Never lie to a customer

HOW DO YOU HANDLE callbacks, go-backs, return calls or whatever your company calls them when you didn't fix a job right the first time? Maybe it's a product failure? Maybe it's poor workmanship? Or maybe it's technician error? How do you handle these situations? I had an unusual experience on a recent flight. We were coming in for the landing. The plane was dropping altitude fast. The pilot kept making

HOW DO YOU HANDLE callbacks, go-backs, return calls or whatever your company calls them when you didn't fix a job right the first time? Maybe it's a product failure? Maybe it's poor workmanship? Or maybe it's technician error? How do you handle these situations?

I had an unusual experience on a recent flight. We were coming in for the landing. The plane was dropping altitude fast. The pilot kept making abrupt throttle changes. I glanced out the window and discovered the plane was over the runway and we were still four stories above the ground. The landing gear was down. The flaps were down and we were set to land. Suddenly, the nose of the plane lifts, the engines roared to life and we climbed fast.

This was a small plane with only 20 seats. Everyone in the plane had a full view of the flight attendant as he is sat in the jump seat facing us. When we started climbing, the flight attendant looked out the window to verify we were climbing away from the airport. He turned toward us and made eye contact with me. A puzzled look was on his face.

Just then, the flight attendant took a call on the phone next to him. It could only be the captain. After speaking with the pilot he bowed his head and gestured the sign of the cross. The captain then announced himself over the plane's speaker system. He told us a plane was on the runway, and he doesn't like to land a plane when one was already there.

The flight attendant gave us his most convincing look as though he was in agreement with the pilot. I could tell from the chatter around me that passengers were not buying the captain's excuse. The flight attendant's sign of the cross confirmed it. Clearly the pilot botched the approach.

Is this customer service? The pilot made a mistake and corrected it. Neither the airline nor the pilot charged any of the passengers for the bonus landing experience. What irritated the other passengers and me was when the pilot made an excuse instead of admitting his mistake. Rule No. 12 in Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" states, "Admit your mistakes, correct them and move on."

The pilot corrected his mistake but lied to us about what really happened.

Let's say you install a part that's defective. It's easy to explain to the customer that the part was bad and replace it. Or is it? What if the customer wants to know why you didn't test the part before leaving the first time?

There are no simple callbacks. With every callback you run the risk of losing a customer. He most likely was upset when he first called you. Often he is more upset now because it wasn't fixed the first time.

Let me explain why it is so important to win back the customer's confidence on a callback. Countless studies have shown that an unhappy customer is going to tell 10 of your prospects about his experience. If a friend of yours had a bad experience with Service Company A and you need the same service, are you going to call Service Company A if your friend told you about his bad experience? Or are you going to call Service Company B, about whom you know nothing?

To make matters worse, one of those prospects who was told about the bad experience will tell an additional 10 more prospects for a total of 20 tainted prospects. How many prospects can you afford to lose?

Your job with every callback is to make the customer happy even if it means taking a loss. You should send the same technician, even if you have to send another tech to perform the work or speak with the customer.

Does this mean you should stretch the truth to make your company or yourself look better? No, absolutely not! Always speak the truth, no matter how hard it is.

If you make a mistake, admit it. Everyone makes mistakes. Once you admit it, take action to correct it and keep the customer for life. Does this mean that you may have to give a complete refund? Yes, you may have to. Fix the problem first, even if it means replacing more than the original job called for. Remember, you messed up, not the customer, now ‘fess up and take action. Once everything works, check in with the customer. Is he still unhappy? If he is, then give him back the amount of money that he tells you will make him happy.

Remember that you are not dealing with just one customer. At least 20 potential customers respect the advice from your problem customer. With the high cost of advertising, you can't afford to let any customer leave your company.

Never lie to your customer and keep the customers you have for a lifetime of service. Your customer base is one of your company's greatest assets.

Steve Schneider is a business coach for best practices group Nexstar. A former plumbing contractor and certified public accountant, he has more than 20 years' experience in the service industry. He can be reached at 888/609-5490 or visit www.nexstarnetwork.com.