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Categorized | Publisher's Letter

Unintended consequences

How many of us wouldn’t take immediate action if we knew our product or service just didn’t live up to the standards we set? Lots of effort goes in to acquiring new customers, so when something goes wrong, wouldn’t you want to know?

You bet you would.

We heard about a problem with one of the businesses profiled in a previous issue of ADVANTAGE magazine. I received an e-mail from an upset customer that thought we should know about a poor experience he had with this business.

The e-mail was well-thought out and contained lots of detail, but at the end, it said the occurrence happened more than two years ago! My immediate thought was, “How many people has he told this story to? How much business (money) has this cost the business owner?”

I can only guess thousands—and the worst part is the business didn’t even know about it.

I e-mailed back asking if I could share his comments with the named business owner, reassuring him that if the business had an opportunity to make it right, I am sure it would. Thankfully, he agreed.

Sure enough the business owner was disappointed to hear the negative news, but got right to work crafting a letter and a gift card incentive to get the customer back in the store. A month later, I got an e-mail from them both saying they have patched up the misunderstanding and even traded personal contact information.

Happy ending, right? Not so fast.

While the individual relationship was patched up, the negative comments made to friends and contacts about his negative experience most certainly have paid their toll. Some of those potential customers are lost forever.

How about another recent example where a scared mother had a bad experience at a local urgent care clinic? The doctor misdiagnosed her young child with something considerably more serious than the actual condition. Her emotions came out via Facebook and instantly hundreds of people sympathized with her—and demonized a local small business.

We all make mistakes, and in today’s world you pay for them dearly. The old adage many of us believe is if a consumer has a bad experience they tell 10 people, and those 10 people tell 10 people, and so on.

Well, that’s likely a very old school adage because in a digital world, you are just a few keystrokes away from spreading your discontent with hundreds of people at one time.

Thankfully, this can be in your control. Sadly, we find that customer satisfaction metrics are frequently ignored—probably because we are eager to move on to the next client and build our business. The reality is it is just as important as any of our critical data.

So here is the advice: Slow down and learn from the real-life examples above. They happened in your community. Take time to examine your own customer intelligence systems and see if you have had any less-than-perfect client outcomes.

Focusing and fixing these negative experiences may just pay greater dividends than you think.


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