Better Than Perfect: How to Correct Business Mistakes


Steve Kiernan
Co-Founder & CEO
May 9, 2018
minutes to read
minutes to watch

The 3 Tips Take Action:

  1. Don’t Hide - Mistakes happen. Don’t try to hide them, rather, engage with the customer to help improve an unfortunate situation.
  2. Show Empathy - Whether your company made a mistake, or the customer misunderstood what the service entailed, reflect on how the customer is feeling. Make sure to respond in a supportive and empathetic way.
  3. Make it Right - You’re not going to get better by focusing on all the mistakes. Focus on the solution, make plans to avoid similar mistakes in the future, then keep being awesome!

Not every business is perfect.

At some point in recent history, private companies started playing from a defensive position. In other words, they’re waiting for customers to complain and have developed plans to address those complaints. In some cases, they’ve developed plans that attempt to eradicate negative reviews. Based on nearly 20 years of running service businesses, the idea that we’d present ourselves without flaw is both terrifying and worse, it’s a lie (since “we lie to our customers” is not written anywhere on your marketing material, don’t do it).

The fact of the matter is companies are still run by people just like you and me. If there’s one absolute certainty in our lives it’s that we will, whether real or manufactured by a customer, make a mistake at some point. Our philosophy has always been to own those mistakes, to be human, and always be exceptional about engagement and follow through when mistakes happen. Our belief is simple. Making mistakes doesn’t separate you from anyone else because everyone makes them. Responding to your mistakes is what stratifies people and companies as poor, average, and great!

At a recent national meeting we met Loren Webster, Owner & Master Plumber at One Call Plumbing who shared a customer story that really resonated with us. A customer of One Call’s had left a negative online review complaining about the price for their service. Loren responded to the review with empathy and offered to give that customer a full refund, and here's where the real magic started. Not long after that experience, new customers called on One Call and specifically identified Loren's response to the negative review as their reason for giving him their business. They weren't looking for a refund or a freebie. They were looking for someone who would treat them the right way, with respect and empathy.

Hiding the imperfections of your business and solely presenting amazing, world-class, superstar experiences may work to attract some customers, but not all. There's nothing wrong with being human, and how you conduct your business during a difficult situation will stay with you. It will define, in part, the brand you're pouring your heart and soul into. It will provide you an opportunity to separate your business from others who dismiss negative interactions as a customer's fault or issue. Think of a time when you were the customer and someone dropped a ball on you. Did that business act as if they were perfect or did they own the issue and make it right? How'd that make you feel?

Turns out, we're a lot like our customers. Don't lie about who you are. When you screw up, be human, use empathy, make it right, and take the opportunity to show your true colors. Often, those experiences will keep your phone ringing!

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