I had a battle royale with my toddler during shower time last night.
She is currently in the midst of an internal struggle between the desire to be big enough to take a shower and really hating water spraying in her face. It may not sound like a big deal to you or me, but for her, the struggle is real.
In as calm a voice I could muster (it wasn’t that calm), I asked her to turn her body around so I could rinse the shampoo from her hair. She refused, continuing to scream about the water spraying into her eyes. Finally tired of hearing my own voice, I turned the shower off and ran a bath instead. This sent her orbital.
The rest of the evening was about taking baby steps to be around each other again. At bedtime, I read her some stories and sang the songs that relax her. Perched on the side of her bed, I bent down to give her a goodnight kiss. I told her I was sorry the two of us had such a rough evening together. I was sorry I had gotten so frustrated with her.
Her body slackened and her face lit up with a mighty grin. She sighed and said, “Oh, Momma. I love you so much!”
So, your business isn’t centered around dealing with screaming toddlers trying to take a shower. What your business does handle is its customers and their issues. As a customer yourself, have you ever been told that your issues with a product or company was your fault? I can almost bet you have, and it makes you feel about two-inches tall. In doing so, the company is saying you are simply not smart enough to use their services, relinquishing all accountability and placing the ball back in your court.
When a company avoids taking the blame for its customers’ issues, it doesn’t have to change anything. There’s no need to assess what is right or wrong. Things are great as they are and life goes on. The company knows that if the customer can adopt the right perspective (the company’s), they will then be happy with the product and service.
In a post on Harvard Business Review, Peter Bregman discusses the detriment one can face when avoiding blame.
“Blaming others is a poor strategy. Not simply because everyone can see through it. Or because it’s dishonest. Or because it destroys relationships. Or even because, while trying to preserve our self-esteem, it actually weakens it. There’s a more essential reason why blame is a bad idea: Blame prevents learning.”
By placing the blame back on your customers, you are doing severe harm to your relationship with them and you’re missing a learning opportunity. This is a chance to make a change that could make many customers happy. By refusing to take blame, you are ignoring the problem. Bregman says there is one simple solution: “Take the blame for anything you’re even remotely responsible for.”
Another thing to note: customers do not care if your are technically correct. They want you to recognize the problem, take accountability and begin fixing it.
Imagine you ordered your favorite burger from a restaurant with the exact toppings you love. You’ve been dreaming about this burger all day long and then, right before you sink your teeth in, you see there is your least favorite topping on it – secret sauce! The staff could say you ordered it that way and then fix the problem by removing that grody secret sauce, but It makes things way more pleasant if they take the blame and then correct the problem.
Your business is your responsibility. Your customers’ happiness with your business is also your responsibility. Taking the blame for their issues builds rapport and trust. It also takes a lot of courage to be the one to admit fault. While many see admitting fault as weak, Bregman argues that it makes you look stronger.
“Contrary to what you may feel in the moment, taking the blame is the power move, strengthening your position, not weakening it. First of all, because once you’ve taken responsibility for something, you can do something about it, which gives you strength.”
Strengthen your company and its customer service policies by removing blame from your customers – those sweet toddlers screaming in the shower – and placing it back onto the company. There is a lot of power in taking blame. Be prepared to hear your customers sigh and say, “I love you so much!”
We want to hear from you! How do you feel about taking the blame for your customers’ issues? Tell us in the comments.