KNOW HOW

How to Humble Yourself to Customers

If you screw up, own it. Nothing is more impressive than authenticity.
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People don't love companies. They love products, experiences, and people. If you want to create love, you have to work at it. One way we work at it is through customer surveys.

Listening to customers can be really humbling. Over the summer, we did a survey and found out we weren't always meeting their expectations. They'd say, "I loved this product, but it took three weeks to get it" or, "I love the product, but it took three weeks to get it, and it was the wrong size, and I couldn't return it."

I felt the best way to respond was to write customers an email. I wanted to say, "We're real people. We heard from you, and here's what we're going to do."

I wanted to communicate some honest humility, empathy, and show that we're being responsive. We didn't just tell people we would try to be better. We had a plan in place. We introduced what we call a 100 percent smile guarantee. We said, "If we don't make you smile, let us know, and we'll fix it." That guarantee included things they asked for, such as free shipping and returns, but we also developed technology to help us exceed their expectations. Now, for instance, if an item goes on sale right after a customer buys it, we automatically credit his account. The onus is on us to exceed customer expectation, not on the customer to tell us something's wrong.

The key to building trust in any relationship is authenticity. So if you screwed up, own the situation you're in. People respect authenticity. If you're authentic about what you heard, the challenges you face, and the motives for the changes you're making, customers will give you a whole lot of runway to make it up to them.

As told to Inc. staff writer Issie Lapowsky.

IMAGE: Joerg Buschman/Gallery Stock, Jamie Chung
From the November issue of Inc. magazine




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