The customer is "sometimes" right

Let's just say it: in business, mistakes happen.

Of course, in a perfect world, you would deliver everything to every client exactly the way she wants it, exactly when she wants it (and, while we're dreaming, chocolate would have zero calories). Sadly, we don't live in the perfect world.

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And as we've discussed before, customers aren't perfect either. But they are sometimes right.

Since no one is perfect, what sets us apart is how we deal with problems when they arise. What should you do when your business falls a little short? Here is a list of best practices to follow:

Listen

This seems obvious, but it is never easy to hear criticism about the company you built, especially when you know the criticism is accurate. It's hard not to get emotional, even when you're hearing the gentlest, most constructive feedback, let alone when the criticism comes in the form of a loud, angry complaint from a customer (who is right). Try to set aside emotion as much as possible and look at the situation objectively. Listen for specific things you and your team can change to ensure that the issue doesn't come up again in the future.

Recognize, Respond, and Remedy

Don't ignore the problem....that's the worst thing you can do. The last thing you need is for your problem to end up on Yelp, Ripoffreport, or social media. (And if it does end up on any of these platforms, you can follow my advice on how to repair your online reputation.) Rather than making excuses or getting dragged into an argument, admit your mistake and focus on taking steps to remedy the situation.

Recently, our Spring Insight marketing team had an unsatisfactory customer service experience with a promotions vendor. So, I'm speaking from personal experience here. In the end, an upper-level representative from the company reached out to us to personally apologize for their error. The apology took me very quickly from a 10 to a 2 on the anger meter.

The lesson here: a sincere apology can go a long way toward making the customer happy.

Take steps to ensure that the problem does not happen again

Once you have communicated with the unsatisfied client, meet with your team to address the issue and figure out a realistic solution that everyone can live with. When you are in business for yourself, the only thing worse than an unhappy customer is another unhappy customer. This is especially true if you know that you could have prevented a recurring problem. Figure out where your procedure is broken and get everyone onboard with the solution.

Follow-Up

This final step can be easily overlooked. Once you have identified the problem and done all you can to ensure that it doesn't happen again, it's easy to let the relief rush over you as you sigh and say "crisis averted." But a follow-up with the customer, about a week later, shows that you are willing to take the extra step to ensure good customer service. That can be the difference between him losing your business card and calling you up again once he has cooled off. It also reinforces that you are a professional, who puts with the client's best interest first.

Although it's easier and more fun for us business owners to dwell on the win's we have, losses are unavoidable. But it helps to think of these 'losses' more as postponements of wins. Besides, customers are more likely to take notice of how you react to problems than the problems themselves.

Do you have an inspiring story of turning problems into possibilities? I'd love to hear about it.