When you have lemons, make lemonade!

The measure of how well a business is managed and how important customer service is to the business becomes apparent, not in the good times when things are going well, but rather in those moments of truth when things go off the rails.

It doesn’t matter how they go off the rails, what is important it that they do and how the management or the leadership takes ownership and deals with it.

Accepting that things will go wrong, no business is perfect is the first step and I see businesses fail this too many times.  For some, the prevailing attitude is we don’t make mistakes, it must either be the customer’s fault or someone else’s, it couldn’t possibly be ours.  The flip side of this is however for some businesses,  a source of competitive advantage and when done well, will easily move a disgruntled customer to a fan.  The door is open for those courageous businesses to walk through.

I recently experienced two very different situations, one where something went wrong but where the service retrieval was outstanding and the other incident that just reinforced my opinion of the organisation.

It doesn’t matter whether the business is a solopreneur or a huge public entity, the concept of owning up to the issue and accepting responsibility is a critical step for any business.

This was evident in the first situation I experienced – the publisher of a book I have contributed to could easily have taken the easy route and blamed the printer or some other party for the error that occurred.  He didn’t, he responded immediately and put plans in place to rectify the situation and also offered a further bonus.  I am now a raving fan of Kizzi at Mithra Publishing, and will look for opportunities to either participate in their projects or endorse them.

This is in stark contrast to the experience I had following a slip and rather undignified fall adjacent to a City Rail station.  The areas is controlled by City Rail, and the slip was a result of debris on the floor, and yet the ownership of the situation by station staff was appalling.  Notes taken on the back of a piece of paper, no cleaner called to clean up the mess, and then told any further enquiries or updates on my injuries were to be made to a phone number that starts with 13.  The station staff member then proceeded to tell me from this point forward it had nothing to do with them.  I can only imagine what sort of effort it would take to get through to someone who might know something about the incident.   Clearly there are legal implications in this issue and clearly staff have been told not to admit liability and I understand this, but there are ways to retrieve the situation by treating the customer as a person, not something to be made to go away as quickly as possible.  City Rail has a little way to go on this regard – perhaps a little bit of training in service retrieval rather than avoidance could help to overcome some of the negative public perceptions that exist around public transport.