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When eating humble pie pays

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The story you’re about to read is true. No need to change the name to protect the innocent. The only innocent is the customer, me!

I own a Yamaha Razz motor scooter. Nothing fancy, just a small 49cc scooter. One day it wouldn’t start. I loaded it up and took it over to a Yamaha Dealer, Kennedy’s Cycle. 'We’ll call you in a couple of days and let you know what’s needed,'I was told. That was August 7. When no call came by August 17, I called Kennedy’s. 'Oh, we’re a little behind, but we’re going to get right to it and we’ll call you tomorrow,' said the service manager. Again, no call.

By August 30, I’d turned into the angry customer ready to blast whomever answered. I, quickly and calmly, explained my dilemma to the receptionist and demanded to speak to the service manager. While on hold I locked and loaded my attack. But I never got to pull the trigger!

'Mr. Schultz, I am the most embarrassed manager on the planet,' the voice started out, 'and I’m ready to eat humble pie. We have totally failed you. We haven’t kept our promise and I am really sorry. And I assure you we’ll do whatever it takes to make it up to you, starting with absolutely no labor charges for whatever we need to do to your scooter,' he added.

Talk about an honest admission of failure! After that speech, I couldn't unload on the guy. He actually won me back as he admitted his shop was overwhelmed.

What’s my point? You could be the worlds best at customer service, but let’s face it: To err is human and there’s always going to be screw ups. What you do next is the key. It’s no time to duck the customer (wait for his call), blame someone else (the parts manufacturer) or concoct some story. Rather, it’s time to swallow some pride and scramble to make it up to the customer. Contacting the customer first, apologizing and, yes, eating some humble pie should all be involved. 

Justin Martin cites the following in his report “Do Your Customers Love You?” in Fortune Small Business: A Vancouver home health-care company (nursenextdoor.ca) with $10 million in revenues goes for the dramatic. When the company messes up, it delivers a humble pie, a fresh-baked apple pie with a note that says in part: ‘We are very humbled by our mistake and sincerely apologize for our poor service.' Reportedly, the firm has spent $1,300 on pies. but believes it’s kept $90,000 in business.

It can pay to swallow some pride! Have you developed a good idea on how to recover when service goes bad?

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