When Sorry Isn’t Enough

A visit to a busy restaurant, some barbecue sauce and a beautiful jacket provide a valuable lesson in customer service.

Man holding sorry sign

The restaurant was extra busy when a waiter stumbled while carrying a bowl of barbecue sauce, spilling it on a beautiful jacket draped over a chair.

The waiter apologized and wiped the sauce off the jacket. He then excused himself and returned with the manager. The manager apologized again, asked the customer to get the garment cleaned, and gave the customer a note that guaranteed payment for the cleaning. The customer, while not happy, knows that accidents will happen occasionally and accepted the offer.

The waiter, the manager and the customer handled the situation with consideration and dignity, and the problem was solved.

When barbecue sauce goes flying, or some other unexpected thing happens, companies that value having a high-quality reputation recognize that this is a “Moment of Truth.” It’s the time to make good on all those quality and service brags that are posted on your website, advertising, sales scripts, and other marketing material. It’s an opportunity to shine and prove that your reputation is more than just some marketing copy.

Even in the very best of companies, bad stuff happens for any number of reasons. High-quality companies work hard to right the few wrongs that pop up because they have worked hard to create their reputation, and they know that it can be lost with one spill of barbecue sauce or another misstep.

Too often the person responsible tries to wriggle out of it, and you can watch the customer’s blood pressure rise. Voices grow louder and shriller, no one wins, and a customer is forever lost. It used to be said that a customer who feels mistreated would tell eleven people about a bad experience. Today, a customer can post a negative review on any number of internet sites and can shout his or her dissatisfaction to the world.

See Also
Customer Loyalty: Never Lose the Personal Touch

It’s up to you to create a win-win culture that solves problems before they escalate and make that culture an effective management tool that keeps customers coming back. Take a look at your customer service policies to see how you can make things right before they turn wrong.

About the Author

Larry Galler works with professionals, small-business owners, contractors, and entrepreneurs to increase sales and profits through better, more creative marketing and effective administration systems.

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