One of the things I often work on with clients who are business owners is customer service, i.e. how they present their values and commitment to civility to those who support them. It’s important that, while we can strive for perfection, mistakes happen that put us on the back foot. The question is, how do we react to those mistakes and smooth things over so that customers leave feeling heard and satisfied?
I thought of this when a friend told me a story about dining at a restaurant with a colleague. The colleague left her sunglasses behind at the table by mistake. Because my friend lived down the street from the restaurant, she volunteered to pop in and see if they still had the glasses. A waiter said yes; he remembered picking them up. The trouble was, the manager was away and he didn’t have access to the office with the lost and found box.
My friend stopped by a day or two later. Again, the manager was out. Her colleague joined her on a third visit, and this time the manager was in. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the sunglasses. Though a couple of staffers clearly remembered saving them and putting them in the lost and found, they were no longer there. It appeared as though someone must have stolen them.
The manager was very apologetic and embarrassed, as it was clear that it had to have been an employee who took the glasses. The women were confused — how could this happen? The manager, however, took steps to make things right. He took down the woman’s information and said he’d get to the bottom of where the sunglasses had gone. He also asked for the make of the sunglasses so that the restaurant could reimburse her if they never resurfaced. Of course, they were a fairly costly brand.
In the end, the sunglasses never turned up, but their owner was given a $100 credit to dine at the restaurant. It was undoubtedly a strange situation, but the way the manager handled it, never once doubting that the woman had indeed left her sunglasses behind, left her impressed.
Sometimes we just have to step up to make things right when we let our customers down, even if it’s not directly our fault. Making excuses or passing the buck doesn’t cut it; taking responsibility and smoothing things over does.