This quote is taken from a book a book by George Lois called Damn Good Advice. George Lois is an advertising legend and creator of breakthrough ad campaigns. I liked reading this book as it shows Lois’s genius in 120 lessons with the Woody Allen quote, above, being one of them.
I think back on the many lessons in life about being present in all situations. Meaning mentally there, as a participant, no matter what the situation. Stop/Look/Listen/Engage; you know! Sometimes when it comes to a customer problem or complaint we see and hear the grumble over and over; that it becomes noise. You get numb to the fact that there is a customer problem and potentially a recurring one. Remember perception is reality; ignore at your own risk.
The Woody Allen quote struck a chord with me. Lois, from NYC, tells the story on how he so impressed the Quaker Oats Company by flying to their Chicago headquarters within two and a half hours and got the contract they were bidding on (Shortened version of the story). The point of the story was his presence in the face of the customer won the contract. Quaker wanted a face to face relationship. You can appreciate that. Lois won his contract with that tactic and you can win and keep your customer with it. I recall the number of times I had a very private face to face with customers when we screwed up. Just showing up made all the difference. If it meant going to their place of business or bringing them in the office for a very humbling discussion; we did it. Every customer is important, especially the ones you highly value. Those perfect customers that must be on your ‘A’ list.
I call it Grovel 101. If it meant bringing another team member who was responsible for whatever went wrong, then that person was with me. There is nothing like a humbling apology and recognition of error and a pledge to work to improve. As human beings we can never be perfect, but strive, on most days, to be light years ahead of our competition; even on our worse day we would still be head and shoulders better than our competition. But no reason to ignore your mistake. Grovel 101 showed the team and our customer we are always willing to admit our mistakes and never take a customer for granted (instead of ignoring and hope the customer will forget).
Being there or ‘showing up’ as Woody Allen says was the magic bullet for customer retention whenever we made a mistake. Small mistakes are routine and a simple phone call and/or an apology can fix them. Still repetitive or big mistakes need the engagement of the owner, and possibly the team member responsible for the error, to be with the customer in ‘retention mode’. Show up, be present and humble. There’s much too much completion out there waiting, like vultures, for a chance to take your customer. Don’t let it be a fixable situation that loses you a ‘perfect’ customer by not showing up for the act of contrition.