Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Lay it on me": Confronting a negative customer situation

I really like this story from MP Mueller, president of advertising agency Door Number Three, on soliciting feedback from customers, even if it's negative. The story appears in the New York Times "You're the Boss" blog.

Many leaders ignore this kind of feedback, and certainly don't seek it out. Mueller shows how "corrections are more warmhearted than perfections."

I got a call from a fast-growing bank that was looking for a new agency. The bank had been referred to us by another client, who we were told “was singing our praises.” Which was interesting because I distinctly remember a very rough lunch I had had with that client a few years ago.

He had called me one day to say, “We need to talk.” From the tone of his voice, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. We met for lunch, and I said, “Lay it on me.” And he did. I listened, took notes, and promised him a response that day. He and I soon discovered that his marketing person had been throwing Door Number 3 under the bus for things she had failed to do.

But listening, acknowledging, giving him a response with solutions and not pointing fingers made a difference. He and I now go to lunch twice a year or so — an unexpected, but sweet, bonus of working on those existing relationships.

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