Over the past few weeks I have had the misfortune of being the victim of poor customer service. And it might be attributed to a stressful week, but I have sworn off three companies this week and have vowed to never do business with them again. The screw ups were not even that severe, but they were the victim of unfortunate timing. It was a stressful week and I am usually pretty forgiving by nature, but this week—not so much. So what did they do to lose my business?
Miss Your Deadline
I needed to buy a new outfit for a speaking engagement later this month and had the need (desire) to wear it earlier this week. I purchased the suit two weeks ago, had the fitting, and was promised the alterations would be complete well before the party where I intended to wear it. Well, when I went to pick it up on the date they told me it would be ready, it wasn’t. I explained that I needed it for an event and they did not care. I suggested that they take it to a different tailor for the alterations. They were having none of that. I told them to cancel it. They said no. I called my credit card company. They said yes. Normally, this would not have been a problem. But when they refused to acknowledge it, and then proceeded to show indifference to my plight—game on! If you make a commitment—keep it. And if you can’t, make sure you communicate with your client.
We all have heard the axiom, “the customer is always right.” And we all know that it is BS—often they are wrong. But even if they are wrong, it is never a good thing to argue with them. This latest dust up was over a $5 fast food meal. I was in an “unnamed fast food joint” and ordered a double cheeseburger meal with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, french fries and a coke. A simple request. I sat down and opened my spicy chicken with ketchup, lettuce, and onions. So, I head back to the counter thinking they may have confused the order. I was informed that they did not make a mistake and that is exactly what I ordered. When I explained that when I crave burgers, I don’t order chicken; she told me “well you must have this time because that’s what you said.” I politely asked for my money back and she refused. I asked to speak to a manager and when I explained the situation, the employee kept chiming in on how wrong I was. The manager did nothing to quell the employee and did suggest a complimentary meal, but I was no longer in the mood and he did give me the money back. But I will never go back to that particular location again.
Avoid The Inevitable
And to round out the trifecta of poor service, I hired someone to do some work for me. The scope of the project was well defined, I did not change the scope, we agreed that my timeline was more than reasonable. Part of the money was paid upfront. Part of the work was complete. And then he disappeared from the face of the earth. He did not show up, answer his phone, or return any emails for over a week. When I finally did catch up with him, the best he could come up with was, “I was busy.” Hey, I am busy as well and understand; but simply answering a phone call or returning an email would have solved the situation. He is literally in the middle of the project now and there is no way to change horses mid stream, but you can be sure he will not be hired again—or recommended.
None of these experiences had anything to do with travel, but I can see the parallels and to be honest, I can see me making those same mistakes. This was a wakeup call for me. If a clothing store, a fast food place, and a contractor can lose a client for their shortcomings, how easy is it for me to lose a client for the same shortcomings?
Have you ever promised a client to have a quote/document/information by a certain date and missed it with no explanation? I have. Have you ever made the decision that the client is wrong and become argumentative? I may have, but I still think I was right—and I did lose that client (and likely anyone he wanted to talk to about me). Have you ever avoided the inevitable task of informing a client that the price went up or the cruise lines reinstated fuel surcharges? I have.
We cannot control the customer’s psyche. Therefore we need to bring our “A Game” to the table every single day. Clients will not always be right, you will miss a deadline, and you may even pick a fight, but your success will depend on how you recover from it. Like me, I think most people are pretty forgiving to a point as long as they are kept informed. And of course using those two magic words, “I’m sorry”, never hurts either.