At Echos, we say it constantly that services must be memorable, incredible experiences to customers. However, business owners, entrepreneurs and managers will tell you that keeping up with everything regarding customer satisfaction can be challenging.
Creating and managing relevant, desirable and valuable services is possible, of course, but not without its hurdles. Every service has a person who is behind it, and people make mistakes sometimes – it’s only human. Understanding and acknowledging the human factor behind your service will help you to solve a problem in a moment of crisis.
It is fundamental that you practice what you preach, so I decided to share a personal story, that happened to me in the early days of Echos, in 2011.
Because of some inconvenience, we had to postpone a course that was going to happen on a given week – this is not an ideal situation, but sometimes it happens. We called the people who had signed up for the course, apologised profusely and did our best to reallocate them to other dates.
It was a Friday night – the night the postpones course was supposed to take place – and our team was packing up to go home after a busy week when our school campus intercom rang. Our receptionist let the person through, and I could hear their conversation:
– Welcome to The School of Design Thinking, how can I help you?
– I’m here for tonight’s course.
My stomach immediately dropped as I realised that we forgot to call the two students that were from out of town (one lived 854km away, and the other 350km away). I felt like passing out or crying, maybe both. I went to the reception and apologised a million times, but all I wanted was to disappear. After about 10 minutes, the other student arrived, and I could not feel worse. I felt like the stupidest person on earth and kept on apologising until the moment they left.
The following day, we wrote an email formalising our deepest apologies and including a monetary reimbursement for their expenses with travel, accommodation and the course fee. We also send them a little gift that included a DVD copy of the documentary “Quem Se Importa”, or “Who Cares”, in English (a Brazilian documentary about social entrepreneurship created by Mara Mourão and shown at Harvard University at their 13th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Convention) and a voucher for them to choose another date to do the course they weren’t able to experience on any other date they chose.
Photo: Juliana facilitating a Design Thinking Open Morning Session in Sydney.
That week I continued to feel bad. We were a starting business, and that mistake could have cost us two important relationships, I thought.
A year went by and, one day, one of those students signed up to another one of our courses, which I happened to be coordinating. On the courses’ first day I went – still slightly embarrassed – to greet him personally. We were chatting for a little while when he told me that he had come back due to our amazing response to our mistake; he told me he felt like we really cared. He even said that his father – who is a successful businessman – told him that our response signalised that we were a serious business.
That conversation made my day, and that was a lesson I never forgot.
Avoiding mistakes is what we should always do, but surely they will still happen every now and again and, when they do, the most important thing you can do is care. Be empathetic to the people who will suffer the consequences of your mistakes. Big or small a mistake, take ownership of it. In doing so, you will humanise your business and will be able to turn something bad into a good experience for your client.
Caring is powerful, and it will help you through difficult times. Remember your clients are people – as are you – and be prepared to fix mistakes as they come.
*This article was translated, adapted and edited by Rani Ghazzaoui Luke.
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