Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Client Service And Being Human

I read two terrific posts recently. One from Chris Brogan titled, How USAir Turned My Grumpy Mood Around, and the other from David Mullen which leads with the lines, You Made A Mistake. Is This How You React? I was struck by their similar theme: The importance of just being human. Simple right?

Simple maybe. Common, not really. The reason is a bit ironic if you think about it. We try to preserve an image of perfection in a world where everyone knows we're not perfect. It may sound silly, but it happens every day. People who fear what they regard as public humiliation or legal liability eschew the practice of admitting error. (The "apologizing is a sign of weakness" crowd.) They fear bad press and adverse jury verdicts. But neither the general public nor members of a jury will typically punish people/companies for being human. They punish them for being just the opposite.

Consider this simple exercise I often conduct during crisis communication workshops. I ask the group to give me list of the attributes that separate their very best friend in the world from all other friends and acquaintances. They typically respond with thoughts such as trustworthy, there when I need them, good listener, etc. I've never had anyone say that "perfection" should be included on the list. There are two pieces of good news here. First, people don't expect perfection even from their best friends (so they certainly don't expect it from others). They understand we all make mistakes. Second, if you want to know what people do expect from you, just look at the list offered by the group.

The fact is, relationships aren't weakened by adversity, they're strengthened by it - as long as we step up in a manner that reflects the best in our human nature. Chris Brogan likes USAirways more than he did last week, and David Mullen has gone up a notch in the eyes of his client. How about that?!


  1. Thanks for sharing the post and building on it, Leo. I think being human - and recognizing that others are human - is incredibly important. That experience I wrote about reminded me of that. I love how well you summed it up here.

  2. All of us are human being (for all others we have captcha installed). This is why mistakes can happen and this is not what we should worry about. What we should do is to communicate what has happened, find the reason why mistake had happened and set new expectations.
    I believe that this is the one of fundamentals of client service.

  3. It's a simple, but poignant reminder. Thanks to both of you for your comments.

  4. Leo,
    I once was given a client that was so tough he made the prior account person type up notes after every single contact... even after short phone calls!
    Our relationship was slowly building, in a positive way, until I made a major mistake. It involved tens of thousands of dollars, but was something that I was able to take care of internally.
    A few days later I decided to come clean, and share everything with the client. When I finished he asked what he needed to do. I said nothing, it had gone away.
    From that point on, our relationship totally changed. He trusted me implicitly.
    His feeling, which he shared with me, was that if I was able to come to him with that, I'd come to him with anything.
    It was one of the best lessons of my career.
    Thanks for a great blog!

  5. Great illustration of how to build trust and strengthen a relationship in the aftermath of adversity.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin