Alright so last week we left off with our client Pam apologizing for her rudeness and asking that her designer Kelly come back on the project, and with Kelly driving 400 miles in one day to pick up the replacement tile herself. That’s pretty impressive, and while I know this is of course a made up situation, both are entirely possible, with the right actions. Now, what are those actions exactly? What did we do exactly for both Pam and Kelly? And how do we wrap this situation up and move on, at least somewhat happily? Well, let’s discuss, and lucky you (!), I’ve decided to actually divide the answer up into two posts. As, well, I’m just not great at writing anything that’s less than 100 pages apparently and I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Ok first, let’s go back to our client Pam. We started off with her calling in to share what had happened, and what she wanted to happen going forward. She wanted 1) the backsplash to be replaced at no cost to her 2) the replacement to not delay the project as she didn’t want to cancel her holiday plans with family and 3) she wanted Kelly off the project. Ok, those are some pretty tough desires to fulfill. So how do you respond, and how do you make it happen?
Plan Financially for Mistakes
Well first, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have to be prepared for mistakes. You have to have a disaster plan in place that you know you can rely on when things go awry. Let’s take her first request – that the backsplash be replaced at no cost to her. Ok so for a lot of businesses, that could be entirely crippling. Depending on the material, the size of the backsplash, the complication of the pattern, the size of the tile, the price is obviously going to vary widely, and that’s not even mentioning the labor cost. But how was our firm owner able to replace it with assurance and a semi – calm attitude?
Well because she’s been saving up for situations like this very one, for years. With every project, she immediately takes a small cut from the profits and puts into a “mistakes” account. She knows that one day a big mistake will happen, and when it does, she doesn’t want it to take her business under.
Will it be fun to withdraw thousands and thousands from the account to cover this cost? Certainly not. But will it be a lot more fun to withdraw it from a “mistakes” account rather than her personal account? Heck yeah. Plus it might be the difference between saying “well this is a pretty awful day” to “I think we have to shut down.”
Create a Network for Mistakes
Ok, so now let’s tackle the next request – she doesn’t want the replacement of the backsplash to cause a delay. Now this one can be tough and involves a bit of luck, but also a lot of preparatory legwork as well. So in our case luckily her tile layer was available to come right back. But if he wasn’t, then what? Well, first, we had him give us a referral for another tile layer but what if they weren’t available? Or what if our original layer wasn’t able or willing to give us a referral?
Well then we would have needed to rely on our other resources – other tradesmen who may have been able to refer someone, other designers who may have shared a referral, a tile shop or kitchen and bath shop who could refer us, anyone. However, in order for any of these people to be willing and wanting to help us out, we already had to have well established, and well maintained, relationships in place. We needed to already take the time to go and establish a network, making sure that we know, like, trust (and appreciate!) these people, and that they know, like, trust (and appreciate!) us as well.
Ok so now we know that we need a network of people who can refer us in times of need and emergency. But, that’s not where our issue ends. In order to be able to replace this backsplash without delay to the project, we also had to find the tile. That again involves that preparatory legwork that we mentioned above. Knowing that kitchen and bath renovations is your specialty you knew that you should probably establish relationships with stores that are likely to have what you need within driving distance.
Now to most people that means connecting with stores that are within a 30 to 40 mile radius, but not to you. You knew that was too limited. You knew that if you could drive there and back in a day, that was what driving distance meant to you. So over time you not only gathered and created a list of all the stores you may need to call, but you also talked to them, found out what they typically had in inventory, and in some cases went out to visit.
And you knew that someday, you’d need to call in a favor. Well, that day was today, and you were ready. And as a result, you got it done. When you called up that store 200 miles away they let you know that they did have what you need, but that it would take their entire in stock inventory. And while they don’t typically do that as it can take weeks to replace it, for you, they will. Ahhh, thank goodness. Those words were more relaxing than a hot stone massage.
The Loss of a Client’s Trust, Means Taking Major Action to Regain It
Ok, so let’s talk about her last request – she wanted Kelly off the project. Now this is obviously where the whole employee versus client situation really is. A client wants an employee off the project, and wants you instead. Yikes. Thats not only controversial, but also just tough to fulfill purely by the fact that you may not be available. So what do you do? Do you go along with the client’s request and take Kelly off the project?
Yes, I would. What about not having time? Well, it’s something you’d have to figure out and something we’re going to further discuss once we get into working this all out with Kelly. But the fact of the matter is, if a client no longer wants to work with a designer because they no longer trust them as a result of mistakes they’ve made, that’s understandable.
Now of course there needs to be some level of reasoning there as the mistake needs to be a big one. If the designer forgot to call the client back one day, that’s obviously no reason to take the designer off the project. If the designer made a mistake like this however, ordering, and installing, the wrong tile? Yes, that’s grounds for taking the designer off the project at the client’s request. But the fact of the matter is, this is the client’s home, and it’s their money that they’re investing. So as long as they’ve been reasonable up to this point and the mistake was a costly one both in terms of time and money (and again, trust), doing whatever it takes to make the client happy is the name of the game.
Above & Beyond is the Least You Can Do When Fixing a Mistake
Ok, so, now what? We’ve talked through how we fulfilled the client’s requests and now we’re done? We just make sure that we do what the client asks for and that’s it? Au contraire, mon frére, you’re the leader, not the follower. Say what? I thought we just followed all of what the client asked for?
Yes, that’s true; we did. However, that wasn’t all that we did. And, we chose to fulfill the client’s requests. We didn’t just blindly follow them. We considered them, decided that they were a perfectly rational and reasonable response to what happened, and let the client know that we were happy to fulfill them. But, like I said, we didn’t stop there. We went above and beyond. Let’s talk about how.
