Businesses in Australia screw up all the time. Orders don’t arrive when they should, phones don’t get picked up quickly enough and what is promised doesn’t get delivered. Customer service teams don’t understand what we want and staff don’t seem to be able to get it right.
Start a conversation with someone today and I guarantee everyone has a story from the past month about a business that has let them down. And most likely your conversation will escalate into the pain it caused and blame that ensued. Rarely do stories of businesses screwing up have happy endings.
The trouble with the business world in Australia at the moment isn’t that they let us down often. The trouble is that most businesses haven’t yet capitalised on the opportunity of screwing up. As a business owner screwing up is the perfect opportunity for you to get ahead of your competition.
Let me explain.
Everyone screws up sometimes. How do you feel when you screw up?
For me it’s a sinking feeling in my stomach and then a whole brain ache of worry about how the other person is feeling about it. What does it feel like to you and when was the last time you really screwed up?
In my industry of fast moving consumer goods (genuine printer cartridges) there are many variables that cause screw ups. Couriers, suppliers, our human mistakes and many more things contribute to the things that can and do go wrong. I used to panic at the thought of letting a customer down. So much so that I believe I truly sabotaged my early success by not growing as much as I could have.
Pete Crofts, the founder of the world’s first Humourversity told me many times that the secret to life is being embarrassed and enjoying it. Unfortunately most humans spend more time trying to avoid making mistakes than trying new things or pushing forward to new frontiers in their lives and businesses.
Of course, if your business is screwing up the same way too often you will need to make some pretty fast changes to the way you do things to survive but how can you take advantage of screwing up sometimes?
Businesses that take advantage of screwing up have three things in common:
1. Great businesses don’t hide from it
One of the qualities of a true leader is the willingness to take responsibility.
When you screwed up last time did you hide or did you immediately own up to it with humility and grace? Did you telephone your customer or hide behind an email? Taking responsibility for mistakes without resorting to blame is hard but it reaps wonderful rewards.
Ultimately, if your business has created a process to satisfy a customer, all of the variables that make that process happen are your responsibility – including the staff and contractors that you hired.
2. Great businesses fix the problem as quickly as they humanly can
Many businesses don’t even bother to fix the problem. Then when it’s too late they realise that they have lost the customer and need to spend time and money chasing new business to replace them.
Good businesses generally have a loose sorry system implementing these first two things but
3. Great businesses SAY SORRY PROPERLY
Saying sorry properly often involves sending an appropriate gift to the customer although sometimes a simple handwritten note is enough.
The process of saying sorry properly is subjective to your business, your industry and most importantly to your customers. If you don’t know what delights your customers then you should find out immediately. It’s no good sending a bottle of wine to your customer to say sorry properly if you have no means of shipping it, if your industry frowns on that indulgence or if it is not appropriate for them. The same can be said for a discount voucher which may not serve your business nor be seen by the customer as compensation enough.
Great business owners know how to find the balance between delighting their customers and serving their business. They find this balance by first of all having clarity on the business’ critical numbers and then by having clear and easy to use systems in place.
One of the first big steps I made that took us from a good business to a great business was to learn and understand those critical numbers. Knowing our average costs of operations and sales to knowing our average profit and everything in between gave me the power to be able to make decisions on how and how much I could afford to reward and delight my customers.
I have a Google alert set for the term ‘Customer Delight’ and it amazes me, every day when it feeds into my inbox that of all the countries that publish news and articles on great customer engagement, Australia is not one of them. That is certainly reflected in what I see and gives you a massive opportunity to be ahead of your competition and build a great business.
Great businesses have a solid, affordable and easy to implement sorry system. Do you?
Danielle Storey is a keynote speaker, mentor and the co-owner (with her wonderful husband) of an Australian success story. They have created a series of Customer Delight Systems that delight their customers in a highly competitive industry. Danielle claims that she rarely has to compete on price to grow her business and has wonderful staff (yes there is such a thing) as a result of great leadership. To learn more about Danielle head here.