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The Downside Builds Trust

I’ve been using a new auto shop for repairs for my vehicle. I met the owner a few months ago, liked him, and gave him some work. I was happy with the work and the price, so naturally, I called to get a quote on some new work.

My buddy wasn’t in, but I got his main front desk guy and told him what I needed. He said he would have to check it out and get back to me. Then he said something that totally blew my mind.

He said, “I am really bad at remembering to call people back and I don’t have a good reminder system here. If you haven’t heard from me by 11am tomorrow, call me.”

Now my first reaction could have been, “Are you kidding me? Between Google Alerts, Smart Phone Apps, and Post-It Notes, how could a business person be so bad at doing one of his primary jobs?” 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Instead my brain went to all the times I called a place and they never called me back. This guy warned me that him forgetting to call me back was a possibility and even gave me the deadline by which I would know to call him back.

It was refreshing.

Sure, Great Customer Service dictates that you always call a customer back at the soonest possible time. You never forget. Great Customer Service also dictates telling the customer the deadline by which you will be calling back. In this case, by 11am tomorrow.

Here is why what he did was the next best thing to “never forgetting.”

First, he recognized one of his flaws and wasn’t afraid to tell me about it. It takes guts to do that. It also builds trust when you admit what you cannot do. Second, he gave me the deadline. Third, he managed my expectations.

Imagine if he had only said, “I’ll get back to you.”

I might have called him four hours later only to find out he didn’t have the information yet, which would have either pissed me off, frustrated me, or destroyed some of the trust we were building, all because I didn’t know it was going to take him more than four hours to find the answer.

I might have called him back the next day to hear him say, “Oh, I forgot,” which would have blown all the trust right out of the water.

Instead he managed my expectations, which gave me an even higher sense of trust.

He knew two pieces of information I didn’t know—how long it might take him to get an answer and his own shortcoming of getting too busy and not always remembering to call everyone back in a timely fashion. While one of those might seem like a negative piece of information, letting me know both of those things turned it into a positive.

Don’t be afraid of sharing your downside and your shortcomings. Sometimes that is the information the customer needs to more fully trust you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS He called me back in ten minutes with a full explanation of everything they would have to do and why. He not only set the expectations, he blew them out of the water them by a wide margin. That’s Great Customer Service!

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