Client Problem? Make Sure You Involve Them in the Solution!

Here I go again! Another situation, another lesson for you and your business. Let me see if I can make this short and sweet.

I decided to have my girls’ 3rd birthday party at a children’s museum. Several days before the party, a few of my friends discovered that they could not attend, significantly driving down my number of guests, which would have put me in a lower price bracket (to the tune of about a 30 percent savings overall on the cost of the party room rental). I contacted the museum about the change and was informed that I would have had to make any changes seven days prior to the event. As I was never verbally informed of this, I was compelled to search through my paperwork and discover that, yes, based on the language in the contract, I was beyond the timeframe to change.

HOWEVER…I was a member of the museum. And more importantly, I was told, “Sorry there’s nothing we can do.” Not a very shining example of customer-focused service, in my opinion.

My first e-mail went unacknowledged, so five days later I forwarded it to another person, who finally responded, both by phone and e-mail. Basically, she said, I can send you some free guest passes so you can invite the people who missed the party to attend another playdate with your kids.

Here is what is wrong with that, and what she could have done, and what YOU can do, to make sure you are resolving customer conflicts to the satisfaction of all involved.

  1. Make the client a part of the solution—A simple question like, “What can we do to make this right?” would have gone a long way with me. I don’t need guest passes. I and the majority of my friends are already members and guest passes have no value for us. I might have responded that credit in the café or a coupon for a free class would have made me VERY happy. And now? Not so much.
  2. Don’t assume. I have no intentions of returning to the museum anytime soon as I am expecting another set of twins—so the offered solution has no value for me. Asking questions and understanding my unique circumstances would have been appreciated and remembered.
  3. ALWAYS remember the cost of a dissatisfied customer—I am locked into my membership for 10 more months, but make no mistake—based on the handling of this situation, I will think LONG and hard about renewing. Had they simply been focused on making me happy and not on upholding policy, they would not be in danger of losing a member, and even more destructive, the power of a talkative dissatisfied customer.

Like it or not, we are all in the service business, and solving problems is one of the ways that we can strengthen, solidify and build our loyal customer base. Involving the client in the solution, making them feel heard and important is a vital process. Don’t lose a customer because you were too busy upholding policy or standing your ground to remember why you are in business in the first place. No customers, no business.

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  • RyanSauers

    Kelly. This is great. I agree that we must allow customers to participate in the decision making process. As you mentioned, what someone like the museum "thinks" is solving a problem can be totally off base. Also, in today’s globally connected world such a story travels at an exponential speed.. And reaches many more people than ever. Great post Kelly. Ryan

  • Jim T

    Kelly, I recently ran up against a “policy” when dealing with a mill. They steadfastly held to their “policy” and would not budge. I tried to explain to them that, as it stood, their “policy” did not apply to the situation that I had encountered. “But that is our policy” was the continued response. I explained to them exactly how my situation was different from the situation their policy described, but to no avail. I was pulling my hair out, because even as a country, we have enough sense to occasionally make amendments to our Constitution. No policy covers every single variable for all of eternity. Policies are rewritten all the time because new and different circumstances demand that they be reassessed. And it is their internal policy; it wasn’t like they were going to break the law.

    I finally had to resort to “If you don’t bend your policy, I’m pulling all my business from you.” I don’t think that I’ve made that threat more than one other time in the last few decades, but that is how frustrated they made me. They finally “bent” their “policy” and provided what I needed for MY customer.

    Afterward, they could not understand why a long-time customer had gotten so upset.

  • Mary Beth Smith

    Sheeshhh, Kelly – that’s just bizarre! How is that people in customer service forget to, um, SERVE the customer?! I applaud the noise you’re making about this – it’s entirely justified. I can’t imagine that their marketing people or board of directors wouldn’t feel differently about it than the robot who clearly should be in the accounting department instead. Gather yourself, your 2 sets of twins, your 20 best friends and all their munchkings and take a big ol’ group shot and start your own social media blitz. #NotGoingToTheMuseum