Why do companies find it so hard to rectify mistakes, especially when they’ve caused their customers heartache? In the last few days there have been a couple of notable instances:
Firstly Skype, yes we know it’s largely a free to use service but thousands of people rely on Skype and many have also paid for services like SkypeOut, SkypeIn and voice mail. So when the service hits a problem and they’re off line for a day and a half, it’s understandable that their customers are more than a little disgruntled.
This is the time they should be talking to their customers but it was noted on several forums that the top management were absent. No announcement from San Jose, no announcement on the System Board (which seems reserved for eBay and PayPal glitches), nothing on the general announcement board, in fact the only place information was made public was on a couple of Skype blogs.
Even the email that Skype has sent out to all it’s loyal customers talks about how great the community is to stick with Skype and it’s only if you read it carefully you’ll find hidden away the word “sorry”. It would have been so much easier to apologise publicly at the time Skype went offline instead of to selected paying customers days after the event.
Google also has come under fire for the way it treated customers of it’s Google Video download to own/rent service. Customers paid to download films with the understanding it’s like music on your iPod, once you’ve paid you’re free to watch as often as you like. Google decided to discontinue the service, customers could no longer watch the films they’d paid for. Instead of refunding customers they gave them Google Checkout credits!
Google customers were livid and Google soon backtracked and are refunding all buyers credit cards in full. They are also keeping the service live for six months so people can watch their saved films a few more times. Customers get to keep the Google Checkout credits as a “we’re sorry we goofed” bonus.
Companies need to realise that when there’s a problem they need to do their best to rectify the matter, and both Skype and Google have both done their best to do this but it’s too little too late. Skype should have said sorry sooner and Google should have realised their refund method would be unacceptable.
When someone is paying you for products or service and there’s a problem you need to think about how the buyer feels, not what’s the most convenient way for you and your company to remedy the situation. Most importantly saying sorry as soon as possible goes a long way to keeping customers onside.
There’s a valuable lesson here for eBay sellers.
- If a transaction doesn’t go smoothly firstly say “Sorry” even if it’s not your fault, let the customer know you care.
- Don’t assume your method of remedying the situation is acceptable to the customer – offer the customer a proposal and ask them if they’re happy with your suggestion, ask if they have an alternative that would satisfy them more.
Generally customers will usually accept your suggestion if it’s fair and equitable, but they always appreciate you asking them what they’d like to happen. Getting the customer to buy in to the remedy is vital for closing the transaction with a happy buyer who will trade with you again in the future.
At the end of the day it’s an easy thing to say “We’re sorry”. It’s not so easy to appear sincere unless you put the customers interests first.