Have you ever screwed up? OK, so it was a rhetorical question; we all have. Some of us have been fortunate and have very few (and minor) screw ups. Some of us have had the colossal ones! I think everyone expects to be confronted with mistakes and mishaps as they go through life. It is all a part of being human; and most people understand that and can deal with it. But, that is not to say your business cannot be hurt by your mistakes–they can. The secret is to mitigate that mistake and take these four steps to insure that you retain your client or prospect when you do!
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 a mistake was made. Only then can move onto a resolution.
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 simply 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; and more importantly, what you are doing to prevent it from repeating.
If the mistake was yours, ask the client what he feels needs to be done to correct the mistake. It may be very obvious. The client may have a different idea–simpler, more complex, or outrageous. Or it may be as simple as an apology and 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 close-to-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
Actually it should say “my screw ups” because in nearly 20 years in the industry, I have made plenty. One of the more recent ones was relatively minor (whew). A client was meeting our group at a resort and we had made arrangements for the resort to pick her and her son up at the train station. Well, it never happened.
This single mom arrived at a train station at night with her seven year-old son and no one to take her to the resort! She called me, very calmly asking if the driver was delayed and where she could go to be safe. It was not an unsafe area, but night…single mom….young kid…totally understandable. I directed her to a hotel lobby adjacent to the train station and said I would find out and call her back.
I called the resort and they were clueless. Their drivers had all gone home for the day. I checked my CRM and sure enough, the task was unchecked. It was my fault. The fastest solution was a cab, but without knowing the exact fare, I could not pre-pay it. I contacted a cab company and had them dispatch a cab to the hotel (10 mins). Waited 5 minutes to call my client and explained that it was my mistake and that a cab (I gave her the taxi number) would be there in 5 minutes and would take her to the resort. I explained that they could not take a pre-payment, but to just call me when she knows the total and I will immediately refund that to her credit card. The client was happy.
When she got to the resort, she called and said the cabbie was great–chatting the whole way, pointing out points of interest and let her son ride up front and start and stop the meter. In the end the fare was $23 plus tip. I had my credit card machine at the ready and she said “never mind.” I insisted and she said no. “It was an honest mistake, it was not costly, and my son and I had a fun experience.”
Ultimately, I went and credited $30 to her credit card anyway, but the issue was resolved long before it got to that point. I used all the steps–admitted the mistake (uhm, yeah, she was stuck in a train station), investigated it (yeah, I forgot to make the arrangements), apologized for it, and resolved it!
The client came away with a very good feeling about working with me. I ended up losing a few dollars on the booking–I had the transfer ($15) built into her original price. But the $15 cost to me was well worth saving the client because she has already booked her summer trip to Turks and Caicos with me for 2015.
Do you subscribe to a problem resolution similar to this? How badly have you screwed up? Leave a comment and let’s chat!