I am ticked off! Maybe it is because I am a little stressed out over work. Maybe it is the tuition bills for three kids in college. I am not sure what it is, but I have written off several local businesses in the past seven days. I will never do business with them again. Now as I have a somewhat more clear head, I can see that their “infractions” were not that severe; but they may have become a victim of poor timing nonetheless. Usually I am incredibly forgiving. I often joke that I have a sign that only restaurant servers can read that says “ignore me.” But this week—not so much. So what happened?
A Missed Deadline
I needed to buy a tuxedo for a fancy shindig (I have a few of these coming up this year and buying made more sense—I hope baby blue polyester with ruffles stays in style) and after several fittings, I was told it would be ready three days before the event. Three days before the event and it is not done. Two days before it was to be done later that afternoon. The day before and the tailor was “almost finished.” As it was I had a commitment the night before so I had to pick it up on the day of the event. It all worked out in the end, but failing to communicate their issues to me in advance killed any future business. A simple call that it would not be ready was all it would have taken. As it was, I made three unnecessary trips in the middle of the day with nothing to show for it.
Do not allow yourself to fall into this trap. Face it; we all miss deadlines and disappoint clients at one time or the other. Be proactive; they will appreciate it and you still have a chance to earn their business. And remember, you are never entitled to business—you earn it with each and every sale!
Pick A Fight
We all know the phrase, “the customer is always right.” And we all know that it is BS! For very often, they are wrong. But even when they are wrong, it is never a good thing to argue with them. This happened at McDonalds, so I am not terribly broken up. At Wendy’s I order chicken. At McDonalds I order burgers. Don’t judge me for my fast food choices—that’s the way it is. So, I order a Quarter Pounder with cheese and when I get the bag, I see that it is a chicken sandwich. I assumed the bags were mixed up and took it back and explained. “No you didn’t—you ordered a chicken sandwich!” Um, excuse me? No, I did not. In the end, the cashier snatched the bag from the counter and replaced it with the burger and a heaping dose of attitude!
There are plenty of ways out of a pickle without picking a fight. The best phrase I have ever heard was “I understand, let me see how I can help.” It does not put or assign blame, it hopefully diffuses a situation and allows everyone to move on. Picking a fight will lose a client—guaranteed. While I am not swearing off McDonalds just yet, you can bet I will not return to that particular location.
Ignore Your Client
It is spring. My yard was a mess and I have two hands full of brown thumbs. Plants see me and wilt. So I hired a landscaper to give me the spring cleaning I needed. Overseed, fertilize, edge, weed, mulch—you know the deal. He came out like gangbusters—lawn cut, fertilized, mulch delivered…and then he was abducted by aliens. He disappeared for three days and nothing. I called and the phone went to voicemail. Sent a text and nada. I had already fronted half of the money so I was getting concerned. After 10 days of being incommunicado, he returned a call and all he could muster was “I was busy.” Yeah, we all are. In fact, being busy was one of the reasons I called him in the first place.
Develop a policy in your office for follow up. It may be phone calls returned by end of the business day. It might be emails returned within 24 hours. Do your best to keep it and don’t leave your clients hanging!
While none of these experiences had anything to do with travel, I can totally see me making the same mistakes. This was a wake-up 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 there was some unforeseen change to their plans? 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.