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How Can We Make This Right?

I have experienced or been witness to a string of unpleasant customer service experiences of late, situations that escalated that shouldn’t have, interactions that have left me scratching my head, altercations that have informed me to never frequent an establishment again. And I’m just the right amount of stubborn to actually boycott when necessary, and it’s feeling necessary.

Let me share a few:

Pizza: We rarely order takeout pizza but a few weeks ago we found ourselves running late and without a plan for dinner. I called the local [chain] pizza shop, ordered and paid over the phone, and my husband drove to pick it up. When he got home I took a slice out of the box and immediately noticed something wasn’t right. The pizza was only partially cooked. The cheese was kind of melted but the dough was still, well, dough. Inedible. I called the pizza shop and said “We just picked up a pizza, order number 55555. We’re home now and I wanted to let you know the pizza is terribly undercooked, almost raw. Its late, so I don't want a replacement. I am just calling to let you know in case something might be wrong with your oven.” Pizza Chain’s response: “Well, no one else has complained”.

Carwash: For the past 6 months the streets in our neighborhood have been under construction, and residents have needed to park their vehicles outside, blocks away for the duration. My car was filthy and I was so looking forward to a carwash now that the construction project had been completed. Mine was the first car in line last Sunday, and when the owner took my key and asked what level service I wanted, I replied “Platinum”. I always get platinum, so much so I don’t even know what the other choices are. He wrote something on a piece of paper, handed it to me and I went inside to pay. The clerk inside rang me up and when I went to wait for the car to be vacuumed, washed and dried, I noticed I had been overcharged. I brought the receipt back to the person behind the counter, explained I was overcharged and he began to argue with me. He said that I ordered the higher level of service and that is what he charged me for. I said I hadn’t, I always get platinum, he had even stamped my customer loyalty punchcard platinum. Carwash Clerk began shouting and cursing….yes, cursing. I went outside to where the owner was and explained the situation to him, and also to let him know how rude his employee was to me. He echoed the clerk and said I had ordered the highest level of service and that is what I would pay for.

Coffee: At the local coffee shop people, myself included, order and pay for items through the store’s App. As I was waiting to pick up my iced Americano, a man was picking up a very large order, a dozen drinks, many breakfast sandwiches and pastries. I imagined he was a youth sports coach, headed to the field with treats for his team. I watched him gather all the items and head to his car, only to return and say “I ordered 6 lemonbites through the App and I don’t see them in any of the bags.” The barista responded “That’s because we are out of those.” A large crowd is witnessing this exchange now, as its a busy Saturday morning. The coach said “Why was I charged for something you aren’t able give to me? And how come no one said anything when I grabbed my order? Please refund the money for the lemonbites.” It seemed to me like reasonable request, yes? Instead the barista said “We don’t have the capability to refund items purchased through the App; iit'smanaged by a 3rd party vendor.” He expressed his disappointment, to which the Barista said “Look! I just makes the drinks here!” Gasps from the gallery ensued, as we all imagined Little Johnny getting stiffed with no snack after the game.

These examples not only leave the customer feeling powerless, they cannot feel good for the employee either. No one wakes up wanting to give or receive poor service, feel somehow cheated or taken advantage of. Further, no business wants to lose a customer when the situation could be dealt with swiftly in a manner that has the potential to actually foster more loyalty.

Six words are the difference maker, six words in any situation that have the power to move the parties to an acceptable resolution:

How Can We Make This Right

Add these six words to your communication toolkit in your professional and personal relationships, and notice their power. Using these six words doesn’t mean you are giving in, that you somehow “lost”, nor are they an admission of wrongdoing [although I advocate that if you messed up, and we all do, own it]. By asking this question it automatically de-escalates heightened emotions, it demonstrates your willingness to forgo being “right” and take a step closer to peace for the sake of the relationship. This question all by itself softens and shifts the focus from confrontation to conversation, an olive branch.

Embed this statement, this philosophy into your culture and empower yourself and your employees to a handle challenging interactions with the end in mind: a satisfied and returning customer. Listening to the customer, [your business partner, a friend, a spouse] and confidently moving forward to an acceptable solution, a resolution that would satisfy you had you been on the receiving end.

Pizza: I’m sure your family is hungry. How can we make this right? Can we remake your pizza immediately and send one of our drivers over with it?

Carwash: Apologies for any misunderstanding. How can we make this right? Can we refund you the difference?

Coffee: I’m sorry there was a glitch with our technology. How can we make this right? What can we replace the lemonbites with? Please choose what you would like instead. Here’s a $5 gift card for your trouble — coffee is on us tomorrow.

With the cost of goods and services skyrocketing, many consumers have changed their buying habits in response. Americans, especially lower-income consumers, have pulled back spending at retailers as goods inflation outpaces wage growth. They’ve even become frugal with some experience-based spending like dining out, opting instead to eat at home. With this shift, I would expect business owners to double down on customer service, offering customers still willing to pay the increased price a reason to return.

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

You know I appreciate every word of your blog and see too often the impact in every aspect of life when...How can I make this right is left out.


Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Customer service is appalling. Beautifully written, but I am prejudiced.


Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

"How can we make this right?" are very powerful words. It is obvious that the companies in question do not believe in training their employees to please the customers. What a shame. It is a very different "vibe" than what I grew up with.

You are so correct in calling out a relatively new and disturbing"customer service" response.

While we cannot, as individuals, have much sway in how these companies handle their day to day business, we can show our disappontment in their quality of service by simply NOT patronizing them. That is a shame as well.

Let's hope this sense of indifference between service providers vs customers can come to some resolution. Viewing your customers as the "enemy" wil…

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