A Masterclass in Managing Mistakes

Last night Kay went out for dinner with an old friend, Russell. They’ve known each other for years and regularly meet for coffee in London or a meal.

Russell had made a phone booking for 7pm at Brasserie Blanc on Threadneedle for the two of them. They were both looking forward to the evening and catching up.

When the two of them arrived at Brasserie Blanc the first thing they noticed was a sign on the door that read:

“Please note: This restaurant is closed this evening due to a private function”

As you can imagine, neither of them were happy at this turn of events. Seeing each other is tough. They’re both busy professionals who work long hours. They book these dates months in advance to make sure they happen.

Russell is one of the nicest, calmest men I know. Not a push over, his work in international corporate restructuring means he can’t afford to be. However, on this occasion he decided to go in anyway as he “wanted to have a rant.”

Now. I’ve expressed my dismay at the lack of customer service from several organsisations in previous articles. However, the following tale takes my general opinion of customer service to another level.

As Russell and Kay walked through the door, it was clear the waitress was looking out for them…

“Mr Payne yes? We’re so sorry about the mix up, please take a seat” and handed them a glass of Champagne each.

There it began. Not the usual excuses, avoidance of responsibility and “what do you expect us to do?” attitude.

The staff member couldn’t have been more apologetic. She explained that a new member of staff had taken the booking and not realised there was a party on that evening. She’d also forgotten to take a phone number. This was why they had been unable to contact Russell to amend the booking.

She explained that this was an oversight on their part. They’d already started looking at their training manual to try to stop it happening in the future.

This was great to hear. But at this point it didn’t help them with their dinner plans.

The waitress explained that a table at their Chancery Lane branch was waiting for them. And, that a taxi to take them there would be with them shortly. She also let them know that they were covering the taxi fare.

They turned up at Chancery lane, mood buoyed by a glass of Champagne and the reception they’d received. Russell and Kay were taken to a table where a bottle of fizz was waiting for them, on the house.

They both had a great time, you would after a bottle and a half of fizz. More importantly (for Raymond) both are telling this tale to anyone who will listen.

Well done Brassiere Blanc. They’ve produced a masterclass in managing mistakes.

They’ve taken time to think about what can go wrong and put in place processes to fix it. Not processes that will minimise damage. Processes that take them from the villains of the story to the heroes. They’ve done this by making the heroes of their customers.

They’ve not buried their heads in the sand hoping mistakes won’t happen. They’ve assumed that even with training, processes and systems, mistakes WILL happen. It’s about how you deal with them that leaves your customer with a happy or not happy outcome.

Better, they turned a potentially frustrating and disappointing evening into an experience. An experience they are taking about in a positive way.

Thinking about situations that may arise and how to minimise the fall out is smart and enables a positive response.

Reacting to errors can lead to further errors. Of course, there are always times when stuff happens that you haven’t thought about. Training your staff and yourself to think means better reactions. You’ll have an error “bank” of ideas you can work with and apply to new situations.

It’s likely you’re reading this article at the start of a New Year. 2018 is upon us and it’s a time of year that many of you are using to plan the next twelve months. You’re planning things like how to get more customers, increase profit, improve conversion rates and staff training. All things that are worthy and to my mind, essential.

Getting new customers is expensive. We put in place flashy campaigns using direct mail and video cards. We spend money on FaceBook ads and Google. We invest in sales training and beautiful websites. These are all the right things to do.

Think about this though. How much time and money are you putting into keeping your customers? They already know who you are. They already like and trust you. They’ve already spent money with you. It’s very easy to turn them off. People are far more likely to comment negatively than leave you a testimonial. People are far more likely to moan about you to their friends than praise you, especially when things go wrong.

Things will go wrong.

We all know shit happens. Don’t hide from it. Don’t hope these situations won’t happen. Don’t assume a cheeky smile and a swift apology will be enough. Take some time to think about your strategy and how to make the most of any hiccups before they happen.

Kay and Russell’s advocacy of brassiere blanc is reinforced due to some foresight and planning.

What are you doing to get a similar result?


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