There will come a time when your business has an impact which goes beyond your customers.
When that day comes, will you be wearing your customer service hat or will you be trying to pass the buck?
It’s worth thinking about because when something does goes wrong you will come up against a powerful human desire; the impulse to blame someone else.
However switched on we think we are, we start looking for a fall guy when the fail whale looms into sight.
I have an example from my own life, but these lessons apply equally to the huge BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast.
Yesterday morning I woke up to find thousands of leaflets littering my drive and those of the surrounding houses in my neighbourhood. The pieces of paper had been strewn up the road for some distance by the wind and they all bore the same company name, that of Oregon Scientific, who have an office nearby.
I thought I’d give them until lunchtime to clear up the mess as they must surely be aware of the issue?
By 1pm nothing had happened, so I went over to speak to them about the litter.
Imagine my surprise when I was met by two employees of the company who told me in no uncertain terms that it was not their fault ! Their bins had been invaded by local ruffians they said and therefore they would not be doing anything about it. I told them I really didn’t want to go to the local council about it but they said they would rather I did, so that something could be done about the problems in my neighbourhood!
So they denied responsibility, told me it was up to me to do something about it and then insulted the place I have chosen to make my home. Nice work. I’m impressed.
I pointed out that if litter bears the name of your company on each and every piece then you really ought to do something about it for the sake of good community relations. It really is basic PR. Say sorry, and do something about it. Quickly.
I told them I wanted people out there with bin bags.
Thirty minutes later that was what I got. Hurray!
But did it really have to come down to an ill-tempered exchange? I may not be a customer of Oregon Scientific but they need to know how to deal with me when their company makes an impact on my life and so do you.