“What is this, some kind of vacuum on steroids??!!” she demanded.
I couldn’t see her face, but from this end of the telephone line I could tell that she was not happy. “She” was the Director of Game Day Operations for an NHL franchise. She was looking at what had just arrived via courier from MacLean Sports Marketing.
My sports marketing agency had found a unique niche in the world of professional and semi-pro sports: we provided entertaining and revenue generating game day promotions. In this case what our new client had thought she had purchased was a prize cannon that would shoot t-shirts, or various other giveaways, into the stands. She wasn’t sure what she got.
We had recently branched out into providing this kind of product. We had sourced a Canadian supplier and began to sell their product. This was actually a new technology that was hitting the world of sports marketing. Prize cannons are old hat now, but 20 years ago they had not really been seen before.
Our manufacturer had developed a compressed air cannon, but admittedly it had some limitations. He was on the cusp of finalizing his CO2 powered model, but it wasn’t quite ready yet and did not have the safety approvals needed to be mass marketed. Our new client needed a cannon now, so we took a chance on the compressed air model.
It was a fail.
Our new client was utterly unimpressed and held nothing back in communicating her disappointment. I had no other gun I could give her – this was the best we had right now.
What could I do?
I figured I had 2 choices:
1. I could admit defeat, refund her money, walk away from the deal and live on in infamy in her negative word of mouth advertising. Not a good option for a start-up.
2. I could buy a CO2 powered prize cannon from a competitor to meet my customer’s needs. Then, at a later date when we had it perfected, I could present our CO2 gun.
I chose option #2.
I admitted to her that we had let her down. I owned the fact that the product was substandard. And I fixed the situation by shipping her the competitor’s gun the next day. Then I followed up with a check-in call to ensure everything was good, and I had a dozen white roses delivered to her with an apology and an expression of my gratitude for her choosing us as a vendor.
We won a customer, we won her loyalty, and we won a powerful advocate for us who actually opened doors to the other pro teams in her city.
In business you will not be mistake free. But what separates good companies from poor companies is how you fix your mistakes.
I was reminded of this recently while talking with Lucas Griffin, the owner of Secure-Rite Mobile Storage in Kelowna. Lucas informed me of their “Admit it. Own it. Fix it.” Philosophy. He knows they’re not always going to get it right, but they can ensure they take the initiative to fix their mistakes.
All their employees are taught about how important it is for them to admit their mistakes. If they have to hear about the mistake from their customer then someone hasn’t lived out their philosophy. When you make a mistake – admit it.
Then, own it. Don’t blame anyone or anything else. Own your actions that contributed to the mistake – don’t point fingers at anyone else. Any others involved will have to do the same.
Then, fix it. Do what needs to be done to make it right.
I don’t think any customer expects that your product or service will always be perfect. That is an unrealistic expectation. However, every customer has the right to expect that you will admit, own, and make right any mistakes you’ve made. Yet sadly, that can often be a rare occurrence.
If you want to wow your customers deliver a great product or service, and when you make a mistake quickly admit it – without them having to tell you – then own it and fix it.