I recently read an article by Wally Amos, founder of Wallyís Muffin Co. He described a situation in which most of us would automatically become defensive and fight for our rights. In other words, knowing weíve been wronged, we would fight to prove Iím right and you are wrong! In pursuing that fight, we often lose more than we win.
This particular article grabbed me because Wally saw the situation
in a way I had never thought of before. In brief, he had purchased
an e-ticket from an airline. At the airport with few minutes to
waste before boarding, Wally is informed that there is no record
of his purchase and he must purchase another ticket to board the
plane. With barely 20 minutes to get from the ticket counter, through
security, to the gate and on board and seated for take off, he had
to make a quick decision.
We are constantly faced with situations we donít like, didnít
cause, may only be annoying, but might be very costly time-wise
I have two pet peeves that cause me great annoyance: telephone solicitations
(especially taped political recorded messages) and unwanted faxes.
There was a time I wouldnít dare take my blood pressure right
after either incident! At times, I fumed and fumed for quite a long
time after an incident. However, I am now trying to recover from
these self-inflicted anxiety attacks.
In fact, I was just interrupted with a phone solicitation. I gave
my usual response, ďPlease remove our name from your call
list. We will not donate to telephone solicitations. Thank you.Ē
As I hung up, I realized what I had been writing. I had applied
Wallyís perspective. And I feel so much better!
While such minimal stuff has little to no importance in the big
picture of life, how we handle such annoyances can affect how we
handle the major stuff.
BUSINESS CRISES HAPPEN
As business people, often by trial and error, you try diligently
to cover all your bases in detail so that you will be able to deliver
a superior product on time and right the first time. However, the
truly unexpected, not your fault, problems happen. The following
are not atypical situations.
1. You just installed a beautiful window treatment ensemble of the
highest quality. The customer was present to see the final dressed
out work of art. She gushed and gushed over how beautiful it was.
She even called her mother to tell her to come over that evening
to see them. She didnít pay you on the spot because her husband
pays all the bills. Not to worry. She loved what you did.
The next morning at 7 a.m. the customer leaves a message that there
are problems with her treatments. Please call as soon as possible.
As you listen to the message, your stomach churns. When you call
her back, she says the draperies are not made right.
When you make a return visit, she confesses that she stared at her
draperies for four hours before she could figure out what was wrong.
It seems that the print is not matched at the seam, which you would
not know unless you did study it for four hours! In order to match
it as the customer wants you would lose 12 inches off each width,
which would greatly reduce the fullness or require additional widths
of fabric. Of course the customer does not see why that is her problem!
Oh, and in the dining room, the pattern at the bottom hem line is
off 1/8 inch! (This paragraph is not a made up story!)
2. You have closed a sale for the newest, most wonderful hard treatments.
Because they are a new and original design, you have to work with
a new vendor. When you receive the order, the sizes and patterns
are wrong. A phone call to the vendor determines that you must send
back the wrong order before they will ship the corrected order.
This takes time and you notify the customer that a problem has arisen
but itís being taken care of. The customer is annoyed for
having to wait longer, but sheís willing to wait. When the
order comes in again, it appears to be correct. You arrange the
installation of this order.
Oh no! On the job you discover that some of the measurements are
still wrong and parts are missing. You apologize over and over but
the customer is angry. She has lost her faith in you. As you leave
the customer, with only part of her order installed, you realize
that you will now have to pay additional fees to the installer for
a return installation because this job just happens to be two hours
away from you, not to mention your time and gas.
When you call the vendor again, they are most uncooperative and
not willing to work with you for an expedient resolution and they
want to charge you additional fees. Of course they are not at all
receptive to reimbursing the additional costs to you because of
their mistake. On top of that, the customerís irate husband
has called demanding that the treatments be installed correctly
in two weeks or he wants a full refund. This means another trip
for you and your installer to remove the treatments you did install
even if you lose the sale.
WHAT TO DO?
A. Take a deep breath and try to clear your mind for a moment. Strive
for quiet and peace. You need to take the emotion out of the situation
and look at the situation objectively, as if you are an observer.
B. Consider your customer. Is the customer behaving reasonably?
Customer #1 is not, but you can sympathize with customer #2.
C. What are you willing to do to fix the situation?
Customer #1: You might be willing to eat the cost of additional
fabric and remake the mismatched draperies, but can you really get
the pattern in the hem of the dining room draperies perfectly accurate?
If you can adjust the pattern to get it perfect, and likely hand
hemming to do that, will your customer then say the drapery is hanging
unevenly from the floor? Considering that the customer took four
hours to find a problem in the first place, do you really think
she can be satisfied? How many times are you willing to rework the
Customer #2: The customer has already said what they want. What
are you willing to do to see that they get what they want? Even
if you are willing to do anything to deliver on time, it doesnít
mean that it is possible.
D. Do you have the power to fix the problems? This is the key question.
Customer #1: As you talk with the customer further, you realize
that she is finding unreasonable fault with everything. You might
be able physically to resew the draperies over and over again, but
to what end? If you rework the draperies one time and she still
is not satisfied, you likely do not have the power to fix her problem.
She may very well be someone who is looking for a discount to save
money and thus will continue to find problems.
Customer #2: You cannot control your vendor. Ten days later, during
which time you incurred more costs in your efforts to get what you
needed, you receive your order, but there are still unacceptable
mistakes. You have made a valiant effort but there is nothing you
can do to change the vendorís behavior. The customer is already
alienated. Should you try to talk with the customer and persuade
her to be patient? At this point, she has probably lost all confidence
in you and the product. Would it be better to give the customer
a refund and lose the sale completely and then do what you can to
work out a credit from the vendor?
The Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom
to know the difference.
This prayer is all about serenity, i.e. peace. Wally knew he could
not resolve the e-ticket problem in the timeframe he needed to do
it. Thus, he peacefully did the only thing he could do to make his
flight on time. He didnít say if he later tried to get his
money back. His point was that he calmly accepted the situation
knowing he could not change it and knowing he was losing money.
Can you accept that you cannot change Customer #1? She is the way
she is, period. Can you accept that you cannot make your vendor
do and be what you want to satisfy Customer #2? Every person and
every business is unique unto itself. You can only control yourself
and how you perceive others. The point is not whether either of
these situations can be resolved amicably and without financial
loss. It is how you accept what you cannot change.
In this fast-paced world of today, it is essential to find peace
whenever we can and as often as we can. Becoming anxious and annoyed
about something is a decision. Itís your decision. Choosing
to peacefully try to solve problems rather than to do so in anger,
frustration and worry is a decision. Accepting what you cannot change
and doing it with peace is also a decision. You may loose money
but itís only money. Itís not your health. Itís
not your family. All the worry and anger in the world cannot change
what you cannot change!
Whenever small annoyances rise up, acknowledge your anger and annoyance
and that you canít change them. Accept them with peace and
move on and practice this process. Then when major issues arise,
you can automatically resolve them with serenity. Itís wise
and itís healthy to accept what you cannot change. Do it calmly
and peacefully, but with resolve to make the best of the situation.
Who wants all those frown lines on their face anyway?
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale
drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she
is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm
offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes
professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines.
She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry
vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and
Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.