True Story

True Story

My wife teaches kindergarten and recently they ordered lunch from a local restaurant. It’s a small place. I’ve been in there but haven’t been there for a while and won’t go back. Here’s why. This is an e-mail from one of my wife’s fellow teachers to all the teachers in the school:

Subject: Warning…XXXXXXXXX

Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009 15:09:09 -0400
From: XXXXXX

To: AllTeachers@
WARNING!!
The 1st and 2nd grade teachers ordered XXXXXXX today in honor of Monica’s birthday. When the order was delivered to us by a parent, I realized that my lunch had not been included. I called XXXXXXXXX to ask if someone could possibly deliver it to the school, the owner (Elaine) argued with me that there was no error on XXXXXXX’s behalf. Finally, she said that she would be “flexible” and give me my money back if I came in to the restaurant. This was absolutely their error. Once she realized it, she continued to be condescending and rude. She also proceeded to tell me that, “This is not Indonesia. You won’t starve. I’m sure that you have friends who will share their lunch with you.”

I am appalled at the way I was treated, especially considering that we order from this restaurant frequently for birthdays.

XXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXX
First Grade Teacher
XXXXXXXXXXXXX
A National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence

Needless to say, that wasn’t a very smart way to react to a problem. Smart companies know the lifetime value of a client; they know how important it is to listen to an angry client. They should have said I’m sorry and hand delivered the sandwich right away with something extra. Common sense isn’t so common anymore, folks.

There are a lot of people who are struggling in business, but be thankful for what you’ve got and don’t get grumpy. The only difference between a rut and grave is the depth and getting angry at clients who aren’t happy just isn’t smart business. This small restaurant just lost all the business of my wife’s school and imagine how many people those teachers are going to tell about the treatment they received. I told a few friends that used to go there what they did. The internet has given voice to many that 15 years ago didn’t have one. It’s good for business, as long as you do a good job. If you don’t, people can post all kinds of things on all kinds of sites and they can send e-mails off to thousands in a second. Check out this blog post from the founder of Selling Power magazine. Do you think Salesforce.com is regretting their treatment of Gerhard now?

My businesses aren’t perfect; some of you reading this weekly Great Idea may have experienced one of our mistakes. But we’ll never run from them. We admit we’re wrong, sometimes even when we’re not, to save a client and, in my book, that’s a GREAT IDEA. Use your common sense in running your business.

Here are my 4 steps to handling an upset client:

  1. Seek first to understand
  2. Don’t get upset right away
  3. Ask the client what they want you to do
  4. Apologize, take action, learn, and move on with a smile on your face

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