When It All Goes Wrong

Every business, large or small, is bound to get it wrong at some point. Disney gets it wrong, Ritz Carlton disappoints, Emirates messes up. It’s a natural part of business growth. Cliché as it may be, failure does not have to ruinous. Failure is what we can all learn from for continued growth.

Here are the 5 Must Do’s when it seems that all is going wrong in your business:

Take total ownership and responsibility. This starts by listening carefully and objectively to the problem. If you get a chance to do this face to face, better. If initial contact was established online or through a third person, find a way to talk to your customer as directly as possible. Do not hide behind emails and online complaint protocol. It is worlds better for your business if your customer tell you and you can do something about it to fix it for them than have them leave a negative online report about you and your business that is there forever – even after you’ve fixed it. Yes, here’s another cliché, complaints ARE a gift, so as with any other present, accept it and always say thank you.

Offer a solution. Have you ever been in the situation where you’ve had to make a complaint? It is not a very pleasant experience and this is why most people don’t even bother to do it. But you’re your customer actually goes out of his way to lodge a complaint, please NEVER ask ‘What would like me to do for you?’ You’re the expert. You tell the customer what you can do better. Take ownership of your customer’s unpleasant experience and offer a solution.

If you spot the problem before the customer does, come clean. Which one would you rather have happen to you? a) You order and pay for a new PC monitor with next day delivery and it doesn’t arrive or b) You order and pay for a new PC monitor with next day delivery and two hours later you receive a call from the sales supervisor informing you that your order has missed the next day deadline. They are very sorry, they’ll refund your postage and the new PC monitor will be with you the day after next. Sadly, it is not always B that we get. What many organizations do is that they hide behind the problem, make a lame excuse and only extend any semblance of an apology if they are challenged on what went wrong. If it’s going to go wrong and you have caught on earlier, step up and let your customer know.

Don’t tell your customers your problems. Who cares if you’re two accountants down, the office fax machine is on the blink, your supplier didn’t fulfill the stock, your systems are offline or whatever positively canned spiel it is you have to excuse yourself from bot being able to deliver? Whatever reason it is you have, it’s the same as telling your customer that you are not prepared to own this problem. The seasoned consumer has heard it all before and although they may appear to be sympathetic, they’re already planning to spend their hard earned money somewhere else next time.

Learn from it. Many businesses deal with the same challenges year after year. Notice if your company has problems that recur in that they become your ‘thing’ — just something that you deal with when it comes back. If you do, consider starting a complaints and solutions book. Every complaint gets logged, and so does every solution. No one can log a complaint without a solution. Let your team read it periodically. Let your staff, old and new, learn from it. Everyone takes responsibility.

Failure is a tricky business. Emotions run high and so do the risks to personal and financial investments, not yet counting the business’ reputation. The goal is to stay above the emotional turbulence and take failure for its real value: an opportunity to learn, grow, and strengthen partnerships… paving the way for future success.