Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Owning Up to Mistakes

People make mistakes, and the more authority you give customer service reps, the more mistakes they will make. But often, these mistakes will be made in favor of the customer. Is this such a bad thing?

Sure, the company may lose some money on the transaction but what they lose they will gain back in customer loyalty, the value of which often exceeds the initial mistake.

However, one concern about a mistake is that the customer may understand the mistake to be company policy, or at the very least, claim that since an action was taken on his behalf before, that same action should be taken at a later date.

As an example, let's say a customer calls because he failed to make an insurance policy payment and his policy cancels. When reviewing the policy for reinstatement, the customer service rep misses the previous accidents and decides to reinstate the policy. Oops. Hopefully the customer doesn't repeat the same mistake in the future, but for now the company has two options:

1) Call the customer back and rescind the reinstatement, which may not be legal in many states.
2) Honor the reinstatement.

If the company decides to rescind the reinstatement, they are going to have an upset former customer who will more than likely spread the story and worse - put his own spin on the story, painting a not-so-good picture of the company. The company may also face legal issues.

The best course of action, unless the company is dealing with a really, really, really bad customer (one with a history of DWIs say) is to honor the reinstatement. However, if this is done, the customer should be advised that a mistake was made and that contact should be done by the customer service rep who made that mistake.

The customer service rep should advise the customer that a mistake was made, clarify what should have happened and why, and let the customer that they will honor the decision this time but that next time the company has the option to make the correct decision.

Why is this important? Simply, for legal reasons. Once a company, especially one dealing in the legal environment, takes a certain action, the customer can, within reason, assume that the company will take a similar action in future similar situations. By letting the customer know that a mistake was made, it is made clear that the action take is not normal operating procedure.

By having the original customer service rep make the call, you are giving her ownership of that mistake and allowing her to correct the mistake on her own. If someone else, such as a supervisor, would make that call, my guess is that the rep would be ashamed/embarrassed for making the mistake because she did not have the opportunity to address it on her own -- maybe giving her the impression that management doesn't think she can handle the responsibility.

People like to take ownership of their problems and the opportunity to finish what they started. It might be awkward at first, but by building a culture of responsibility, a company can truly deliver exceptional service - from the inside out.

Tashi Delek,

No comments: