May 16, 2008

The Blame Game

I was driving around listening to Dr. Laura the other day and a woman called in to complain about something a neighbor said to her. She is an admitted career women with 3 young kids. Her 5 year old was sick one day and stayed home from school. It was the little girl's birthday and the mother left before she got up that morning.

In the middle of a meeting, this woman got a phone call from her daughter asking her if she is going to bring home a birthday present for her after work. This woman had completely forgotten that it was her daughter's birthday. So, after work, she scrambled to the store and bought a toy and wrapping paper. On the way home, she phoned a neighbor and said, "I need to stop by your house on the way home to wrap the present!" The neighbor said, "Oh, well, I'm leaving right now - sorry!" This mom scrambled to find another place to wrap her present (she said, "I needed TAPE afterall!") and while at the other house, received a call from the first neighbor saying, "You can come over, I can wait until after you come to go do my errand." The mom had the audacity to get mad. She said, "Nevermind, I already found someplace else" and hung up. She was complaining to Dr. Laura about how rude her neighbor had been to her to not let her come over in the first place.

There was stunned silence on the other end of the phone. I think Dr. Laura was rendered speechless (which is almost impossible). She said, "You have got to be the most self-centered human being I have ever heard from. You honestly got mad because this woman was leaving her OWN HOUSE to do errands instead of waiting to solve your problem? You REALLY think people should disrupt their own lives for you? That is so self-centered!"

I must admit that I was shocked at the caller's attitude, too. I would have never gotten mad because my neighbor wasn't home to serve me.

This happens in business, too. Times are tough for many businesses. I have recently heard of some businesses messing up orders and then blaming customers. One business didn't send an order in a timely manner and when the customer had to make other plans for products that didn't show up, they asked to send the products back for a refund. The response of the business who had messed it up was, "Well, that would be a hardship on us if you did that." HUH? SO?!!! They didn't hold up their end of the bargain and when it cost the customer money because they had to purchase products elsewhere at a higher price, the vendor had the audacity to complain that it would be financially damaging to them to give her a refund.

I don't like the "blame game" that happens at times in the industry (and in many industries, actually). People blame others for their own mistakes or failures or complain about failure being inflicted on them. I say, put on your big-girl panties and deal with it as professionally as you can - without excuses and without blame. If you can't deliver what was promised, make it better, don't point fingers.

Years ago, I was a consultant with a direct sales company in the industry. My experience with them was why I started ScrapBiz. For months, I had white cardstock and black Zig Markers on back-order. Every time I asked about it, I got, "Oh, the wholesaler is out of those." I had a hard time believing that even then. But, guess what? It was pure baloney because when I started ordering from that same wholesaler, I brought that up and the sales rep - the same one who was working with this direct sales company, laughed and said, "We are NEVER out of those - they just weren't paying their bills so we stopped shipping products to them."

You don't have to lay it all out there - TMI or "too much information" is another problem at times. Your customers don't need to hear every detail, what they need and want is a professional response from you and for you to make the situation right in a manner that makes them happy. Don't blame them for your shortcomings. You exist because they buy from you, they don't exist because you sell to them.


Kimberly Van Buskirk said...

Kim you are so right on about this topic. My husband and I have noticed that people are less willing to take ownership of thier mistakes. It seems like it is always the other parties fault. We need to be held accountable for our actions every day!!
Kimberly VB

Kim said...

You're right! Owning up to your mistakes is a sign of maturity both personally and professionally.