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Wall Street Steward Blog

Never, Ever Blame...Never, Ever.

Recently, I was running late for an appointment at another branch.  I was on pace to be about 15 minutes late, and, as usual when you are running late…I caught every single red light and got stuck behind the 4 foot 3, 92 year old lady. 

Then, I got stuck at a X-X railroad crossing X-X.  I can’t make this stuff up folks.

I ended up being about 30 MINUTES LATE!  Before I got out of the car, I decided to tell the lady the unadulterated truth without any sugarcoating. 

I was bored and wanted to see what would happen.  Can’t help myself sometimes.

I walked in and shook her hand and out of habit, this came out of my mouth:

“Hi, I am so sorry I am late, I was stuck behind……” 

Then I stopped and thought about the promise I made to myself to tell her the truth…and I changed course.

“You know what, no excuses.  I am late and I apologize.  I am sorry.  Thank you for waiting.  I realize that your time is valuable and I am sorry for wasting it.  The truth is that I lost track of time and I was going to be about 15 minutes late anyway, and although I would LOVE to blame it on the red lights, the construction zones, the slow drivers, I won’t.  I would have been late anyway and for that, I am sorry.”

The look on her face was priceless and she said these exact words:  “WOW!  Thank you for being honest and not making excuses.  I admire that.  It is refreshing.”

Needless to say, I got the client.

I had her at “HELLO,” errr…maybe I had her at “I’m sorry.”

Actually, I think I had her at “no excuses.”  It was “refreshing” she said, which means it is out of the ordinary.  It is ordinary to say you are sorry for being late, and it is ordinary TO BE late, but it is an exception to the rule to not blame anyone.

At the time, I did not realize how powerful this experience was.  It was not until months later,  when I heard a great speaker named Rick Olson present on giving great customer service, that it hit me.  Rick said “Never, Ever Blame.  Never, Never, EVER Blame.” 

Instead of blaming someone or something else, own the problem, accept responsibility, and hold yourself accountable for solving the problem.  EVEN if someone else created the problem. 

To me, this would be a breath of fresh air and it is the OPPOSITE of what this world does.  Since the day Rick made that statement, it has stuck with me, and now I notice EVERY time a person blames a problem on someone/something else.

In fact, the SAME day Rick spoke those wise words, we had lunch together.  At the restaurant, Rick ordered an ice tea.  About 3 minutes later, the waiter came over and said “Sir, our cook FORGOT to make the iced tea.  What would you like instead?”  He did everything short of rolling his eyes in disgust…

People DO NOT CARE why the problem occurred.  It has no bearing on us, and it is NOT our problem.  We are the customer, you are the business, we are paying you, and as long as we have the money, we are NOT obligated to listen to your pitiful excuses. 

What if that waiter had instead said “Sir, I am so sorry, but we don’t have tea available at this time.  We will prepare a fresh batch as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I would like to offer you another beverage and the appetizer of your choice ON THE HOUSE.  Would that be acceptable?”

WOW.  His tip would have been 10% higher immediately and I would have added the restaurant to my regular rotation.

Opportunity lost.   

Take this nugget of an idea and implement it and you will see immediate dividends.  People will respect you more, and you will become more credible.

Mr. Broker, do NOT blame that NEXT issue on your assistant.  I know it was his/her fault, but step up to the plate and take the hit.  The client will receive it better from you.  Try this:  “any piece of customer service that happens with regards to your account is my responsibility, and I take that seriously.  I apologize for <insert issue here> and I am currently working to resolve this issue.”

Then, show your assistant that you took the hit for him/her.  Instant respect.  Instant credibility.  Instant appreciation.  He/she will gladly stay late the next time your calendar dictates. 

Don’t believe me?  Try it.  It is one of the most powerful pieces of advice I have ever been given.  Ever.  Ever.

Thanks Rick!

Creative Commons License photo credit: a2gemma