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Take care of it: your fault or not

October 24, 2013
By John R. DiJulius


Oct. 24, 2013, U.S. – Organizations must take care of every aspect of customer service, whether the occurring problem is your fault or not it's best to find a solution.

Oct. 24, 2013, U.S. – Write down: “EVERYTHING is our problem.” In fact, say it out loud. When
businesses take the “it’s not our fault approach” there is only one
solution: threaten and punish the customer, which means you won the
argument but lost the customer.

The first company I started, John
Robert’s Spa, demonstrates the perfect example. Guests would sometimes
leave their valuables (jewelry or cell phone) in the pockets of the
robes. This meant the guests’ possessions could get washed and/or lost
when we did our laundry. It’s not the spa’s fault that the guests leave
their stuff in the robe pockets.

The first remedy was to leave a sign inside the lockers and changing
room stating, “We are not responsible for any valuables left behind.” A
huge negative cue, it is basically threatening and punishing customers.
So we changed that to “Please remember to check your robe and locker
for all your valuables.” Better, but it didn’t eliminate the problem.
Now what? Can we train our spa attendants to check every robe, every
time before washing? Only in a perfect world. We found a supplier
who provides pocket-less robes. Problem solved.


One of the hospitals I consult with has always had an issue with
patients being late for their appointments.  Big problem! More than half
their patients were late. It wasn’t a result of patients not
respecting the hospital’s time, or poor planning. It was because the
hospital is so large (literally stretches for several blocks). Once
patients found the correct building and parking garage, then the real
challenge began — walking and finding the office in a maze of buildings
and hallways.

Solution #1: Threaten and punish

The hospital could warn the
patients that they will forfeit their appointment if they are late, but
still be charged for the visit. Obviously this is not exactly the
approach a business wants to take with its customers.

Solution #2: Allow for this in hospital’s scheduling

Allow for more
time with each patient to build in for the fact that they will be late.
This results in fewer appointments and patients seen per day. Not good
financially for the hospital, and not good for the patients who need to
get in quickly.

Solution #3: Everything is our responsibility

Realizing how critical this is to
running a successful business, the hospital finally did two things.

1) Staffed more recognizable volunteers all over the hospital to help
direct patients to their destination, and 2) borrowing from Disney,
they created a GPS APP for smart phones that directs a patient to the
proper place on their property (i.e. Building P, office 515).

Here's how it worked at Disney Land. After an exhilarating day, your family is leaving Magic
Kingdom Park. It is 8:30 p.m. and you are in the parking lot. All of you
are exhausted and impatient to get back to your room to shower and hit
the sack. You look at your spouse and ask, “Where did we park?” She
looks at you and says, “You’re kidding-right?” Neither of you remembers
where you parked.

So how hard can it be to find your car? Like 20,000
other people, you came here in a rented white minivan. There are miles
and miles of white minivans in the parking lot. Your only option appears
to be to wait until the park closes at 11 p.m. and see what white
minivans are left.

Whose fault is this: Disney’s, yours or your spouse’s? Should Disney
be responsible for reminding you where you parked? Disney, however, is
aware that the average family visiting traveled four hours, they
arrived in a white minivan and before the driver put the car in park,
the kids opened the door and were running for the entrance. The parents
are too concerned about catching up with their kids to stop and think
about where they parked. Disney already knows that tonight a number of
families will return exhausted to the parking lot, not remember where
they parked and just want to get back to the hotel.

What does Disney do? They anticipate a major service defect. And they
solve it, even though it isn’t their fault. They have people drive
around the parking lots in golf carts in search of families that look

A Disney Cast Member pulls up to your family and says,

  “Did you forget where you parked?”

You nod and say, “We’re driving a white minivan. Does that help?”

“Do you remember when you arrived? A ballpark time will do.”

“About 11:15 to 11:30 a.m.”

The Disney Cast Member checks his clipboard and says, “Between 11 a.m. and noon we were parking in the Goofy section.
Jump in! I will take you to that section and we can
find your car with your remote key.”

And it’s done. Was it Disney’s fault that you lost your
car? Absolutely not. Is it their problem? Absolutely, yes, because
Disney knows that every day several people will lose their cars and
potentially be stranded for hours, a situation that could totally ruin
the memory of their Disney experience. 

This is a great example of what
being zero risk is all about. Being zero risk applies regardless of
whether your company is at fault. World-class service companies create
protocols to proactively handle their most common service defects, and
they train their employees how to extinguish small flames long before
they turn into a raging fire.

Even if a defect is not your fault, your
customer will associate the issue with doing business with you. This is a
critical issue for all businesses, at all levels because when these
situations arise, in the vast majority of instances, the employee
immediately and instinctively becomes defensive and responds, “It’s not
our fault.”

The best way I have found to truly embrace the EVERYTHING is our problem mindset it to do the “Pay what you think is fair
exercise. When you think about how your customers can “short-pay” you
for any reason, you will not believe how creative and
solution-orientated you become with everything.

Find your pocket-less robes. If you really train everyone in your
company to have the mindset that EVERYTHING is your problem and
responsibility, and you remove the victim mentality of “it is our
customer’s fault,” your company’s customer experience will elevate to
new heights. You’ll find solutions that eliminate the problems and make
your company more efficient, and your customers happier.

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant and keynote speaker. He is currently the president of customer service firm The DiJulius Group. He blogs
on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The
DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference

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