Better Than Perfect: How to Correct Business Mistakes


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

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!

After spending the last 10 years writing field service software for home services contractors, we launched Pointman to help small contractors manage their business more effectively. Part of that journey included joining PHCC & QSC, organizations that are committed to creating higher standards of excellence for contractors in the plumbing, heating, and cooling trades. 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!

4. Add-On or Upsell Count and Amount

Here, we’re looking at repairs sold beyond the original reason for the call. Every time you enter a customer’s home your techs have the chance to sell value added work, beyond the repair itself. If you’re training your techs to sell add-on products, don’t you want to know who's doing it well, and who may need a training refresher?

5. Agreement Opportunities/Sales

Maintenance agreements are the key to a consistent client base and essential for keeping your team busy during the shoulder seasons. Every time your technician is in the home of a non-member there is an opportunity to sell. Are they delivering? You need to know.

6. Future Opportunities

Are your technicians talking to customers with forced air heat about the improved comfort that comes with a humidifier? How about the benefits of water softeners or whole-house surge protection? If the customer is interested, but not now, you need to be able to follow up on those opportunities.

How much money do you think gets left on the table just by failing to make a follow-up call to reintroduce an offered product or service? Tracking these opportunities can be the secret to putting more of that money in your pocket. These opportunities are the gold dust that’s hiding in your business. With a little work, there’s a lot of money just waiting to be panned for and earned.

7. Replacement Opportunities/Sales

Repairing a capacitor on a 17-year-old condenser, or the pilot on a 12-year old hot water tank? These are opportunities for replacement, and your techs should be offering that as an option along with the repair itself. You can determine what you consider a replacement opportunity in your business. But regardless of the conditions you establish, you want to know which of your techs is making the most of them. 

And if they didn’t sell? See the previous item. You should be setting this as an opportunity for a follow up.

Have any recommendations for additional information you’ve found to be essential? How do you make sure your team shares these details after each visit? We’d love to know — drop us a line here.

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