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How To Handle The Occasional Oop-See!

Q: My company is really in hot water with one of our best customers. I can't reveal exactly what happened, but suffice it to say that we really dropped the ball and the customer is furious. I'm not even sure we can save the account. What's the best way to get back in a customer's good graces after making such a mistake?
-- Charles W.

A: Without knowing the full story, Charles, I can't give you a specific course of action, but let's start at the sharp end of the uh-oh stic...

Small Business , Oop-see can help make things all better

Q: My company is really in hot water with one of our best customers. I can't reveal exactly what happened, but suffice it to say that we really dropped the ball and the customer is furious. I'm not even sure we can save the account. What's the best way to get back in a customer's good graces after making such a mistake?
-- Charles W.

A: Without knowing the full story, Charles, I can't give you a specific course of action, but let's start at the sharp end of the uh-oh stick and work our way back to see if we can come with up some advice that might help.

First off, it's important that you understand that the magnitude of your mistake will determine the course of action you take to make amends. If your company's error was such that it caused your customer a significant amount of lost time or revenue, embarrassed them publicly, caused damage to their reputation, or otherwise negatively affected their bottom line, you may face legal repercussions that saying "I'm sorry" will not deter. If that's the case you should consult an attorney immediately and prepare for the worst. Whether or not the worst comes is irrelevant. You must be prepared for it.

Now on to dealing with more minor offenses. As anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows, I'm cursed with daughters. I used to say I was blessed with daughters, then they learned to walk and talk. Blessed quickly became cursed. Now my oldest daughter is an inch taller than me and getting all lumpy in places I'd rather not think about. She's a sad case, really. The poor kid needs an operation. She has a cellphone growing out of her ear. But I digress…

When she was a toddler she coined the phrase, "Oop-see!" Whenever she did something innocently destructive, like knock over a glass of orange juice on my new computer keyboard or shove a Pop Tart in the VCR tape slot, she would look at me with her huge brown eyes and say, "Oop-see!" My wife says there is a reason God made kids cute. Oop-see moments are evidence that she is right.

Oop-see meant, "Uh oh, I didn't mean to do that. I was wrong. I'll never do that again. Forgive me? Love me? Buy me toys… Oop-see worked like a charm every time. Now, I certainly don't expect you to bat your eyes at your customer and say, "Oop-see!" but consider the effect her words had on me. Instead of screaming at the top of my lungs like I wanted to do (hey, have you ever tried to dig a Pop Tart out of a VCR) I immediately softened and found myself actually taking her side. "Aw, it's OK, really, we all make mistakes…"

What my daughter had figured out is that it's hard to stay mad at someone who admits a mistake, sincerely apologizes for it, and vows never to let it happen again. Little did I know this was only one of many tactics she would employ over the years in her never-ending quest to wrap her daddy several times around her little finger, but that's a whole different column.

Dale Carnegie said it best: "Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes - and most fools do - but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one's mistakes."

Carnegie and my daughter were basically saying the same thing: When you (or your company) make a mistake, no matter how large or small, the best thing you can do is quickly admit the error of your ways and face the consequences, come what may.

Here are a few things you can do to help set things right with your customer.

Assemble the facts. The very first thing you should do is find out what went wrong and why. Meet with your key people and gather the facts. Ask specific questions like: What was the mistake? What caused it? Who was involved? What could have been done to prevent the mistake from happening and what can be done to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes. I've been on both ends of the uh-oh stick and neither is very comfortable. My company has dropped the ball on occasion and we have also been negatively impacted when one of our vendors did the same. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and consider what could be said or done to remedy the situation from their point of view.

Take responsibility for the actions of your company. In my role as a company president there have been times when I've had to call up a customer and confess that a mistake was made, and as president it was also my responsibility to take the heat for it. Remember, you're the head cheese, Charles, you get to sit behind the big desk and take home the nice paycheck. You're also the one that gets to mop up when your employees makes a mess. It just goes with the job.

Do not place the blame on specific employees. No matter how tempting it is to put the blame on specific people in your organization (even if that's where the blame lies), do not do it. It is unprofessional, counterproductive and can backfire on you, especially if the person you're blaming reports directly to you. Saying something like "My sales manager is always making mistakes like this!" is not going to make your customer feel any better. To the contrary, such statements will make the customer question your leadership ability and the quality of all your employees, not just the one that made the mistake. If you don't have faith in your company and employees, why should your customer?

