I am sure I don’t have to remind you that we are human and we all make mistakes. I’ll own up first. I make them pretty much every single day and I primarily work alone so there really isn’t anyone else to blame or to fix them. Just me. So I get to pick and choose how I want to fix them. That’s fine because it’s just me.

Back when I was working in an O&P patient care facility there were a lot of other people making mistakes all the time too. From a marketing perspective this is where you can make your mistakes work for you.

I have an O&P friend, Rob, on Facebook that posted the other day about how much he despised IKEA. When prompted by his fellow Facebookers, he shared his story. I edited it a little but you get the gist:

“A manager told us she would hold our purchases and we drove over an hour to pick them up only to find out there was a “miscommunication” and they had restocked everything. The manager who came out told me ‘I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do and there are no concessions I can offer you.’ I asked them to at least send an employee to re-shop the items we had paid for and they were supposed to be holding for us and she said she couldn’t. Then after a few minutes she said she would send someone to get it but I was already getting our money refunded!”

One good answer

Clearly somebody made a mistake. Equally clearly, the customer made a reasonable request that would have solved the problem. The manager made another, bigger mistake when she denied the request. Lots of people had suggestions about what Rob should do but only one had a suggestion about what the manager should have done: give Rob and his wife a gift certificate for the IKEA restaurant so they could have a complimentary meal while the manager personally pulled all their purchases from the shelves.

Heck yeah. That’s absolutely the right answer.

Fixing the mistake should be part of their customer service training. In a company as big as IKEA they should absolutely have a policy in place for mistakes just like that. You cannot tell me that that’s the first time that a mistake like this has been made. At that particular store maybe there is no “The customer is always right but find out what they want from us to make it better and then if it sounds reasonable, go ahead and do it” policy.

Why no policy? It might be the mistake that makes us mad but it’s the resolution, or lack thereof, that makes or breaks the customer experience and keeps them coming back or makes they say “never again.”

Good policy

A policy, if it’s a good one, can be the key to making your mistakes work for you. If IKEA’s manager had comped dinner, pulled the items and maybe even given them a gift card for future purchases I can pretty much guarantee that Rob would still be an IKEA customer. Even though he might talk about the mistake, he would also talk about how they fixed the mistake to his satisfaction. He might even be a more loyal customer after the mistake than before since he knows they really want to make sure he’s a happy customer.


Elizabeth Mansfield

Think about your office mistakes and keep in mind that the goal is happy customers. If you’re in patient care I guarantee that any one of these things happens regularly.

a) An appointment is scheduled but written/entered incorrectly in the appointment book/computer. Patient shows up for appointment. Your mistake. What’s your policy?


b) Patient has an appointment. It’s on the calendar. Paperwork/work order never made it to the lab. Your mistake. What’s your policy?

c) You’re a vendor. Customer places an order. It’s supposed to go overnight. You send it ground. From California. To the East Coast. Customer calls the next day looking for the order. Your mistake. What’s your policy?

I know what I would do, but I’d love to know what you would do. Email me at Elizabeth@askelizabeth.net and tell me what your policy is/would be for a, b and/or c. I’ll share it in an upcoming column.

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