Every company wants its customers to be happy all of the time. Every company wants to think that nothing ever goes wrong and its service delivery is uniformly excellent. But that’s not the real world. Things do sometimes go wrong. An important test of a company’s service is how its personnel respond when that happens.
As this is being written, scores of Ready Hands Home Care Aides are today providing hundreds of hours of care. Over a month, they deliver many thousands of hours. Try as we might to avoid them, over the many years we have been assisting Northern Virginia families there have been some mistakes and mishaps. Here are a few principles that guide us in dealing with such situations.
- Be proactive. It’s easy to assume that if a client doesn’t complain, things must be going well. That’s a dangerous assumption. People don’t like to complain. We can’t know if a client is truly happy with our services unless we ask. Soon after new clients starts care, and periodically thereafter, we make a point of checking in to be sure that they are pleased.
- Be grateful for every complaint. Since things do occasionally go wrong, knowing when they do allows us to make amends and correct the problem. Complaints help us identify weaknesses and improve our operating systems.
- Apologize. “I’m sorry” is a natural response when a customer expresses dissatisfaction. But customers don’t want to know that we are sorry—they want to know that we accept ownership of the problem. Better to say “I apologize.”
- React from the heart. Clients want to know that we “get it”. Something went wrong that shouldn’t have. It’s OK to say “That’s horrible—I would be unhappy too,” or “That should never have happened.” Admitting mistakes is OK.
- Avoid lame excuses. Clients don’t want to hear about our problems. They want to know what we are going to do about their problem. Making excuses is self-serving. We want to be customer-serving.
- Take action. We want to correct the problem so that it does not recur, and we want to make amends as best we can. Our staff is empowered to say: “I will personally see that this is taken care of,” and “Although it won’t make up for what happened, I am going to void the charges for last night’s services.”
- Say “Thank you”. A client who informs us about a problem has done us a favor by bringing it to our attention, allowing us to take action and to restore the client’s confidence. That’s certainly worth a “Thank you!”
Over the years we have found that by assuming responsibility for an error and taking action, our relationship with a client is actually strengthened. Mistakes can happen. It’s the recovery that makes the difference between losing or keeping a happy client.