The wrong question to ask after a failure

Updated: Jul 11, 2018


When a company experiences a negative customer experience, people often try to resolve things by spending time


– reviewing why something happened


– training the person(s) involved how to prevent it later


– expressing frustration or apologies about the fact that it occurred.


Most of this is wasted time and energy. It happened because there’s a flaw or omission in your system. It happened because it was permitted to happen, usually because something wasn’t defined clearly enough. Training the people involved is like an ice sculpture: it gives you a beautiful result initially, and then evaporates later. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to train them and the system automatically accommodated it?


Expressing frustration? Totally human response – but it’s a waste of time. It’s a natural reaction but instead you can invest time in structurally improving your business so that others don’t need to go through the same frustration. Are you irritated it happened? Fine – say it, move on.


Here’s a simple example: I recently checked out of a hotel and wanted to use the hotel WiFi while in the lobby just before boarding my airport shuttle. When I tried to log on, I got a “room does not exist” message. That was frustrating because:


1) my room does exist, it’s just not my room any more


2) I was a guest just 5 minutes ago, it’s not nice to make me feel unwelcome – “you’re not paying us any more, you don’t matter to us now”


3) there’s actually a business center 50 feet away that has internet access available for guests that aren’t on the WiFi system


So here’s the problem: every single front desk person is going to probably have to deal with this issue unless a system change happens. Others after me will go up to the front and say “is there any way I could use WiFi while I wait for my shuttle?” and every front desk person will need to be trained extra to handle this. What should they say? “Sorry, sir, you’ve checked out, you’ll need to pay”, “No problem, sir, please use our business center for complimentary WiFi access”, “I’m able to extend your WiFi subscription for an extra hour at no charge”, etc.


But that requires a plan, training, and reminders to the front desk, and it ties them up, and requires guests (or former guests) to stand in line while holding up other people who want to check in.


What’s the fix? Here’s a tip: if you have to TELL something to an employee to fix it, you’re ripe for a non-scalable solution. Instead, why not make the WiFi system do the work?


1) rather than put up a brochure for the resort on the default screen, include a 2 minute training video on how to use WiFi at the hotel. WAY more compelling.


2) change the wording on “your room doesn’t exist” to “We don’t have an active guest account for that room, click HERE if you’d like to use our complimentary internet service”


3) put a sign next to the front desk that clearly states “Would you like to use our internet service?” and provides written instructions


4) include text on the screen if your subscription has recently expired, saying “Your WiFi access has recently ended. If you’d like to extend it, please see _____ at the business center” or something else that will politely direct guests to the best option.


Any time you spend reminding the current front desk staff is wasted. It’s going to help a small number of people for a short time. Instead, put your energy towards a fix that will answer the “How do we prevent this from recurring” – it’s worth the investment.


People often prefer ATM’s than bank tellers for certain activities. It’s efficient, it’s consistent, it’s designed to answer all the common questions succinctly. If your staff is helping people with the HARD stuff and not the easy stuff, then they can really make a difference in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Design your systems accordingly.

Mann Consulting, LLC

282 Second St. #400

San Francisco, CA 94105

Copyright ©2020 Mann Consulting LLC

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