We should act with humility when things go wrong….and then make them right.
I get things wrong sometimes. Unfortunately, I’m not a perfect leader. There are times when I miss the mark and other times that I’ve outright blown it. None of us are perfect.
There are going to be times when you drop the ball as a leader and your team falls short. There are going to be occasions where you’ll have a big miss as well. It’s just a part of life! When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders, and widespread tragedies.
Three types of service failures that deserve an apology When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders widespread tragedies.
Operational breakdowns: These types of service failures occur when there is a breakdown in the process that causes frustration for your customer. Not having the right product for a sale, service, or product not arriving when promised or a policy that gets in the way of service are just a few examples.
Service blunders: We’ve all experienced these. People say one thing and then do another or they don’t answer your communications in a timely manner. Another obvious example is how a person treats the customer or client.
Widespread Tragedy: These are certainly out of your control. Think natural disasters, or a tragic loss on the team. While you can’t control when or how these occur, how you react and accept responsibility does matter immensely to the customer.
These types of service failures don’t just apply to your business life. Operational breakdowns happen as you lose control of your time management, service blunders happen as you drop the ball on a commitment and we all go through tragedies in life.
Tips to apologize in an authentic way
It’s easy to say the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s more difficult to believe it yourself sometimes, much less convincing the other person that your apology is truly heartfelt.
Have a swift response: A disgruntled person only gets angrier if they feel like they are being ignored. Think about a time when you experienced a service issue and no one gave you the attention you needed. You likely felt your patience wear thin pretty quickly
Show humility and empathy: This is one of the key actions to turn around a bad situation. If your apology is authentic, you’ll be on a much quicker road to resolving the situation. if your apology is perceived as fake or just lip service, then the situation may escalate even further.
Accept responsibility: Avoiding responsibility is one of the quickest ways to dig yourself into a deeper hole with the person you let down. Take responsibility to fix the problem even if it wasn’t your fault. Own the issue that is being communicated to you.
Provide an honest explanation: Truthfully share how the failure in service or commitment occurred while avoiding making excuses. Don’t hide behind a policy; it’s an easy out that no one likes to hear.
Extend an olive branch: Right the situation and rebuild the relationship. You should feel empowered to take care of concerns and complaints as they happen. If you don’t feel empowered, let your leader know so the two of you can work on a potential solution together. Do what needs to be done within reason to amend the mistake.
Instead of running away from responsibility and trying to push blame elsewhere, step up and own the mistake. Apologize with sincerity and authenticity and work to make things right with the other person. This is a lost skill in today’s public eye. Stand out above the crowd by turning your apologies into a strong point of your leadership.
Today Zack and Mike share their 2021 book recommendations!
Clarity in Crisis by Marc Polymeropoulos
“I really enjoyed Marc’s book. It’s an engaging read that follows his career in the CIA while pulling out leadership and team-building lessons that can be applied to every team, no matter the size or industry.” – ZH
“This is one of my favorite book recommendations for a new leader and a leader looking to raise their effectiveness. Lee shares a number of great tips and stories in order to care for your team and your customer.” -ZH
“This book does a fantastic job of helping the reader experience what it was like to be close to the events that unfolded on 9/11. The book leans heavily into first-hand accounts from interviews that tell a powerful story of heroism, loss, luck, and trama. A powerful read that took me longer than usual to read. I found myself reading a bit and then reflecting on what the people in the interviews experienced.” – ZH
Pivot by Jenny Blake
“Jenny does a great job a helping the reader put a plan in place to pivot to that next role that they want to be in. It’s not always realistic to say that you want to be the CEO fresh out of college. Instead, she helps the person realize what steps they need to take to get to their ultimate goal.” – MF
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
“I love all of Malcolm’s stuff from his books to his podcast. I like how Malcolm dives into what is behind a person’s success and what makes a person successful that we don’t initially think about.” -MF
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
” I love a good biography and have always been interested in Steve Jobs and what he was able to do as a leader. I really appreciated that the biography shows both the good and the bad behind Steve and lets the reader decide what their takeaway is. ” – MF
We are truly living in a new age of service and expectation. Traffic is generally down at all physical locations and one person has the power to significantly influence your organization while you have no power to stop it from happening. We’ve seen many examples of how one person posts a comment or photo and then it gains traction with over a million likes, comments, or shares online. Businesses quickly try to scramble to save face by changing policies or firing the people involved. At the same time, organizations are spending more and more just to get an opportunity with a new customer. Retail costs for a new customer avg from $10-$40, financial institutes will spend over $175 per person and phone companies will spend over $300 for a new account. With that much investment, it’s more important than ever to keep the ones that you have.
Focus on retention
A recent study showed that 44% of companies put more emphasis on acquisition and only 18% put more on retention. That means 38% aren’t really focused on either! It’s fine to focus on new customers; in fact, you should in order to grow. If you solely focus on acquisition, you may lose 5 for every 1 that you gain. Not only is this a very poor business model, it is also a self-fulfilling prophecy to your own demise. On average it costs 5 times more to get a new person than it is to keep the ones that you have. Don’t focus so much on catching the one fish that you don’t notice all the fish that you caught are leaving through the hole in the boat. Here are some good ways to focus on retention:
Reward them for their loyalty: Everyone does rewards cards these days. Offer them something of value more than just a discount every now and again.
Listen to them: Truly take in their feedback and then act on it.
Show them you are socially responsible in your community.
Show them you stand for something.
Educate, don’t sell: People appreciate when you take the time to teach them something or make an educated recommendation than trying to sell them on an item.
