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A truly big mistake

March 11, 2010
Filed under Service Providers

We all make little mistakes as a routine part of our daily lives. Once in awhile, however, we make a mistake that is not so little. How you handle it is the key. The following scenario is based off a real-life customer service call center report.

The scenario — A man gets into a significant accident with his motorcycle. He leaves it at his dealership for a repair estimate. A mix-up occurs between two different managers in the service department. Instead of working up an estimate to repair the bike, the dealership sends it off to the junkyard. Before the dealership realizes its mistake, the motorcycle is completely stripped by the salvage operation. Needless to say, the customer is livid when he finds out.

What now? — The sales manager or general manager need to get an idea of what the motorcycle would be worth fully repaired, and then try to estimate what the cost would have been to perform the repairs. The difference in these two amounts is the extent of the dealership’s liability. The customer’s insurance company likely remains liable for the repair costs. With this in mind, bring the customer back into the dealership and “fall on your sword.” It is totally pointless to make excuses. You not only owe your customer an apology, but you have to make it clear that you stand ready to do what is necessary to make it right. Let the customer tell you what they think is fair. Most people will be reasonable if they sense you are trying to do the right thing. Two very bad things can result from mishandling this situation. The first is the reputational damage of having a good customer telling everyone they know what you did to them. The second is the involvement of expensive lawyers. Avoid both by giving the customer what they want. If the demand for satisfaction is anything reasonable, do it. Never forget that sentimental value plays a role sometimes, and an angry emotional customer is the last thing you need.

Lesson learned – Each of us will make a truly big mistake once in awhile. Never take a bad situation and make it worse. Do whatever you need to do to create the best possible result and move on. It’s the only course of action that makes sense.

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