Don’t Make Your Customers Go The Extra Mile To Correct Your Mistake

I’m currently in the midst of reading the book “Service Failure” by Jeff Toister and was remindedextra_mile1 of one of the worst service failures I’ve ever experienced.  I was once at a relatively popular store that will go unnamed.  It’s one of those stores that has a garden center way off to one side.  Knowing I needed to purchase some garden items and some non-garden items, I chose to get the non-garden variety first and then pay for everything in the garden center.  The registers in the garden center usually feature shorter lines.

On this particular day the cashier rung up my items, I paid and she handed me my receipt.  I took no more than two steps before realizing she double-charged me for one of my items.  I immediately turned around and pointed it out to her and her immediate response was “Sorry, I can’t fix that here.  You’re going to have to take your receipt to customer service to get your money back.”  My response was something like “Are you serious?  Customer service is like a mile away from here.”  Yes that’s a slight exaggeration.  It might have been more like three hundred yards.

As I made the walk, my anger at the situation and the lack of ownership shown by that cashier grew and grew.  She screwed up and I had to take a major detour to correct it.  Upon arriving at customer service, they fixed the problem.  I was so mad I asked to speak to a manager.  Of course the manager was not available so I told the customer service representative to share my complaint with the manager.  I have no doubt that my complaint died there and I got absolutely no validation whatsoever that I had been seriously wronged.

This happened like eight years ago and I find my blood beginning to boil again.  Apparently I’ve been harboring some unresolved anger all of these years.  Since no one listened to my complaint at the time, allow me share a few ways they can improve the customer experience for next time:

  1. Empower, empower, empower- The garden center employees are in a difficult spot.  One screw up and it’s a long walk for a customer.  The store should either empower their garden center employees to handle returns or they had better never, ever make mistakes.
  2. Ownership, ownership, ownership- Had the garden center employee appealed to my human side and said “I am SO sorry for this mistake” it may not quite have been so annoying.  Everyone makes mistakes so owning up to your mistakes openly makes it a whole lot easier to forgive. Walking the mile with me to customer service would have been icing on the cake.  I’d probably be writing a different blog post right now.
  3. Listen, listen, listen- While my complaint may have miraculously been passed along to a manager, I have my doubts.  Had someone listened to me, the customer, they may have been able to significantly improve the customer experience.  There are ALWAYS opportunities to listen to your customers.

The moral of this story and my customer service tip for today is don’t make your customers go the extra mile to correct your mistake.  Mistakes happen and walking with them can make all the difference!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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