I was raised in a business where the make-good was a vehicle to cultivate relationships.
When we didn't run your radio schedule in the right dayparts - we never said sorry, that's too bad. We offered make-good spots.
When we ran the wrong ad copy, we never said - oh, how embarrassing for you - we offered make-goods.
When we ran your sixty-second commercial spot next to a competitor - after we promised not to - make-goods where what we offered.
It was a rare moment when the radio station suggested a cash refund. In fact, so rare I am not sure we ever did. For a couple of reasons.
We wanted the cash to stay on the books. We were after all - a for profit business. If we suggested make-goods on the next schedule the implication was there would be a next order. We wanted to keep the client relationship moving forward.
We wanted it known that yes - we acknowledge the fact we screwed up but we care enough to make it right and to do better the next time you picked us to air your ad campaign. We knew that it was a lot easier to renew an existing customer - even a slightly disgruntled one - than to go out and find a new one. And the best way to do that was to let them know we cared enough to own up to our error and right our wrong.
What we never, ever did was say - Gee, so sorry that happened. Too bad. Here's your money back. Buh bye!
We looked for a way to make that client feel heard and special - because we knew at the end of the day that is all any of us really want and that is how relationships are cultivated. We knew the relationships we made were the foundation of our reputation - both personally and as a radio station - and that would pay itself forward. It was never just about our product and delivery - but how we made that client feel.
We understood market volatility. It was inherent in the radio business. One day they had to buy our station - the next our ratings could sink to the bottom of the heap and we were nothing more than an afterthought. Our relationship was key to getting bought in those downturns.
So when there was a problem - we looked to make it good. We had no email to hide behind in the eighties. We faced our dissatisfied customers. We picked up the phone and had a real, live human conversation. We didn’t wait 24 hours to respond. We were on it immediately. No matter how big or small the client was. We made it urgent. And those of us who were particularly smart, knew that when there was a really big problem, our best bet was to avoid the phone and get ourselves in front of the person with whom we'd screwed up. Because that is how the best relationships are cultivated and that is how things get mended when torn apart.
I've taken that philosophy to every place I have ever worked and continue to embody it today in all of my business dealings. It’s how I built my reputation as someone people wanted to work with.
So I'm always surprised when I encounter people who don’t.
Especially in a world where it only takes one disconcerted person to take your misstep to soclal media.