Customers often say some of their suppliers lack a sense of urgency when things go wrong. They also say that their very best service providers respond quickly, assign appropriate resources, and do not point fingers looking for who is at fault. They convey a sense of responsibility, thoroughness, and accountability. They communicate effectively. In short, they “own the problem”; they provide a sense of comfort to their customers by showing that action is being taken to resolve the issue.
When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, we want our service providers to show us that they care. We want them to help us, be there for us, and care about us. We want them to be as concerned about the problem as we are. We want them to them to take our concern seriously, we want them to feel our pain, and we want them to help us find a solution as soon as possible. Immediately would be good, very soon may be acceptable.
When things go wrong we want our suppliers to empathize with us. We want them to understand the nature and scope of our problem. We want them to say – and more importantly, do – the right things, right now.
When suppliers do not respond immediately, it sends the wrong message. Correctly or incorrectly, delayed responses send a message that the supplier does not think the problem or the customer is important, or that the supplier lacks the proper resources or knowledge, or that for whatever reason, the supplier does not care.
E.G. Insight recently experienced a serious problem over the past two weeks. One of our web-based programs suddenly stopped working. Our clients’ access to the program was severely limited, and our clients were concerned – and rightly so. We contacted our supplier, we contacted our programmers, we contacted our help desk, we contacted everyone we thought touched the problem in some way. We reached out, we waited impatiently, we hoped, and we worried. We communicated to our employees, we communicated to our clients, we continued hoping and worrying for what seemed like an eternity.
All but one of our suppliers and partners helped us. Some helped more than others, but they all helped. They all did what they could, except for that one. We suspect the one recalcitrant supplier may have caused the problem – perhaps that is why they were reluctant to respond to us and to help us, or maybe we are wrong. Maybe that has nothing to do with it. Maybe they were too busy, or too short of resources. Maybe they didn’t know how to help us. Maybe they didn’t care. Their perceived lack of urgency makes us wonder. We fixed the problem without their help, and now we’re wondering if they even want our business.
Here is the lesson in all of this: When problems occur, respond quickly, assign appropriate resources, do not point fingers, and communicate thoroughly. Show your customer, by your words and actions, that you care – own the problem.