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Thanks for your money. Now go away, you’re bothering me.

Thanks for your money. Now go away, you’re bothering me.

By Nancy Steelberg

Unlike some of the ENCers, I hate buying new technology (in this case, a laptop). It’s not the idea of the new technology — it’s the process. How do you pick one? Which friend gives the best advice? How much do you trust those online reviews? Where do you buy it? And worst of all (and you know this is coming), what happens if your beautiful new gadget arrives, and it just doesn’t work?

I finally overcame all of that indecision and bought the perfect laptop for my teenager. Small, lightweight, lots of great software, decent price — I did a lot of surfing around to come up with a nice system.  But, I decided to buy through a wholesaler known for its customer service, technical support and extended warranty. The new laptop arrived as promised, but upon setup, we discovered that the optical drive did not work. My store rep, who I reached with a very simple phone call, worked with me, apologized for my inconvenience and patched me into the manufacturer of the laptop to figure out what to do next.

Unfortunately, my experience with the manufacturer was the polar opposite of the one with the store rep. This lovely new laptop would have to be shipped back. I would get a box in the mail, package it up, remove any personal information, and send it to the repair shop, where the problem would be fixed within 7 to 10 business days, and the system shipped back. Ouch. We’re talking two weeks, plus hours of phone and drive-around time — a lifetime for a teenager who wants her new laptop. Rest assured, the manufacturer’s instructions were neither easy nor intuitive.

But why am I still happy with the store and so unhappy with the manufacturer? For me, it came down to the personal apology. Everyone I encountered at the latter made me feel like I was the problem (like I intentionally made sure the optical drive was never connected). Nobody ever uttered a simple “I’m sorry for your inconvenience and loss of personal time after you spent $800 with us.” Meanwhile, the store employees fell all over themselves with apologies whenever I called and made me feel like a valued customer.

How does your organization deal with mistakes or communication oversights? I’m not talking about big corporate fall-on-your-sword apologies that a president or corporate PR department officially issues. I’m talking about the day-to-day culture that encourages your employees to acknowledge when their actions have inconvenienced customers or employees. Here are some easy approaches to consider promoting within your organization:

  1.  Learn how to make the quick apology. Whether you are in the right or wrong, a quick “Wow, I’m sorry, we’ll get to the bottom of this” takes the adversarial aspect out of the discussion. Put it into your script and make it part of your company culture.
  2. Quickly acknowledge that you, or your company, will make efforts to correct the problem in the future.
  3. Ask, repeatedly, if there is anything else you can do to help.

The store got it. The computer manufacturer, not so much. Which company are you like?

Image courtesy Flickr user Baddog_.

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