Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Customer Service - Own Your Mistake

My 18 year old daughter recently had an issue with a bank. Recently, she closed her account at bank A and moved to another bank B. Three weeks later, she is paying her cell phone bill online and accidently used her Bank A account information. The payment went through and charged her a $35 overdraft fee. In a panic, she called the bank to explain her error and was told she had to pay the fee. Within minutes, because she was anxious to make this right, she and her dad were on their way to the bank to resolve the problem.

She was clear that she intended to reimburse the bank for the cell phone payment. That was her error and she was owning that. But my daughter and her dad were confused on why a payment was made on a closed account?

The bank told her they didnt' show the account was closed. They grilled her about about if she had "really" closed the account and repeated a number of times that they didn't show the account closed. My daughter was firm that she had closed the account and evidently the processing wasn't completed on their end. She told me she felt like she was being accused of trying to scam them, when in reality she was in the bank's office within minutes to get the mistake fixed.

To the bank's credit, they did waive the fee and did close the account (this time). But the point to this post is what they didn't do. Never once, during the phone call or the face to face conversation, did the bank clerk or the bank manager ever say, "Gosh, I'm sorry this happened."

As consumers and as business owners, we understand that "stuff happens." We understand that paperwork gets lost in the shuffle, system glitches happen, and simple mistakes take place. I've heard it said and I've said it myself many times, "The measure of customer service isn't how you are treated when you buy the service. It's measured by how a problem is resolved after the transaction."

My daughter made a mistake. She owned up to that mistake. She called the bank immediately and said, "Gosh, I'm sorry this happened." She wanted to make sure the bank was properly reimbursed. And she wanted to know how a payment could be issued from a closed account?

The bank made a mistake. They didn't close the account properly. But they refused to own their mistake. They didn't apologize.

A good business person will validate the customer's concern and tell the customer, "I'm so sorry this happened .... let's see how we can resolve this with you." A really good business person will also add, "Thank you." Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to resolve it with you.

A customer who has a problem should allow the business the opportunity to correct the problem. Given that opportunity, the business should use all of their good customer service training and knowledge to validate the customer's concern and take all reasonable (key word: "reasonable") efforts to correct the problem.

A simple "I'm sorry this happened" will go a long way toward avoiding a negative impression of any business. And it would have eliminated the need for me to point out the obvious in this blog.