When Orders Go South: 6 Steps to Positive Resolution

Molly Neises, Sales

I’ve heard it said that the most valuable lessons are not taught; they are experienced. And while we all strive to avoid those hard-learned lessons, it’s important to remember that often your best teacher is your last mistake. 

Since most of us are knee-deep in the hectic holiday season, the rush is on and mistakes can sneak through a bit easier causing panic for both you and your customers.  That makes it the perfect time to reflect on how we can learn from these situations and come out both wiser and happier on the other end.

Face the Situation Head On:

When things get messy, it’s a natural reaction to want to run and hide (and hope it goes away).  Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem.  The first step is to acknowledge the error and, just as importantly, acknowledge their frustrations.  They buyer is most likely upset about the situation and letting them know you hear them and accept responsibility is a large leap toward making it better.

Take Apathy to the Next Level:

One step beyond letting them voice their frustrations is soliciting their input regarding the solution.  Doing so reminds them you not only hear them, but that you value their ideas regarding a resolution.  They know better than you what can right the wrong and retain the customer relationship.  By asking, “What can we do to make it right for you (and/or your customer)?”, you can often shorten the recovery process.  It helps to avoid offering solutions they won’t be happy with, that could take too long (or cost more than necessary), or leave the buyer feeling insulted. 

Think Beyond the Order:

Often it comes down to how you fix the problem, rather than the fact there was one in the first place.  If the situation is handled correctly, promptly, and to their satisfaction, they will most likely remember it as a positive experience versus the negativity of it happening to begin with.  Don’t forget to check back in with the customer down the road too!  It goes a long way into making sure they know you haven’t forgotten about them, that you value the relationship, and you are striving for a continuous partnership in the future.  You want their business back.  Remind them who you are and what you can do!

Keep Asking the Tough Questions:

Once you have resolved the situation or found a fix that both parties are satisfied with, don’t stop there.  Now is when the real work begins.  Ask yourself (and your team) the tough questions.  What went wrong?  At what stage did the mishap occur?  How do we prevent it from happening again? 

Make a Plan and Stay Accountable:

Sit down with your team and work through the steps.  Share what you have learned up to this point, and invite their insight on the best outline for avoiding the same things happening again in the future.  Break it out on paper if needed.  Be as detailed as possible, assign accountability with future check-points and try to think logically about an experience that may leave you feeling irrational, emotional, or uncomfortable.

Keep Moving Forward:

It’s easy to keep beating yourself up over mistakes and mishaps, especially if they could have been avoided in the first place.  But it’s important to move forward with the knowledge that you are now more aware of the possibilities and how to avoid them.  Mistakes happen, but they make us more aware and keep us on our toes.  Recognize them as the learning opportunities they are, no matter how big or small, and use them to make yourself (and your team) better!