Beth was a good customer. She placed large orders for a law firm that had deep pockets. But she was tough and very particular. She wasn’t shy about voicing her displeasure when something was not right. For example, if we delivered her 7am Monday breakfast at 6:50am, she wouldn’t think twice to call and ask why, “It was delivered so early?”
Then, the following week she’d call at 7:05am demanding to know why, “breakfast isn’t set up yet?” I think there are people in the world who are more comfortable complaining all the time. Beth was one of those people.
Truth be told, I was terrified of her.
One day it struck me that if she was not satisfied with our services, she would not continue to order. I decided to accept that she will usually find something to grumble about – and try to take it in stride. As long as we don’t really screw something up, we should be ok.
One Thursday afternoon Beth called wanting to add tea to her 100-person breakfast for the next morning. “No problem,” I said as I was looking up her order.
But there was a problem. I didn’t have an order for her.
“I apologize, Beth. Can I call you back in a few minutes?”
(I left out the part that I couldn’t find her order).
After some investigation, hand wringing, and prayer, I figured it out. We had misdated the order for the FOLLOWING Friday. When I called back, I didn’t mention that if she had not called to add tea that the only thing that would have arrived the next morning at 7am would have been Hurricane Beth – and it would have been a category 5 – for good reason.
Why do I share this way-too-close call with you? I took the experience as a sign that a greater force had my back that day. But it was a one-time gift. To prevent it from happening again with a less fortunate outcome, we needed a better system. So, we implemented a second layer of cross-referencing for all of the next day’s orders. And it’s a good thing we did. Because it did occur again – more than once – but we always caught it.
So when something like this occurs, take it as a blessing and an opportunity to fix the flaw. And do it NOW. If you don’t, you might not be so lucky the next time. And there will be a next time.
When building a new business, or sustaining its long-term success, it is imperative to continuously be contemplating and implementing methods of improving your internal systems. In fact, sometimes the longer you have been in business, the greater the need is to take a look around and assess what changes can be made for even smoother operations.