Customers Remember Their Experience
It’s amazing how many businesses seem to disregard the fact that their customers are people and people have memories. Customers remember the experience they have with a business, and that memory drives whether that customer returns.
The Great Easter Egg Caper
A number of years ago, a business ran an Easter egg contest in the store, where parents brought in the kids to hunt for plastic eggs. Some had a piece of candy inside, and a few had prizes. As it turned out, one of our kids found an eggs containing a prize. We won an area rug.
Now, of course there was no purchase necessary, and we weren’t actively looking for any furniture to buy at that time. We had purchased a china cabinet from them the previous year, but this time, we didn’t come across anything we really wanted so we made no purchase. Not a problem, we were told. Weeks and weeks passed beyond the date they told us to expect the rug to arrive, but it never did. I went into the store to inquire and was told it would be taken care of. I should expect it to arrive within a month. A decade later, we’re still waiting for it to arrive.
Regardless of whether this was a colossal snafu, or if the store never intended to deliver the prize to somebody who made no purchase doesn’t matter. This is what matters. A decade after the contest, we now are looking to make a furniture purchase and we haven’t forgotten about the rug. What are the chances we are going to buy what we want from this store? The odds aren’t good because it’s a matter of integrity. This store made a promise and didn’t keep it. In fact, to a customer it might feel like there was never any intention to keep the promise in the first place.
It doesn’t matter if it was a mistake. The only thing that matters is the customer’s perception. After we followed up and the item still didn’t arrive, my perception was cemented. This isn’t about the rug; we didn’t really need a rug. It’s a matter of principle. I once worked for a company where people would hide mistakes from customers unless there was no alternative but to disclose the information. Even then, disclosure would be a the latest possible time. Why was it this way? Mistakes generated additional work.
The problem with that philosophy is the mistakes on our part could seriously impact the customer’s products, reputation, and financials. Late or no disclosure severely limited the options our customer had available to take corrective actions to recover from our mistake. The ramifications included an extremely angry group of people on the other end of the conference call when they finally did learn about an issue. Timeliness of disclosure can mean the difference between catching a problem before it leaves a factory, or issuing a recall. Recalls are expensive.
Mistakes happen. Everyone realizes that. When a mistake impacts you, it’s okay to get angry because it’s a situation outside your control that impacts you directly. But, when the person who made the mistake owns the problem and actively seeks to help you manage and correct the negative impact, it shows integrity. Admitting a mistake to the people who are both damaged by the mistake and paid you to make it is difficult. That’s what makes working with somebody who owns mistakes special, because the alternative is deception through lack of information or, in some cases, active lies.
Take the high road. When a mistake happens, own it. It’s never easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.