Saturday, May 5, 2012

Problems, resolutions, moving on.

Conflict between people is an intricately complicated matter. Conflict resolution is dependant on open and honest communication between the parties involved in the conflict. Most people who have ever been involved in a relationship with another person has found that out in one way or another. The same principal of open and honest communication is just as relevant in business as it is in our personal lives. I just had to do damage control relating to a communication problem. It was a mess. As human beings we are subject to messing up occasionally. I feel as though I was almost set on proving that. I am still reeling from the consequences.

I am involved in a service business. I make cars clean, shiny, good smelling and as close to new looking as possible. I've been doing this for over 50 years. I know Americans have a love affair with their cars and how important it is to listen to my customers and accomplish what they want by using my knowledge and experience. It is a highly individual service. When I speak with my customers before we even begin the work on their car, I walk around that car with them and make written notes on every concern they bring up. Those notes stay with that car through the entire process. 99.99% of our customers are completely satisfied and recommend us to others without reservations. This week I ran across the .01%. No one could have ever imagined the series of circumstances that set the situation in motion:

Two customers came to us on the same day.
They each owned the same model car.
Both cars were the same color and year.
Each customer had a different set of requirements.
One customer was friendly, open and smiled and spoke easily, looking forward to a great experience. Wanting a "Complete" service.
One customer was of a difficult nature, abrupt and extremely specific as to the services desired. Only "this and that" service. (The husband explained to me in advance that his wife had a problem with her social skills, required medication for a personality disorder and apologized for any difficulties that may arise from that.).
Both customer's last names were pronounced the same but spelled differently.
The men's names each began with an M.
The women's names each began with an F.

Sometime during the processing of those two cars the specification sheets I had so meticulously written out were switched.

The customer with the specific requirements got more than they requested. The customer looking forward to "Everything" got slightly less. Not a huge difference but a difference none the less. When they picked up their cars they checked them over and were both very pleased.

The next morning I received a phone call from who I believed to be the woman that requested "specific" services. She was complaining that we did not do two services that she specifically instructed us not to do. I could not believe her denial of her own instructions. I was beginning to understand why her husband mentioned her instability problem. I handled the call as best as I could but she was still enveloped in denial. I called back in a few minutes and spoke with her husband, explained those things she had instructed us not to do but we wanted them happy. "What can we do to rectify this situation?" I asked. "We take pride in working hard to satisfy our customers, they are important and we will do anything within reason." He asked me again about a couple things and I explained again to him that his wife had specified we "not" do those things because he was going to do them. He even reacted in disbelief and denial but said he'd call back. I was very confused at this point. They were both in complete denial. How do I deal with that?

As is the case with any customer comments, good or bad, we have a company meeting and discuss the situation in depth. This was a very unique situation. We are not accustomed to dissatisfied customers......................Then, during the give and take of our meeting both spec notes were brought out, it was discovered that those sheets went back and forth between those two vehicles during the servicing. Suddenly, the realization came to me that I may not have been talking to the people I thought I was talking to. They really weren't in the denial I suspected but rather I was. Then it all came to me in a flash. I called the people back, they did not answer the phone or return my message. Apparently they believe they must have been talking to a crazy man. I really can't blame them. Innocent misunderstanding or not, they were not pleasant conversations. I immediately issued them a complete refund, wrote a personal apology explaining the situation as best I could and put it in the mail along with an offer for fulfill our original agreement without charge. There is nothing more I can do. It would seem that the cycle of communication has been severed.

Another day, another lesson in business and personal communication. I can't change what has happened. It was costly both financially and dealing with our self confidence. We come to work every day with the purpose of doing the very best we can with each and every one of our customers. This day it didn't quite work that way. It is part and parcel of the human situation. We've done what we could, taken action so the same situation doesn't happen again. apologized, made an offer of reconciliation and learned from it. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try it just gets messed up. Now, it's on to the next day. I wish you a wonderful one!

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