Don’t let them leave unhappy
When you see a customer experience start to turn south, do everything that you can do to immediately resolve the situation. Make it a priority to resolve issues that you hear about after the fact. This can be feedback from the team, customer comments you receive internally or messages you get on social media. As we saw at the top of the newsletter, one incident can turn into a crippling event for you.
Avoid generic email responses and form letters. Nothing shows them that you don’t truly care more than an unsolicited email or message response that’s not heartfelt.
Be empathetic: Most often they just want to be heard and for you to improve. Don’t defend the person or situation.
Offer more than an apology: Give me something to either meet their need or to show your good will.
Commit to improve based on their feedback.
Do your best to gain new customers while focusing on keeping the ones that you currently have. Remember that when you lose one customer, you’ve actually lost many more because you can guarantee that they will tell their families and friends about their experience. Keep your boat sealed and cast your nets wide!
I was flying back home the night before our movers were arriving at my house to move our family halfway across the country. In Nashville, the plane had mechanical issues and was canceled. I had asked to change my flight to the next outgoing plane when I saw the writing on the wall. The flight attendant gave me a cold no with no explanation and no further information. After the second plane left I asked again and was told it wasn’t their fault that I was late. They finally put me on a plane for a transfer to Dallas. The crew and passengers let me off first and called ahead to the other flight to let them know I was coming, so I was that guy you see in the movies…..you know the one running full speed down the terminal. I arrive at my gate just as the lady is closing the gate.
“Can I please get on this plane? It’s still here and I have to meet movers at my house in the morning to move my family.”
I was floored, and worn out from the stress and fatigue from running across the airport. Needless to say, the company was not on the same page in service levels that day.
No one enjoys hearing the word no.
No is a negative (obviously!) and it also does something else to a large group of the population….it makes them want whatever it is even more. Think of kids when you say no to them. Oftentimes they will dial up the urgency or push even harder to get what they want. If you loved the show LOST as I did, you know the character John Locke was famously hung up about being told no. “You can’t tell me what I can’t do!” was his famous line that he said over and over. Instead of saying no, look for a way to say yes.
Sometimes your yes might not be exactly what they want, but it’s not a no. Here are some tips to help say yes:
Don’t immediately say no. Think through options and other possible solutions before giving your response. Ask for more time if you need it.
Establish boundaries beforehand on what you are empowered to take care of. Companies often give front-line employees the flexibility to take care of requests and service issues.
Put yourself in their shoes and think of what would be a good solution if you were on that side of the conversation.
Celebrate those who turn a no into a yes. It will build their confidence and reassure them that they made the right decision.
Say yes to more than just your guests.
It’s just as important to think about your team in this regard if you are charged with leading people. That doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover; it means you should do everything within reason to meet their needs. Time off requests is a common item that should fall into this category. If you cant meet those needs and requests, give it a good effort first and let the person know that you did. They will appreciate that you didn’t immediately shut them down even if wasn’t the exact outcome they were looking for. Saying yes creates more loyalty, buy-in to your vision, and greater work efficiency.
There are a few times when a No is absolutely appropriate. Those times include safety, moral, and integrity issues.
Give it all you’ve got in finding a way to say yes to your guests and your team.
Family is not an important thing, it is everything.
Have you ever been somewhere where you didn’t get served well and then you observe someone in the same establishment getting great service? It’s extremely frustrating, to say the least. I’m typically very unlikely to visit the place again when this happens to me or my family. I think that we get so caught up in the daily whirlwind and routine that we forget why we are there in their first place; to serve the guests. It’s important to the success of your team that everyone feels valued and important.
Treat the guests like family.
To say to an employee, “I want you to treat everyone like family,” is quite easy. We then are frustrated when we see that experience fail to come into existence. It’s either that A) They refuse to engage in that way (and they should be removed from the team) or B) They don’t understand the difference between what they are doing and what you are looking for. Storytelling is a great way for a person to remember and understand the point you are trying to make. Here we are going to let them tell their own story to drive the point home. Imagine your best friend or mom walked through the front door. How would you react? Excited, relaxed, happy….definitely more engaging. You’d probably carry on a conversation with them and then help them find what they were looking for. You’d also likely give them that little extra above and beyond service as well.
That’s the difference.
Help your team see that we interact with close friends and family differently from strangers in both obvious and subtle ways. Your ultimate goal is for your employees to treat everyone they encounter with that same joy and excitement. It doesn’t have to be crazy over the top either. It could be opening the door for someone, getting on the level of a child to give them a high-five, carrying stuff out to the car, or any number of other small loving things that you can do. Here’s the great thing for you as a leader; this level of service doesn’t cost you a thing. There is one thing that you’ll need to do as a leader though….
Treat the team like family.
Yes, you can’t tell the employees to love the customers like family, without doing the same for them. I understand that we have policies and personal boundaries when it comes to the people that report to us. I’m not suggesting that you break those. I am saying show them appreciation as much as possible. Remember that we talked in the fall about how we overestimate our impact? You aren’t giving out as much appreciation as you think you are. The people that report to you will be the reason you will or won’t get a promotion. Show them how much you appreciate their contribution. Remember to respect them for who they are. You may think video games are a waste of time and you don’t understand why the guy on your team spends every other waking hour playing those things, but he’s probably very successful at it and the activity adds value to him. Don’t discount someone because of their interest or background. All employees deserve your highest respect. Lastly, be sure to encourage them in their mistakes and when they try new things.
Treat your team like family and set the expectation that they do the same with the guests. Your service level will skyrocket.