Every business in every industry has service failings. It doesn’t matter what your business is, there are things that happen that cause you to fail your client. For example, if you are a financial planner, the market can reverse course and cause you to fail the outcome of increasing your client’s wealth. If you are a restaurant, some crop failure or demand issue can cause you to not be able to deliver the dish people expect. If you work in a service industry, you are well aware that there are countless things that can disrupt your business.
Failures Outside of Your Control
The examples here are things that are wholly out of your control. You have to take service failures seriously, and you should apologize. But you can’t be overly apologetic for the things that happen outside your control. The financial planner isn’t responsible for the market reversal, something that no one can predict with any certainty. The restaurant owner isn’t responsible for the crop failure in some faraway place, even if you are disappointed that you can’t get your favorite meal.
This class of service failures are universal. The things that impact your business impact your competitor’s businesses, too. No one is exempt from these sorts of problems and challenges. But there is another class of problems which require a different response, namely those service failings that are your fault.
Failures That You Own
If you were supposed to deliver your client’s order, but someone forgot to process the order, that failure was avoidable and within your control. The same is true when you know you are not going to be able to deliver something and you don’t inform your client in time for them to adjust what they are doing. That communication, no matter how uncomfortable, is something you owe them. The class of challenges that cause service failures that are within your control are the ones that require more of your attention and a different approach with your clients. In these cases, not only do you have to apologize, you must explain what you are doing to prevent the failings from happening in the future.
The distinction here is important. When you are overly apologetic for things that are outside of your control, you can cause your client to believe there is something you could differently, something that would have prevented the failure when this is not true. You can set them up with unrealistic expectations. In these cases, it can help to teach your client to understand the root cause of the failure and do your best to help them survive the service failure, as failing your clients often means they fail theirs.
Being exceptionally good at handling the service failures that are within your control is where you are going to differentiate yourself from your competitors. If you worry about retaining your clients, this class of failures is where you need to focus your attention.
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