are human.

Proof of Concept

The sincerity of the note was convincing. Yet I couldn’t quite grasp the uniqueness of our actions. So I ran the situation by four professional colleagues in different industries: a successful mortgage banker, a technology industry consultant, a small marketing/advertising business owner, and a business system consultant. Each concurred that our approach contradicted actions in today’s business world. My clients comments reconfirmed my belief that people are indeed people first and appreciate being treated with an authentic, honest approach.

A Few More Takeaways

There are moments the problem is unavoidable issue caused by a resource in your supply chain, such as a supplier who made an error or can’t deliver as promised. Our advice:  Own it in warp speed! Put yourself in your client’s shoes, determine the best way to engage them. KFC recently had an issue just like this, way to go KFC!

Fixing a problem is not always straightforward and easy, it often requires ingenuity and creativity. Consider Nike’s slogan, and “Just do it.”

Lastly one of the easiest ways to build a personal relationship. Skip the email, and handwrite a note (thank you, congratulations, etc.). In today’s time-pressed world, the extra time invested will reap an exponential impression.

What Will You Do?

Instead of chasing relationships that disappear with a nominal price increase, will you challenge yourself to build relationships with the people you truly value? I believe they are worth the personal and professional investment.

If you’re looking for help in shaping communication practices that keep your company tightly connected and engaged, call us. We’re experienced engagement builders.

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