When You Give Your Customer A Lemon...

Before I found my true calling as a Client Services Manager at IntelliShop, I made my living as a fishing guide in the Florida Keys. Being in my small boat with my customers, 8 hours or more at a time, miles from civilization, was the crucible that helped forge my understanding of what it takes to provide superior customer service. Most of the time the job of pleasing my Clients was easy and made easier by cooperative fish, nice weather, and gorgeous surroundings. When nature did not cooperate, my Clients understood that these things were out of my control, and, as they say “a bad day of fishing beats a good day in the office.” On rare occasions an issue would arise that was my fault or the result of something I could control. Knots would pull while fighting a fish, equipment would fail, and bait would run out; however, these to me were always opportunities to dazzle my Clients. Take the following example as illustration of what I mean.

A lawyer and his wife came down to the Keys from Tallahassee to do some fly-fishing. It was summertime and we had to be on the water before sunrise, since the heat of the mid-day sun made fishing unbearable. The trip started off well, and we made small talk as we motored to our fishing spot, some 10 miles from where we launched the boat. As we approached the fishing grounds, I had a bad feeling that I had forgotten something. Glancing around the boat, the sickening realization hit me that what I had forgotten was the fishing tackle. No fly rods, no reels, and no chance to catch a fish. As I announced my error to my Clients, their disappointment was clearly visible, since my mistake had meant that fishing that morning was shot. Somehow I had to make amends for my error.

On the way to the fishing grounds, they had mentioned how they had once been snorkeling and loved it. I offered to meet them back at my boat late in the morning for a day of snorkeling gratis, and then to try fishing again that evening when the bite would again heat up. They agreed, and we had a full day on the water of exploring the reef in late morning and afternoon, followed by some excellent fishing in the evening. By the end of the day, my error of the morning had been forgiven, and I even was given a very generous tip for my extra efforts. Afterward, they became regular Clients of mine, returning several times a year to fish (though never letting me forget the time I forgot the fishing rods).

The point is that no one, no matter how good at providing outstanding service, can be perfect. We will always make mistakes that impact our customers in a negative way. What really makes for outstanding customer service is how you make it right. When you give your Clients a lemon, take them snorkeling on a coral reef!

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