Errors Show Us How to do Better
Posted on 30 September 2016
We all hope that we will learn from our mistakes. There was one error I made many years ago that, while technically not my fault was an experience that when recalled, still makes me feel terrible and almost cringe with embarrassment.
It was September, 1998 . There were 4 brothers in the family and they were first time customers. As with many of our customers at that time of year, the clothing was needed by a very definite date: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
We always close at 5pm on the first night of Rosh Hashanah and are closed over the following two days. Over the course of that final day customers were coming in to pick up the last of the clothing that had been altered for the holiday. As the afternoon wore on I noticed that this family had not come in to pick up the boys’ suits. Prior to the holiday we had made customers aware of our revised hours. So I made the assumption that for one reason or another they did not need the suits until later in the week and we closed at 5.
When we reopened after the second day closed the boys’ mom came into the store. In the midst of the holiday rush and preparation she had forgotten that we would be closing an hour earlier on the first night and did not come until 5:30. And we were closed. Her sons had to make do with old, ill-fitting clothing for the New Year.
I must express my admiration for this lady. And gratitude. As distressed as she was, rather than taking out her anger and disappointment on me she said that the error was entirely her own. She had indeed been told about our earlier closing time but did not plan her day properly. Her sons would still get good use out of the suits for the rest of the upcoming religious holidays.
As gracious as this lady was, I felt as terrible. Even though I had done nothing wrong, I realized that neither had I done right. All that was necessary as 5pm approached was to pick up the phone and remind her to pick up the suits before we closed. And THAT, was my fault. I apologized for my what to my mind was an inexcusable failure and told her that I would do my best to make up for it, one way or another. She was again, most gracious and as it turned out became one of our most loyal customers for over a decade until all her sons outgrew Crawford Boys.
What did I learn from this?
In general: Never assume that we are doing all we can for our customers. Always be thinking about how we can go an extra mile.
In particular: For holidays over the course of the year for which we close earlier than usual and/or close on the following day our policy is:
- Post change of hours on the door.
- Post a notice at our front counter.
- Change our phone messages to reflect the revised hours.
- Verbally inform customers in the week prior to the holiday.
The internet/social media age allows us to:
- Post notices to our facebook, twitter and instagram pages
- Send a email to our customer list advising them of the change
And perhaps most importantly, since that day in September, 1998………..
Starting almost a week before the holiday we phone each and every customer with finished alteration work and remind them of the change of hours.
That is what we call ‘going the extra mile’. Yes, I most definitely learned the lesson.