Mistakes Happen, But Go All Out to Make Things Right

Eric Frederick |

I’ve always believed that it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. I’m sure that most of my readers will agree with that statement, but the reality of customer service and retention is that we often don’t follow this advice through our actions.
The first step in developing a good customer relations program is to realize that our organization isn’t perfect and we will make mistakes.
Our service flaw isn’t always caused by the action or inaction of our customer. A good relationship is like a good marriage: it takes two parties fully committed to make it work.
The second point we must address is the fact that our world is constantly changing.
Technology and competition are realities in both the healthcare and hospitality markets. Our customer must adapt to the demands of their customers or lose business. We, as their supplier, must be willing to help them to succeed in this changing environment.
No one likes change. Some changes directly affect the profitability of our laundry operation in a negative way. Clear and honest communication is needed to help meet the needs of both organizations.
Honest communication doesn’t mean offensive or brutal communication. It simply means that you’re willing to explain to the customers what can be done and how that affects your operation.
I have a firm belief that people will make good decisions when given accurate information.
If a customer feels the need to use a special gown in the mammography department in order to compete with alternative services in the area, then it’s our job to let them know how their request affects our operation, how we’ll have to process and track the item, and any other additional charges that may occur if they proceed with offering this new item.
Only the customer can determine how important the new item is to their success or failure. Is the new item worth the additional operating cost? Let them decide.
You must work constantly to improve your service. No organization is perfect all the time. A service failure provides the opportunity for a service recovery and a chance to improve your relationship with the customer.
The keys to providing good customer service:

  • Listen carefully. Repeat the customer’s concerns until you’re sure you’re both talking about the same thing.
  • Don’t be defensive. Apologize for any inconvenience a problem may have caused.
  • Ask what you can do to make the customer whole.

Every customer has an expectation of how a problem should be resolved. The closer you get to their expectations, the better the customer will feel. Asking them directly what they’d like makes it easier for you to meet their expectations. Most times their requests will be reasonable, but if they aren’t, then at least you’ve opened the dialogue.
Good customer service is rare and hard to find. If you practice good customer service in your organization, then you’ll stand out from the rest of the providers.
All of us make mistakes, but only good organizations use it as an opportunity for improved customer service.
The ultimate goal is to keep your existing customers and give them reasons to encourage others to use your service. Remember, a happy customer will tell three or four people about how good you are. An unhappy customer will tell everybody about your faults.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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