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4 steps to save your reputation when you screw things up

February 25th, 2013 . by John Frenaye

Are you perfect like me? I mean after all these years in the travel industry we know it all right? We have all been there and done that…right?  WRONG! Face it, as much as we would like to believe we are the end-all and be-all of the travel world, we are fallible and will screw up from time to time. Panama City? Oh you meant Florida—my bad! Well, I am not sure how we made your airline reservation for the day before you were to travel.  Some mistakes are simple, other are more complex. But to save your reputation, I suggest you follow these four steps.

Admit It

It doesn’t matter how large or small the mistake was—own it. I am not suggesting admitting responsibility necessarily, but owning it. Admit that there was a mistake made. Only then can move onto a resolution.

Investigate It

Many mistakes are beyond your control. Did the supplier send you the wrong documents? Did the client give you the wrong legal name for his Aunt Kathy? Or did you just screw something up?  Find out who is responsible, and if it is not your fault, investigate the options to make it right.

Apologize For It

Work with your client. Even if they may have been only a prospect—they called you for a reason. They wanted to talk to you or work with you for a reason. Explain the situation and let them know what is being done to rectify the problem 

Resolve It

If the mistake was yours (or someone on your side of the table), ask the client what he feels needs to be done to correct the mistake. It may be obvious. The client may have a different idea. Or it may be as simple as a promise to not let it happen again. I feel that most people are reasonable. If you reserve a compact car when they wanted a mid-sized one, very few people will insist on a full refund of their entire vacation. Most problems can be resolved with little to no cost and a big dose of empathy. Once you have resolved the problem you now have a clean slate with the client. Especially in the travel business, people will want to recall the happy moments and not the bad!

My Screw Up

Just recently, I completely dropped the ball; but I was unaware I dropped it. I was the victim of a one-two technology punch. First, my Verizon voicemail malfunctioned and did not deliver some messages to me. All of a sudden tonight, I received 32 messaged dating back to mid-January.   Secondly, my hosting company recently tweaked their host-side spam settings and there were literally hundreds of emails that were not even being sent to me because they were so sure they were spam. One of their criteria, I learned, was the presence of a lot of replies in an email thread. Most of my clients are email clients and we use long threads of replies to keep the communication in order.

Boy, I had been dropping the communications ball for nearly a month and did not realize it.  And there were two livid clients.

As soon as I realized what had happened, I called them up and admitted the problem and promised I would find out what happened and assured them I would do what was needed to prevent it from happening in the future (Step 1).  I discovered the issues and Verizon told me it was an unusual glitch and should not be repeated, but gave me a special code to dial in to release any calls that might be hanging up in voicemail hell. I now have reminders to dial that code weekly.  My hosting company worked with me to adjust the settings so it sends the stuff I need to see.  We also adjusted it to make sure that nothing was deleted at the host level and suspected spam was sent to me marked as spam.  There—problem resolved (Step 2). 

Finally, I called back my two livid clients and apologized for the issue (Step 3). They don’t care who is at fault. I explained what happened and told them the steps we took to correct it.  I apologized once again, and asked how we could re-earn their respect.

Their answer?  “You already did.” (Step 4)

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Join the Discussion - Post your comment  One Response to “4 steps to save your reputation when you screw things up”

  1. Tracy Kidd Says:

    Great article John! I am saving it but also crossing my fingers I never have to use it :-)

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