I don't like to harp on negative experiences. I generally would much rather rave about exceptional service. But this was so bad I couldn't help myself. Let me set the scene. A mystery charge showed up on my credit card from one of the web hosting services we use. I sent an email asking what it was for. The answer came back "the charge in December was for [another website] and was billed to Glen for 6 months web hosting." Glen is a friend who did some web development work for us about 8 years ago. So I was a bit surprised that his hosting was charged to my credit card.
I wrote back "Thanks Paul, If that charge was billed to Glen, can you tell me why it was charged to my credit card? That website is a completely different account." Fair enough question I would have thought.
The response I got back:
"No idea as Accounts does it. Can arrange a refund but will cancel the [other website] account as soon as refund is processed."
Not a lot of love there! Firstly - no Hi Pete, or any salutation. Secondly - the owner of the business taking no responsibility for the problem and blaming Accounts (a personal favourite of mine ... The old Bart Simpson ‘I didn't do it, no one saw me do, you can't prove a thing'). Thirdly no apology. And finally he's going to shut down another one of his customers if I ask for a refund for a charge that has nothing to do with me. Not to mention how cavalier they are with my credit card details. I was gobsmacked.
Making a mistake is actually a great opportunity to have someone love your business, strange as that sounds. If you can be gracious and generous in the way you handle a stuff-up, you can mostly make up more ground than you lost with the mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, and most people will understand if something didn't work out to plan. If you take responsibility for it, apologise and then make it up to the customer. More often than not you will enhance the relationship rather than damage it.
Where have you been able to turn a mistake into a great experience for your customer?