A Dash of Curry Blog

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Customer Service 101: How to handle your mistakes

We are remodeling our weekend house, getting ready to move there full time. It’s a 50-year-old house on the water that has had three additions over time, that were all kind of poorly constructed with the cheapest materials and not much forethought. We love the house though; we love our neighbors and it’s right on the water with an amazing view. It’s full of family memories of the kids water skiing, swimming, knee boarding and enjoying an array of other water sports activities. So as our kids are both in college, we decided we didn’t need our “McMansion” anymore and that we were going to move full time to the “Creek House”.

To remodel, we completely gutted the house. We fixed major wood rot, replaced all the windows, doors, roof, siding, flooring, appliances, and put in a complete new kitchen...everything. It’s turned out to be quite the project, but it is simply amazing!

When we had the kitchen done at a cost of over $22,000, we really liked the initial design and how it turned out with the white custom cabinets and swirled granite counter tops. However, when we went to install the new refrigerator, stovetop and microwave, nothing fit. Everything was off by about ¼ of an inch or more. I thought no big deal and called the kitchen contractor. They came out and fixed it and we were successfully able to install the stove.

A few days later the fridge came in and that didn’t fit, so they came back out, reset and shimmed some of the cabinets and we finally got that to barely fit. About a week later we discovered the microwave wouldn’t fit. Even though we had given the contractor all of the measurements up front, nothing was right. They didn’t install the cabinets “plumb” or “square”, everything was just slightly off.

By this time I was a little frustrated as not only were there fitment problems, but after two weeks we were still missing drawer and cabinets knobs, and since they had retool some of the cabinets, the molding wasn’t fitting right. I called the owner and told him about the microwave and they first thing out of his mouth was, “well, it’s not MY fault, where is the rest of the money you owe me”.

I was like WHAT??? I knew we had already given him $16,000 of the $22,000 we owed him and told him first, it’s certainly isn’t my fault the appliances don’t fit, they are the pro’s and we gave them all of the proper measurements. He continued to argue with me, telling me that it’s his sub-contractors fault, not his fault and that he needed the rest of the money we owed him. I calmly explained that HIS sub-contractors were HIS sub-contractors, not mine. We contracted and paid HIM to perform the services and it’s HIS responsibility to fix and make it right. I also explained to him that he would not receive the final payment or any other payment until the kitchen was correct. He went on to argue, “That’s not what the contract says”. I said I don’t care what the contract says, I’m losing confidence in you and I’m not paying you another penny until all the appliances fit and it’s done right. I went on to tell him, that all I wanted was to be a happy customer, that’s it, just fix the problem.

The next day the sub-contractor came and fixed the problem as well as admitted they had made a few mistakes, we got everything to fit and I was finally happy with the finished product. I liked the sub-contractor, they made a few mistakes but owned up to it and fixed it. On the other hand I was shocked by the way the original contractor, who we made the deal with and paid, handled these customer issues. He didn’t accept responsibility, “it’s not my fault”, exact words, he berated me because he hadn’t received his final payment when the job was not complete, and just had a totally shitty attitude about the whole thing. I will NEVER recommend him and already could have several times to our neighbors.

The lessons learned? Don’t build a “bad house” or business to begin with. It’ll save you time, money and headaches if, as you put “additions” on your business, you use quality materials, think it through and have quality construction, that way you don’t have to go back and do things twice.

Lesson two, you’re going to have problems in your business. Things will go wrong, but it’s how you handle your mistakes and take care of your customers during these times, that really separate the awesome businesses from the not so awesome businesses. Sometimes you get your best customers when you have the opportunity to show how you handle problems in the face of your own mistakes. It’s these times that the top business shine and superhero customer service rises.

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