Seldom does the core value of respect come to center stage in the corporate world as it did in a story I heard today.
The customer had a right to be very angry. The service they had contracted for was not delivered on time.
But how they responded was atrocious
Judy, the senior sales representative from the providing company was called in and told she had to fix the problem right away. No problem yet, we would all do something similar. What happened next was the height of disrespect.
The customer escorted her into an office, locked the door, gave her a phone and a glass of water and said “I am not letting you out of this room until you fix the problem.”
Fast forward. Judy’s first act was to call her boss, a senior vice-president for sales, to ask for his advice. Without hesitating he told her to inform the customer he would be there right away.
Half an hour later this sales executive was in a meeting room with the angry customer. The latter was as pleased as punch that he had managed to get someone at the head of the organization to come across town for a meeting so quickly.
But what happened next took to customer completely by surprise. The executive said,
“Your anger at our not meeting contractual expectations is quite appropriate. But what is totally out of line is the way you treated my associate. I will not tolerate disrespect in any form. In my books human relationships are at the heart of business practice. I need you to apologize to Judy for the way you treated her.
After a period of uncomfortable silence the stunned customer stammered out an apology.
This story had a good ending. The customer service issue was resolved. It does not always turn out that way. Such a confrontation could lead to a loss of business.
However, the customer had a moral center that led to the apology.
What the executive told me was the clincher.
“I was willing on principle to lose the account. Respect for people is central to our company and myself. If I have to choose between respect and profit, respect wins hands down”
What is your view on how the executive responded to the customer?
How do you balance doing the right thing with doing well?
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