Have you ever screwed up in a personal relationship?
Have you ever said the wrong thing, missed a deadline or otherwise disappointed someone?
When that happened, if you cared about the relationship, what did you do?
Your answers may vary, but I’m confident you were most successful when you apologized, and when you showed your sincerity with more than just words or an “I’m sorry” card. While I am sure you followed up with words, I’m guessing in your most successful screw-up recoveries, you did more than talk, you took action.
Do you have any personal examples of people with whom your relationship is actually stronger now than it was before your screw up?
I’m guessing that if you worked hard to regain their trust, with both words and actions, that your answer is to that is yes – and you are smiling now. (Congratulations!)
I hope you’re thinking of a positive story right now . . . and, if you are like me . . . you likely have other situations in your mind where you screwed up and perhaps the relationship was permanently wounded or no longer exists.
Think about one of those situations . . . did you take the same kinds of repair actions you did in the other situations?
I’ll bet not.
The reasons you didn’t are likely varied. You didn’t realize what you had done; you were too busy to do anything; you forgot; it wasn’t important enough to you – you get the idea.
If you analyze all of your experiences in this area you will find some keys that lead to your success – or failure – in successfully repairing/building your relationship after a screw up. Here is part of my list:
- Apologize. You learned it as a kid, and teach it to yours. When we do it, it makes a difference.
- Take responsibility. The offended party doesn’t want excuses or rationale, he/she wants results (and so do you when the tables are turned).
- Do more than talk – take action. What that action is could be very different based on the situation, but the truth is that people look to our actions as much as – and often more than – our words.
- Make amends. The action should be more than just a nice gesture; it should focus on fixing the initial mistake, problem or misunderstanding.
- Don’t wait. Do the above steps sooner rather than later. It is perhaps even more powerful if the other party sees that you went out of your way to make things right as soon as humanly possible.
You may be thinking that you aren’t reading an article about Customer Service, but about interpersonal relationships.
Think about the last time you were a Customer and something didn’t go so well – your bags didn’t make the plane; there was a mix-up on your bill; or anything at all. I’m willing to bet that if that company did all of the things above you would feel better about that organization and your experience than you did before the screw up.
This may not seem logical – that company hadn’t messed up your bill before, and yet now you feel better about them than you did before? Yep, that’s right.
Because whether we are talking about interpersonal relationships or Customer relationships, we are still talking about relationships.
In your business and professional life, you and your organization are going to make mistakes. Of course, as a leader you should work to minimize them as much as possible. But, just like your own personal examples, when you make a mistake, what matters most is how you respond after you know a mistake has been made.
Go back and re-read the five bullets points above from the perspective of service recovery. They are the same things that will help you deepen a Customer relationship, after you make a mistake.
And you will make a mistake at some point.
And, when you begin to see mistakes as opportunities to build your relationships, then congratulations are in order. You know the steps to take. It is your opportunity (and to your great benefit) to take them.
Potential Pointer: A service mistake can, and should be, seen as an opportunity to regain trust and create a lasting connection with the customer. Done well, service recovery is one of the most powerful tools for building lifelong relationships with Customers.
Service recovery is just one of the many skills you’ll learn as a member of The Remarkable Way. Learn more and change your leadership trajectory.