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No One Wants to Hear Your Excuses

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As business owners, managers, operators, and marketers, we understand why things may not go as planned.

Business can be unpredictable. Teams are large. There are a slew of moving parts involved in getting something done.

  • The delivery didn't come in.

  • The version that was shipped had a typo.

  • The gal who knows that answer is out sick today.

  • Our location doesn't have a ladder tall enough.

  • The district manager has been out of town.

  • Our mop handle broke.

  • We didn't expect this much demand.

Those of us running the business consider these legitimate reasons "why" something is the way it is or why something wasn't done. We accept the situation. "Someone dropped the ball. It's a bummer, but what are ya gonna do?"

When a business doesn't deliver what it promised you,  you don't care why. You just want them to follow through and fix it a.s.a.p. So, why do we think our customers care about our excuses?

Over-promising and under-delivering to your customers today will make them someone else's customer tomorrow. Your customers don't care about the delivery, the typo, employee illness, the short ladder, the vacation schedule, the condition of your cleaning supplies, or your inability to forecast.

Yours is not the first company to experience these problems, and they will happen again in the future. So, why aren't you prepared with a "Plan B" or a quick fix?  And why do you pass the consequences onto your customer? They shouldn't know the difference.

A lesson I learned early in my career is that all businesses have problems. A company's ability to shield the customer from behind-the-scenes glitches---and maintain a high-quality, consistent experience---that makes it great.

Customers just want:

  • the product you promised

  • easy-to-read signage

  • enough knowledgeable staff available

  • a well-lit store

  • someone responsible to complain to

  • a clean location

  • the advertised product that they drove to your shop for to be in stock

Stop accepting and caring about the excuses---because your customers don't want to hear them---and focus on fixing the problem.

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Hi there!

I'm Paul Williams... guest writer on Daily Fix and founder of Idea Sandbox.

I'm a professional problem solver. Through brainstorm facilitation I help people create remarkable ideas to grow their business. As one client put it, “Idea Sandbox turns brains into idea machines.”

Prior to launching Idea Sandbox in 2005, I spent 15 years building marketing, branding, and customer-experience strategy for The Disney Company, the Aramark Corporation, and Starbucks Coffee Company.

I founded Idea Sandbox driven by my passion to help others create remarkable ideas. I blend the skills and lessons I have learned to build a sandbox---an idea sandbox.

You can reach me on Twitter via @IdeaSandbox.

Through Idea Sandbox, I have helped solve challenges, grow brands, think-up remarkable ideas, and create innovation for companies including: Starbucks Coffee Company, Starbucks Coffee International, Panera Bread Company, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Woodhouse Day Spas, The Microsoft Corporation, and Wells Fargo Mortgage.

I am a writer, speaker, columnist, and brainstormer living just outside Washington DC, in Alexandria, Virginia.

If you like what you've read here, you can find more of my thoughts at my Idea Sandbox blog.

I always welcome comments and reactions to what I've written. I'm on Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

Nice to meet you,


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  • by Eric Brody Fri May 21, 2010 via blog

    Good post. Very true. Customers don't want to hear excuses. They simply want what you promised them. But, per chance that you do screw up, don't cover it up. Fess up. This, the majority of the time, will continue to salvage their trust. Just ensure these apologies are very few and far between.

    Eric Brody

  • by Elaine Fogel Sun May 23, 2010 via blog

    A very real issue, Paul. I can't remember which author said this: "Don't burden the customer," but it rings true every time. Customers couldn't give a hoot what the "reasons" are when something goes wrong, they just want to hear how it's going to be resolved.

    Last week, one of our clients received a custom stamp she purchased from us to use on printed goods we produced for her. Via the client's business adviser, my partner heard that the stamp wasn't as she had expected it would be, based on the description and photo.

    He didn't wait for her to call us. I e-mailed her a credit memo immediately with an apology that it didn't work out. No excuses, no reasons. We didn't even ask for the item to be returned either. I said that my partner would be investigating other options for her and will get back to her with some new ideas. She was very appreciative and will use her credit on the next print order, which is coming soon. I ended my e-mail with, "We really appreciate your business."

    Gosh, if I don't walk my own talk on this stuff, I'm in big trouble! :)

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