As much as we’d all like every interaction with our customers to be perfect, sometimes things just don’t go to plan…
February 14 started off like any other Valentine’s Day for Scott and me. We went to work with the “secret” knowledge that we had arranged surprise flower deliveries for each other (a cute thing we’ve done since our first Valentine’s Day together – as true romantics it never gets old).
However, this year, the universe had a few surprises of its own…
At about 3 pm my phone announced a call and I didn’t recognise the number so I immediately went into my “Professional Voice” mode as I answered the call:
“Hello, this is Bronwyn speaking…”
“Hi Bronwyn, it’s Jessica from Interflora!” *
“Yes, how are you? (My regular voice returned and my focus returned to the code I was writing.)
“Well, I have some bad news for you. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to complete your order today. I am very sorry!”
“What?” (She had my complete attention now.)
“Unfortunately, none of the florists in your area have picked up your job and we have run out of flowers!”
“Run out of flowers! – are you kidding me!” (I honestly thought she was joking – no such luck!)
“I am very sorry but we have run out of flowers in both Sydney and Brisbane and we have no idea when they will be replenished. So it will be safer if I just cancel your order and refund your money. I also want to send you a $50 voucher for your next order with us. I am truly sorry for the inconvenience.”
Ok, now Jessica had a really crappy job to do. Can you imagine what that would have felt like (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only phone call she had to make…)? Having to mentally prepare herself for giving the person on the other end of the phone some pretty disappointing news. Their customers were counting on them for something special, romantic and potentially really special and she was the poor person that had to deliver it.
So what do you do when things go wrong and you let down a client? Of course, no one does it intentionally and absolutely no one enjoys having to make that call. And the way you handle it can be the difference between keeping a customer and losing one.
I once had a law lecturer who used to say that when you let someone down, especially if it’s a client:
“Apologise early and often!”
Making excuses or ignoring the situation doesn’t win you any favours and, more often than not, you will lose clients and friends rather than keep them. So what happened next? Honesty is always the best policy as you will see.
My experience with Jessica was that she was firm but fair, and importantly she apologised early (before I had to call them) and often during our conversation. Of course, I did let her know how disappointed I was and that it was the first time in over 11 years that they had let me down. But what else could I do? It wasn’t Jessica’s fault. I thanked her for letting me know and finished the call.
Will I use Interflora again?
Absolutely! Because they were honest and handled a difficult situation well.
Scott’s experience with the florist he used (not Interflora) was quite a contrast. They ignored his phone calls and voice messages as well as his emails (not the best approach to take when you have “wronged” one of Australia’s best Intellectual Property Lawyers!). Scott is usually a relaxed individual with a long fuse (especially with me!) but, like most people, he doesn’t like being ignored and mislead.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into the details, but you can imagine the contents of the email he wrote to them… they eventually responded a day later by email, apologising and promising a refund.
Will he use them again or recommend them to others –
“Never in a million years!” His words to be exact…
So remember, at some point, you will need to apologise to clients. When it happens, make sure you take ownership, apologise early, often and with empathy.
Have a great “Hump Day” everyone! See you in the next edition.
* BTW Jessica is not the real name of the person that I spoke with. In the interest of protecting people’s identities, I changed the person’s name for this article. 🙂