Earlier this week, a long time repeat customer gave us a 2-star review on Google. I get an alert anytime we get any review, and I got this one, too. The customer was polite, respectful, and detailed in his review. Unfortunately, we earned our two stars. The good news is, that’s not how the story ends, because every mistake is an opportunity to win over and make a customer feel fantastic.
Mistakes Are Going To Happen
Things are going to go wrong. If you think otherwise, you’re delusional. In any business that is operated by people (literally every business), one or more of those people is going to make a mistake. As the leader of a business run by people, it’s my responsibility to set the stage for what happens next after someone makes a mistake. And, since mistakes are going to happen, everyone should know what to expect when they do.
How We React to Mistakes Matters
What do you do when you find out one of your employees messed up? I guess it depends on what the mistake was. Here’s ours.
The aforementioned customer came in to pick up a firearm that he had purchased via the Internet at another store, somewhere else in the country. This process is what we call an “FFL Transfer”, and it is the exact opposite of the “you can just buy a gun on the internet” memes say happens, but I digress. He was filling out the paperwork to pick up his Wilson Combat 9MM pistol, which retails for north of $3,000, when one of our employees went to move the gun’s box. When he did, the gun – the $3,000 gun – fell about 4′ to the concrete floor.
The damage was done. Part of it was an easy fix: replace the rear sight, on which the gun landed when it fell. The other part, which the customer did not fully notice until he got home, was several scratches on the gun.
Our employee immediately apologized, and took the gun back to our gunsmith to see what the damage actually was, and what it would take to repair. The rear sight would be about $60. Keep in mind, we didn’t know about the scratch on the crown yet. We offered to get the part and make the repair, but the customer declined.
Then he got home, saw the scratches, and wrote the 2-star review.
How You Treat The Employee Matters
Keeping in mind that the only thing you as the leader of an organization have any control over is your culture, how we as leaders treat the employee who messed up matters as much as how we treat the customer. Here’s what I did.
As soon as I saw the review, I headed down to the sales floor, gathered everyone who was there in, and asked, “What happened?” The person who had knocked the gun on the floor immediately said, “Yup, that’s me.” We discussed exactly what happened, which matched the customer’s review line for line. I told him he did the right thing, and that we would work with the customer to make it right.
At today’s Team Meeting, we discussed whole issue again, so everyone would know we got a bad review, why we got a bad review, and how we handle it when we make mistakes.
“People will never forget how you made them feel”
My next step was to contact the customer. I did so in two ways. First, publicly reply to the review, and then second, reach out to the customer directly with the same message: “Thank you. We will make this right.”
The following day, the customer brought the Wilson in for our gunsmith to have a look. We took the gun, and have sent it back to Wilson to be completely repaired at no charge to the customer.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have no idea what I actually said to the customer, but I do know that we will have Wilson Combat repair the gun back to it’s beautiful brand new state, and we will cover every penny of that cost.
Why? Because we value the lifetime worth of every customer. We make a few bucks on a transfer, simply because there’s ATF related paperwork that takes a few minutes. But anytime we have any interaction with a customer, it’s an opportunity to make that customer feel welcome, confident, comfortable, and otherwise good about visiting SharpShooters.
Every Mistake Is An Opportunity
Every interaction is an opportunity, but with all non-negative interactions, there’s fewer or lower expectations. What I mean by that is, the first time you go into any store of any kind, you have a certain expectation that you’ll be acknowledged and helped if needed.
But when a customer enters your business knowing you’ve messed up, there’s a different expectation. This situation kind of reminds me of the old Nordstrom’s legend. No idea if it’s true or not, but it goes something like this.
A customer walked into a Nordstrom’s store with a pair of shoes she had purchased at a competitor’s store. She was very unhappy because the shoes did not fit well, and the other store wouldn’t take them back, even for store credit. The Nordstrom’s representative asked for the box of shoes, and promptly processed a full refund for the shoes. Shocked and surprised, the lady said, “You just gave me all my money back, but I bought these shoes at your competitor!!” To which the Nordstrom’s Associate replied with a smile, “You won’t make that mistake again, will you?”
THAT is how we want every customer with any issue to feel when they come into SharpShooters. So, without any qualifications, we told this customer, “We will make this right.”
Our goal is to earn every customer’s long term business for firearms, training, range time, gun smithing, and accessories. Will we win every customer? No, we won’t, but every employee here knows that when (not if) they make a mistake, we will make it right. Every time something goes south, we have another opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectations.