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Three Ways to Keep Your Customers Happy When You Screw Up

by Elaine Fogel  |  
February 20, 2007

Glitches happen and setbacks occur when we deal with customers. They're as inevitable as death and taxes. The key to retaining these customers when faux pas occur is how you handle them right from the start.

I recently delivered a disk of artwork to a trade printer for a client's print run. In the package I included the creative on disk in two file formats, a hard copy of the output, the Excel document with the recipients' addresses, a purchase order with specific instructions and delivery information, and a request to see a PDF proof.

After four business days, I called to see what the status was and whether my proof was ready. It soon became abundantly clear that no one had even opened my disk, let alone reviewed the file.

After speaking with the owner, I received an explanation that the staff person in charge was ill for a couple of days, so my package sat in the art department untouched. The designer opened the file while I was on the phone and advised me of a minor technical glitch. Since the project was delayed, I decided to change one small article that would certainly be stale-dated with the timing setback.

As soon as the client signed off on the revision—that same day—I emailed the revised file to the pre-press designer directly. After several hours of waiting for the proof, I called to discover that he was out of the office on a photo shoot and the owner was gone for the day. It was 2:30 p.m. No one had apprised me of this situation.

Whether your company or organization delivers products, services, or promises, its credibility and reputation is on the line when you don't deliver what you say you will and when. It's a license for customer attrition and increased customer acquisition costs.

There's no magic pill to averting these situations, but you can be proactive in redeeming yourself and retaining customers when things go wrong.

Here are three ways to keep your customers when you can't deliver.

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Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel

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