16 October 2013

Learn to Clean Up Messes Gracefully // Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs #31Days

Most of us have had an experience in our lives as consumers where something didn't go as planned.  Your Command hook careened to the ground, taking a dime-sized swatch of red paint with it, your Crate & Barrel order doesn't show up in time for Christmas, you got your carry-out feast home, only to discover they put on the mustard, and you hate mustard.  

As consumers, we know what it's like to feel valued, taken care of, validated.  And on the flip side, we know how it feels when we're ignored, placated, patronized. 

How does this translate to your life as an entrepreneur? It's pretty obvious that things are going to happen. Mistakes are going to be made. Where people are involved, there are messes.

If you value your customer and steward your gifts and abilities well, you will learn how to clean up messes with grace. 
  • Be kind. Kindness is never ever a bad idea. Even if the other person is being ridiculous. It's not my job to be the policeman of the world. Being kind never returns void.
  • Fess up. If and when you figure out what happened, be transparent about it. Transparency disarms, and when the victim of your mess hears the story behind what actually happened, they're more likely to see how it really was an innocent mistake.
  • Apologize. Take a moment to gather your thoughts, put down your defenses. And apologize. You've likely caused them frustration or embarrassment, and have probably been in their shoes on more than one occasion. Apologize with the sincerity you'd want to hear.
  • Ask what you can do to fix it. Don't assume you know what is going to make it better for them. Yes - some things they could conjure might be out of the realm of possible, but probably not. Do they need you to write a quick email apologizing that the gifts didn't make it one time for their super-special-girls-only-gift-exchange? Do that. Do they need you to make lots of notes in your system about how that red paint is impossible to find because the contractor painted it, and didn't leave any information about the color and now he's retired? Do it. Find out what speaks to them and do it.
  • Don't let it happen again. Your customers want to give you grace, but beware: it's not unlimited.  Fix (for good!) whatever broke in your system, and make sure it doesn't happen again. Also, make a note in your system (hmmm that system thing… we're going to talk about systems in an upcoming post!) that this person should be treated with extra special care.
  • Don't think you have time? Do you believe that unhappy customers will tell seven times more people about a BAD experience than they will about a good one?  Think about it in your own life as a consumer. If you feel burned, do you feel validated by telling your friends, posting it on Facebook (not saying these are good ideas necessarily - but they're REAL)? THAT is why you DO have time. It's important. Your customers deserve your best self. Your best business. 
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This post is part of a series called Savvy Business Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can read other posts in the series right here, or make a selection based on topic:

Day 7: Ask for Help
Day 9: Margin
Day 18: Make it Happen

1 comment:

  1. Great advice for cultivating relationships in any field. Thanks for articulating the steps that many of us take for granted!


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