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    Turn an Oops into an Opportunity

    Turn an Oops into an Opportunity
    January 11, 2018 4442 Views No comments

    The Panning for Gold Principle
    Turn an Oops into an Opportunity
    from The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service
    by Chip Bell

    "You people lied to me!" Her biting words bounced off the walls of the customer waiting room. Customers were startled out of their seats. I was one!

    “I am so glad you came to me,” the service person said with noticeable confidence. He moved closer to her and aimed his best eye contact straight at her livid face. “Would you be willing to tell me the details?” he said, world-class concern oozing from his voice.

    “Mister, I’ll tell everybody up your chain of command if I have to.” Her mean junkyard dog style had bit down on a sympathetic ear and she was not about to let go.

    “I don’t want to miss any of this,” the service person said, unshaken by her rage. “Could we please move in here so I can give you my complete attention?” He ushered her into an office away from the waiting area—and probably away from the object of her irritation.

    None of us heard the conversation at the other end of the hallway. Oh, we all talked about his shoes, her loose screw, and his grace under pressure. Ten minutes later they emerged from down the hall. “Why can’t they all be like you?” were her parting words as the waiting room door closed behind her.

    I was lucky. I later got the same service person, giving me the opportunity to learn of his winning magic. “It’s no big deal,” he shrugged. “We all have our bad days. Today was hers. Since she’s one of our customers, she deserves my best effort at fixing her problem—and her pain.” His too-good-to-be-true flair seemed way too distinctive for me to let it go.

    “So you think the customer is always right?” I pressed.

    “Oh no,” he said, resigning himself to the fact that he was going to be interviewed! “The customer is the customer—a regular person, just like me, right and wrong. I try to deal with a difficult customer just like I try to do when my son or wife or neighbor is being difficult.” He handed me my receipt with one last piece of wisdom: “It is not about who’s right, it’s about making the customer feel right.”

    Customers don’t expect you to be perfect; they do expect you to care when things go wrong. How you demonstrate that care is a lot like panning for gold.

    Panning for gold starts with a double handful of sand in a steel pan dipped in the water and filled half full. Next, the pan is moved back and forth so small amounts of yellow sand can wash over the side.

    But this is the point where panning for gold gets real serious. Impatience or strong arming the way the pan is shaken means the black sand (with the gold) escapes over the side along with the yellow sand. Once black sand is the only sand left in the pan, you are rewarded with flecks of gold that reside among its grains.

    Turning customer disdain into delight is like panning for gold among the sand. And like sand, service can come in a black form—those dark, disappointing moments that cause customers to doubt your caring. How you handle “the dark sand” can be the difference between losing a customer over the side and turning a customer “oops” into the opportunity for gold (aka loyalty).

    What can you do to apply the PANNING FOR GOLD Principle? Great service recovery takes humility and compassion that lets an angry customer know you are there to fix, not fight. It requires focusing on the gold in the customers—not their anger on the surface. Anger is an expression of fear. Much like comforting a child after a bad dream, managing a customer’s perceived betrayal means taking time to understand, empathize and mine the customer’s expectations so a good solution is found. “Gold finding” recovery means helping customers feel even more faithful after a hiccup.

    Shop The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service >>

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