You Screwed Up. What’s Your Next Step?

Guess what? We’re human. And because we’re human, we’re going to make mistakes along the way. I wish there was a way to avoid it, but inevitably it will happen. You’ll make a mistake. Your customer will get angry. And you’ll have a big decision on your hands.

The good news is that almost all mistakes are fixable. You have to act quick and decisively. But when you do, not only can you fix the immediate problem, in some cases you can come through it with an even more loyal fan on your hands.

The biggest mistake companies make is ignoring the situation and not having a thought out plan in place for when the inevitable occurs. If its just you, you can make split decisions based on circumstances. But if employees are involved as well, its especially important for them to understand action steps and what they can do to fix the situation.

So what do you need to consider when creating a customer response strategy?

You Screwed Up. What’s Your Next Step?Start by assessing your customers’ feelings.

When someone is angry or disappointed, the first thing they want is a listening ear. They want to feel like they are being heard and that their feelings are recognized as acceptable for the situation. Don’t burst in with solutions or counterpoints. Instead, listen to their complaint all the way through. When they start repeating themselves or come to a lull in the conversation, only then should you break in and move things forward.

Choose your words carefully.

If you truly made the mistake, admit it. The first words out of your mouth should be “I’m sorry”. Your customer has been analyzing the situation for quite some time, and their biggest fears will be that they will have to live with the problem and that you won’t help fix it. “I’m sorry” can literally relieve 90 percent of the tension.

Even if you feel your customer shares in the responsibility of the problem, “I’m sorry” can change the dissatisfaction your customer is feeling, and put you on the road to making amends.

Dig Deeper – Are You Going to Ruin 2013 Too?

What’s next?

Every situation requires a slightly different outcome – think about these outcomes before hand. A customer unhappy with the final images will have different issues that someone you “forgot” to get their images to them on deadline. Will you reshoot the portrait? Provide the images as fast as possible? Offer a discount on the final bill?

In some cases, it is best to hear what your client expects before you make suggestions. In one case, we were prepared to knock several hundred dollars off the final bill for a mistake we had made. But when we asked the client what we could do to make amends, she stated she would be happy with the 11×14 image she really wanted but couldn’t afford at the time. That saved us a lot of profit – and she was much happier with her final solution.

Don’t make excuses.

Your customer doesn’t care if your car died or your son was sick. If there is a problem, the only thing they focus on is how it impacts them. If you truly had a misunderstanding, make sure you clarify your policies so the same situation isn’t repeated in the future. Then move on, and avoid the blame game.

Increase communication.

Once a problem exists, its better to give 110 percent throughout the rest of the process. Call or email with updates. No matter how long it takes, make sure your customer understands the process along the way, and is brought into the loop if anything affects it.

A memorable gesture.

Now is the time to go above and beyond with your customer service skills. This is the critical step because this is where you can turn lemons into lemonade. Do something above and beyond what they expect as a small token of your regret. It may be a frame for the wall portrait they purchased. Or a few extra prints they held off buying. Or even a basket of flowers sent to their home. Make them feel like you not only said you were sorry, you meant it too.

Nope, your customers aren’t perfect. But neither are you. Just letting them know they will be taken care of and that you think enough about who they are to make things right even when things go wrong.

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About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!