Well, first, we could have had the client wait until the next week when the tile had come in by mail rather than driving an exhausting amount of 400 miles in one day. We could have just used the referred tile layer rather than the original one. We could have just left the client wondering anxiously if this time we had gotten the tile right rather than taking a picture to send for confirmation or confirming it in person when we dropped the tile off.
And actually, speaking of, we also could have not done that as well. We could have not brought the tile to their house after hours to ensure that the tile layer has everything he needs to begin promptly at 8 on Wednesday. We could just have dropped it off sometime on Wednesday morning, hopefully before he arrived. We could have also inconvenienced the client by letting them know that they’d have to stay back from work on Tuesday and Wednesday to let the tile layer in, but we didn’t.
Nope, we didn’t do any of those things because we knew that those tasks, those extra tasks that did take a toll on us and make us go out of our way and out of our usual routines and even hours, were what took the treatment of this issue from “got it fixed” to “that was fantastic.” It’s what actually allows this situation to become an asset to you and your relationship with the client, rather than a liability. And that’s a hugely powerful, and totally worth it, kind of thing.
Don’t Rob Your Client, or Yourself, of the “Wow”
Alright so, now that we’ve talked through everything that we did, and why, let’s talk about how to wrap this thing up. But before we do, I want to address something that may be on your mind. Why didn’t we tell Pam that we’d be driving 400 miles in a day to get the correct tile? Wouldn’t that have been a good thing so she could see how hard you were working to resolve the issue? Well, yes, there can be an argument for that and some client experience consultants may say that you should tell the client what you’ve done to resolve a problem so that the client can feel honored, and so they can be impressed with your efforts (and more forgiving of your mistake).
However, I disagree. And I disagree because of this reason, it causes Pam to feel guilty. It causes Pam to feel bad that someone is now going to drive 400 miles in a day to get the right tile for her. Here’s the thing though, she shouldn’t have to feel bad. She shouldn’t have to feel guilty. This wasn’t her fault. She’s right in her desire to want this thing to be fixed as soon as possible. So letting her know how much effort you have to put in to fixing this problem puts her in the awkward position of feeling guilty, and possibly even saying, “that’s ok, we can just wait for it to be shipped” even though that’s not what she wants. She feels forced into saying that so as to not be rude – even if that’s not what she really wants to happen.
And you know what else? Taking the risk of telling her, and having her say “that’s ok, we’ll just wait for it to be shipped” also robs you both of the “wow” factor that comes from quick and immediate creative action that you can take by going above and beyond. Waiting for it to be shipped is well, typical. There’s nothing exciting or “wow” about it. That’s not a story to share with others. But having the wrong backsplash installed on Monday and having the right one installed by Wednesday? Now that’s a “wow.” So, mum’s the word on the 400 miles.
Get Them to Love Your Solution, & Your Firm
Ok, so, time to wrap things up. Now, it’s Wednesday morning, the tile is being laid, and you take a quick “teaser” shot to email to Pam with the words “It’s going up!” You’re trying to slowly turn this thing around with a bit of excitement but nothing over the top as you know you can’t act as if nothing went wrong. You check back in on the progress periodically, ask the tile layer if there’s anything he needs, run to the store for a couple of gorgeous bouquets of flowers (in vases) to be placed in the kitchen, and arrange for dinner to be delivered from their favorite restaurant that evening. The last tile is laid, and the space is impeccably cleaned. You return and wait for Pam to arrive.
She does, and with that same gasp of anticipation as before, she places her hand on the knob, opens the door, and, breathes out, a sigh of relief. What she wants, is there. Ahhh, thank goodness. Her relief turns to excitement, and so does yours. She tears up with joy, and so do you. She finally loves the space, and now she loves you too. All of your hard work, and Kelly’s, has paid off.
You show her around the space, talk about what has been done and the care that has been taken by the tile layer, share information about maintenance, let her know that dinner will arrive around 6:00, apologize again greatly for the inconvenience and mistake, assure her that it won’t happen again, and that you’ll be overseeing the project until its end from the office. You let her know that Kelly will give her a call tomorrow morning to resume working together. Then you part with “Thank you so much for trusting us to fix the mistake and please don’t hesitate at all to reach out again if you have anything further I can help with.” You shut the door, and feel good, knowing that you did everything you could to save the situation successfully, and you accomplished that lofty goal. The client is elated with her backsplash, and how the problem was resolved.
Fully Take on the Burden of the Mistake
So, as you can see, above and beyond, over and over, and over, again is the way to fix your mistakes. Now of course your reaction has to be equal to the size of the problem as overdoing a solution could be seen as a bit odd and even taken as a bit “door mat”y. But in our situation here, the problem was big, and so was the reaction. Our firm owner knew that in order to successfully resolve this situation Pam couldn’t lift another finger, have another moment of worry or anxiety, or see anything less than stellar results.
If Pam had to call to check in on the tile’s status, or see when the tile layer would show up, or worry that the tile would be wrong again, the problem would still have been resolved, but not in a “wow” way. So our firm owner thought about all of the ways that the burden needed to move from Pam to her, all the worries, all the actions, all the tasks, and fully took it on. And as a result, the “wow” happened, and so will the stories.
And next week we’ll back again to wrap this whole series up with how to move forward with Kelly successfully, keeping her engagement in the firm intact along with her self-esteem, but also with the knowledge that this can’t happen again. See you then!
Let me know in the comments below, have you ever had to fix a major mistake with a client? If so, how did it go? I’d love to know!
And if you’re for looking for more ways to serve your clients exceptionally well, then take a look at what we’ve got for you here!