Let’s start with the notion that nobody is perfect. I know, that will drive the perfectionists up a wall, but it is true. No person, no organization, no company is perfect. This means we will all make mistakes. So why not plan for it.
Plan for it! Yes. We all know that someday there will be a screw up, a goof, or God forbid an intentional negative act. For example, consider the recent experience of a Comcast customer. Lisa wanted to find a way to save money, so she decided that the family could do without the cable portion of the family bill. The Comcast customer service representative was not happy with this request, tried to retain her, and when she still refused Lisa got her next Comcast bill addressed to – “Asshole Brown”. Needless to say Lisa was upset about trying to get the name changed back to her real name. Even that task was not easy.
So here we go. Like I said, no one is perfect and in this case Comcast certainly deserves a black eye.
So how did they do at recovering from this insult? Well, Lisa and her family received an apology, a promise that the event would be investigated and dealt with, a refund of two years of their previous service and two more years of service added for free.
The employee who committed this act was fired as well.
All in all, this is not a bad recovery. So what did they do right?
- After some difficulties in getting heard, the aggrieved customer was heard
- The customer was not treated as though she was the perpetrator
- An apology was issued
- Some financial restitution was in order and delivered
- The employee was fired.
So what can we learn?
Own up to what went wrong – covering up will only make it worse
This is perhaps the most important step in the process. How many times have we seen national figures, politicians, companies who tried to cover up what went wrong? This is what a child does when he breaks a parental rule and doesn’t want to be found out.
What we are looking for here is an Adult response from the individual, the company, the politician, etc. We don’t want a Child response from a grownup, supposedly responsible person.
We have to resist the temptation to defend ourselves, or to make the victim of the goof, indiscretion, etc. be the fall guy for our screw ups. How many times do we hear politicians, for example, blaming the news media for their misstatements?
When this happens, not only am I angry about what happened, but doubly angry about the fact that I or someone else is being blamed for the goof.
Come up with an Adult Solution
When a screw up occurs, what I want is a company that will fix it, not defend what they did or try to blame me for why they screwed up. Just the other day I tried again to wear a sweater that I was given a year and a half ago. I was having trouble with the long front zipper before, and this time I was unable to budge it.
I called the company from which it was purchased, explained the problem and asked if they could make good on it. Without a hesitation the customer service representative said that yes, their products had a life-time guarantee, and that she would be glad to take care of it. She asked when I thought it was purchased, she found it in my record, and looked to see if they still sold the item. She found a new one, said it would be shipped free of charge and that I could put the defective one in the same box and send it back. To protect the company from any indiscretions on my part they temporarily charged my account for the new sweater, which she said would be reversed when I returned the defective item.
The whole transaction from start to finish was Adult to Adult. Nobody questioned anyone’s integrity, no one threatened anyone with what they were going to do if they didn’t get what they wanted.
I was Adult and I was encouraged to be so by the Adult on the other end of the phone. The company in this case protected itself from the possibility that I was trying to pull something over on them, by having good records of purchases such that they could verify that I had indeed purchased the item and by temporarily charging me for a new one until I returned the old one. This Adult -to -Adult exchange resulted from the company planning on what to do when the inevitable happened, and by hiring a person who knew how to communicate in their Adult and resist the temptation to revert to using their Parent or their Child. Psychological Parents blame others; psychological Children look to shift the blame or deny it altogether.
Deal effectively with the person who caused the trouble.
One final thing to learn from our Comcast example is how the person who changed the customer name was dealt with. You will remember that the person was fired. Not knowing any of the specific details, this seems the right thing. Customer service is a demanding job. Having worked with people who do this sort of work I have heard many stories of abusive Parental customers who say often unconscionablethings to the service rep. The representative are partly paid to keep their cool and stay Adult in sometimes trying situations.
In this case the problem was not a training issue, rather it was an example of the person acting as a spiteful Child. There is no room for that kind of a person on the critical customer interface level. Firing him was the right thing to do.