GETTING MORE TALE #487: All Apologies
People screw up! It’s in our nature as human beings.
The human brain has its own “autocorrect”. Have you ever seen something like this?
The quick brown fox jumped over the
the lazy dog.
I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
See how you read both sentences easily regardless of the mistakes within? The brain makes little corrections to our perceptions on a second by second basis. Think about the human eye, how it darts around, but what you perceive is a clear static picture.
Given that the human brain makes its own “corrections” every second of every day, it’s bound to also make mistakes in doing so, either by missing a correction, or making one where it wasn’t necessary. Either way – we fuck up! Add in a fast-paced environment, and mistakes are not a question of if, but when and how many.
In customer service, a screw up can be a critical moment. Mistakes can make or break the decision for a customer coming back or not. Whether you ring in something wrong, give the customer the wrong item, mis-charge a credit card, or give the customer incorrect information, sometimes you owe them an apology. So why not turn lemons into lemonade?
Since money speaks louder than words, the owner at the Record Store had a cool method of keeping the customer, even after a screw up that might have them fuming. It was actually a genius idea. We used something we called “apology letters”.
Let’s say we screwed something up, unambiguously. The best example of this would be forgetting to put the CD in the case, or putting the wrong disc inside. This was a lot easier to screw up than you might assume. Maybe the CD was supposed to be in slot #132, but you grabbed the disc in #123. Sometimes you don’t even notice it’s the wrong CD because after a while, they do all look the same. I had myself convinced that I was actually dyslexic. That’s how bad it got on some days.
Sometimes you’d catch the mistake before the customer left, and all would be well. The rest of the time, there was a chance they’d be pissed off that they had to make a return trip to get the right CD. Returning something that is defective doesn’t count towards an apology letter; that’s not necessarily down to staff mistakes. An apology letter was only issued when it was clear that we screwed up and in doing so, inconvenienced the customer. We didn’t use them to blame staff, or tally up numbers of them, but damn, I sure issued plenty over the years.
When a mistake such as this was discovered, we would prepare an apology letter. Staff would sign the letter and give it to the customer with their apologies, and the correct CD! The letter entitled the customer to $3 off their next purchase. We discovered that this small token often defused situations quickly and easily. Very few customers refused to return after receiving an apology letter worth $3. Many in fact were impressed to the point that we started seeing them more often.