When I opened Parlez Wireless I made a terrible mistake. I quoted a client on three cell phones incorrectly. Based on the quote I gave him, he cancelled three lines with another carrier, paid the cancellation fees and activated his new lines with me.
Each month he would contact me to discuss why he was spending more than he expected. Each month I would call TELUS and get his plan adjusted for him. Then, on the third month, I got a rep on the phone who knew more than I did. He was able to pinpoint exactly why the client’s bills were coming in too high – I had made a mistake in how I quoted the rate plan to the client.
This man was a savvy business owner and the error I made was going to cost him several hundred dollars a year more than I had originally quoted. My error was a two thousand dollar mistake and I needed to fix this for my client. I knew my business reputation was the most important thing I had going for me.
I picked up the phone and called Bruce that day. I explained to him what the problem was. I offered a rate plan change as a solution, and showed him what the total cost impact would be over the next 36 months compared to what I initially quoted him and then I told him I would be using my own credit card to apply a credit to his account for the difference.
My business was brand new. I was not even paying myself a salary at the time but I understood the value of keeping my word. I was not prepared to let my integrity be questioned when I was the one at fault and my new client had willingly trusted me when he made the decision to give me his business.
The client was very appreciative. He appreciated that I told him the truth – I did not try and find an excuse, pass blame or hide my error. I explained to him my error and documented the exact cost down to the penny. He also appreciated that I was prepared to take action to make things right. In fact he tried to talk me out of paying the difference but I insisted and followed through on that.
Since that time, as a business owner, I have been the client on the other end of different service providers errors. I have had a web company charge me more than they quoted me and refuse to talk to me on the phone. In fact the email I received when I questioned the hours I had been billed and requested to talk was “we’d prefer you document your concerns.”
In another situation, I requested benefits be cancelled for an employee and only found out a six months later that in spite of being told this had been taken care of, I was still paying the premium. In this situation the rep who assisted me refuses to respond to my correspondence, and to date my premiums have not been refunded.
In a world where, as quick as you can type a status update you can ruin someone’s reputation, it amazes me that people do not consider Integrity to be their most important business value. Social media sites can spread negative word of mouth marketing faster than the flu virus. Yet, some business owners hide with their heads in the sand rather than do the right thing.
Integrity is trust – people trust you or they don’t. It takes a long time to rebuild integrity once it is damaged. It should be guarded at all costs and valued more than anything.
Here are my business rules when it comes to integrity:
1. Do what you say you will do for your client always.
2. Always arrive early for meetings, never be late. When you are late for a meeting you are saying that your client’s time is not important.
3. If you make a mistake, fix it, even if it costs you money. Not only is this good business sense, it is the right thing to do.
4. Always overdeliver. People are often under-whelmed by the service and support they receive for the money they spend. Always strive to give more than your clients expect.
5. When uncertain, seek clarification. If something does not seem right, double back and ask the client rather than assume. I think we all learned what “Assume” meant years ago.
6. Always take the higher road. It is easy to blast people on Twitter and Facebook, name them and shame them. But in the end, this only makes you look bad. When things go wrong, do the right thing and take the high road in how you behave.
Remember, you control your behavior. You as a professional have an obligation to do what is right for your client. Make integrity one of your core values and your business will grow and prosper because your clients will become world of mouth marketers who sing your praises daily.
The alternative is not worth the loss of sleep at night. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t feel good when you fail to step up and do the right thing. This is why I always do my best to overdeliver. For example, in the SBA, there will be tons of value added bonuses and even a few surprises along the way!
It is always a good time for positive change in your business. If you find yourself in these situations, make that change now and enjoy better business relationships and a larger bottom line in the months to come!