Friday afternoon, heading north on the A9 south of Tain, and an event that in all my travels I have never seen before.
If you know the road heading north to Tain, you will know the overtaking lane just north of the Nigg roundabout. Now, I was happily cruising along with cars in front and behind. I was in no rush and the traffic was going at a decent speed, so I did not feel the need to overtake.
A grey car passes me doing at least 30 miles per hour more than me. Somebody should have told him the police sit just around the bend just after the overtaking lane finishes. Anyway, he passed quickly by, obviously intent on overtaking as many cars as possible. Just as he pulled up almost alongside a red car a few hundred meters ahead of me, the red car decided to pull out and overtake. That driver had not checked his mirrors!
I was convinced that the grey car was going to hit an oncoming car as he swerved to avoid the red car. The red car was clearly to blame. The fault was his. But it was the behaviour of the driver of the grey car that got my attention. He sat right on the bumper of the red car for half a mile and then overtook it and stopped dead in the road blocking the red car, and every other car behind including me. He got out of his car, and I thought things were going to turn violent. Having expressed my disapproval (with my horn) I and all the other following cars drove around the blockage, made worse because the driver of the grey car had left his door wide open in his rush to confront the driver of the red car.
I paid no attention to the driver of the red car – the one initially at fault. My annoyance was focused on the driver of the grey car – the idiot, the one that I initially sympathised with.
It reminded me of a training video I saw many years ago. A coach was filmed spending time with a business owner, getting to know the business and the owner’s motivations and goals. They were obviously getting on very well as we could see in the video. Then the coach lent forward (on camera) and slapped the business owner.
The coach then asked the business owner what he thought of him. You can imagine the reply (on camera). The point he was making was that however well you have got on with your customers and for however long, their attitude to you is primarily determined by their last interaction with you. If you have just slapped them in the face, meaning you or your staff have got something wrong (in the eyes of your customer) then their opinion of you will not be very good.
Go back to my grey and red drivers. The red driver was in the wrong and almost caused a nasty accident, but whose behaviour do I remember and criticise?
Let me share another scenario. A few weeks ago I ordered a new suit online. I buy a suit with two pairs of trousers because the jacket just hangs in my office all day and so doesn’t get the same level of wear. The box came home but with only one pair of trousers. I had emailed but not received a response so phoned them.
Within 5 minutes we had established the facts, another pair of trousers was on order and I received a confirmation email. I also received an apology immediately after the person at the other end of the phone realised what had happened. What do I remember here? Well, given that in any business, things go wrong, it was the efficient and effortless way that they put it right. My opinion of the company has gone up even though they made a mistake.
So, in your business, how do you deal with things that have gone wrong. If you receive criticism from a customer, what do you do about it? None of us like criticism but this can be an important learning moment for you and your staff. Now, I am not saying that we are perfect in these situations, but maybe we will be a little better in the future. Every day is a school day.
In our line of work, it is rare that you gain a client unless another accountant or tax adviser has first lost them. So, how do we or you avoid losing that client? The client may not always be right but nonetheless. If you want to repair and maintain that relationship, you must re-engage and let the client know that you do care. There is an old expression: the client does not care how much you know until they know how much you care. How does your client or customer know that you are focused upon their best interests?
This is an interesting topic, but I am no expert in human psychology. So I will leave you to ponder this further and do your own research and thinking. Maybe we will all be a little better in future.
Back to school!
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership