On a whim of hopeful optimism, I took my winter coat, hat and scarf to the dry cleaners for the end-of-season cleansing. What I got back was a coat, a scarf and an unraveled pile of yarn.

The once-was-a-hat was hanging in the plastic just like the other items, with no note or acknowledgment that the item was no longer functional. When I pointed the damage out to the attendant, she offered no apology. Instead, she took it back and said that they would send it to the tailor and if it could not be fixed then I could come back in and file a claim to receive pro-rated damages.

I am sure that this is not the first article to be damaged, making me wonder why there is not a process in place to address it in a way that preserves the customer relationship. It’s bad enough to ruin an item, but why make the client come back at least once, and only offer a partial settlement instead of replacing it? I wonder if I am going to get a refund on the dry cleaning cost!

Mistakes do happen, but I would have felt much better if they had said: “We want to let you know that the machine damaged your hat. We are so sorry! We sent it to the tailor who could not repair it, so here is a refund as well as no charge on your order.”

Every organization has processes that go wrong but don’t let your reputation unravel because of them. Customer service ratings are highest for organizations that effectively respond to service failures. You’d be wise to proactively prepare for missteps so you can wow your customers instead of losing them.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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