Don't deny that a mistake was made, especially when there is clear evidence to the contrary. You're not Richard Nixon, for petesake, so don't try to pretend that the mistake didn't happen or stage some elaborate cover-up to try and dodge the blame.

Admit your mistake. This may sounds trite, but you must admit your mistake before you can move ahead and start to make amends. Don't be so afraid to take this step. I doubt your company is the first one to screw up with this customer and I can guarantee you certainly won't be the last.

Apologize for the mistake. The one thing that could make the situation better is often the thing that companies find hardest to do. I don't mean to sound like Dr. Phil, but simply saying you're sorry is often the best way to get a business relationship back on track. Ensure the customer that it will never happen again. After you have taken responsibility for the mistake and apologized in a sincere and professional manner, you must then start the process of rebuilding the trust that was lost. Promising that such a mistake will not happen again is a good way to start.

Compensate the customer for his loss. Even if your mistake didn't cost the customer a dime, he will appreciate an offer of compensation. This can be something as simple as a lunch on you or a discount on his next order. The size of the compensation offered should be in direct proportion to the size of your mistake. A word of warning: don't let the customer bully you into overcompensating him for your mistake. That can be more detrimental to the relationship than the mistake itself.

As my daughter understood all those years ago, Charles, a sincere Oop-see can help make things all better.

Here's to your success!


How to Build and Manage a Successful Fundraising Team

When planning a large fundraising project it's important to put together the right team. Once the team is assembled managing and motivating them can be a real challenge. This article has some great tips and ideas to help you lead your fundraising team to victory!

easy fundraisers for teenagers

For larger fundraising projects you should put together a team to help you otherwise you will be stretched far too thin and stand a good chance of failing. The ideal team from a cost perspective is volunteer-based but you might have to occasionally hire someone especially if it’s for a specialized task that most people can’t do.

Many people dread being asked to volunteer and do so begrudgingly but you will be surprised at how many people you ask will be more than happy to “roll up their sleeves” and pitch in for no other reason than to help out a good cause.

The best people to approach in building your fundraising team should be individuals or groups that are sympathetic to your cause. Example: Parents with players on the football team have a vested interest in helping the team get new uniforms.

Others are just naturally giving in their time and are usually involved in several projects at once. If you can land one of these types of go-getters on your team they often have the drive and ambition of several volunteers.

To find volunteers just use common sense. Try the people that are tied to the cause first and build from there. You might consider placing ads in your local grocery stores if they have free Community Bulletin Boards in the entrance and exits. Another idea is to approach your local paper and see if they will donate a small ad for you to use to find help.

Talk to your prospective volunteers and tell them exactly what you are trying to accomplish and what you would expect from them in terms of time and effort. It’s a good idea to have some type of fundraising plan drawn up that you can show them as this not only shows that you are organized and serious but they will also be better able to see how the time and skill requirements fits into their schedules and abilities.

Training should be done by you or someone that knows the exact role the volunteer will be performing and you want to be sure to thoroughly go over any tasks and duties they will be performing so there are no misunderstandings later on. Be careful to not talk down to them or lecture them. Remember, they are giving you one of their most precious resources, their time, so respect that and them as a person and you will go far.

It is important to match the task with the person when making job assignments. You probably wouldn’t want someone who is an expert in selling to stuff envelopes when they would be more valuable and happy working the phones trying to solicit donors.

If you are working from an office environment be sure and make it as pleasant and comfortable a place as you can. Easy access to snacks and drinks (maybe provided free by a generous donor?) should be available and any other creature comforts you can add will be most welcome.

If it’s a long project you might want to consider some type of event for reaching a milestone. This would of course depend on your budget but it could be something as simple as bringing in pizza to celebrate.

Always keep an eye out for overwork and stress. People that have volunteered want to help you so respect them and if it looks like they are being overwhelmed it’s time to bring in some more help. The key idea is to keep them happy and wanting to continue to help rather than feeling like they are stuck because they are too polite to quit.

Be sure and give praise and say thanks often to each and everyone of your volunteers. Let them know how appreciative you are of their help.

Keep an eye out for any personality conflicts and work swiftly to resolve them. This might be something solved easily like relocating someone to another part of the office or it might mean asking the person to leave. Don’t be afraid to do this if you have to because you ultimately are responsible for the group as a whole and the success of the project falls on your shoulders. Be a leader!

Follow these simple steps, communicate frequently, respect and thank your team often and you will find that your fundraiser will be a great success!


How To Discipline During The Terrible Twos

You didn’t think it would happen, but it did. The sweet little angel that you were raising has turned into a hell raiser almost overnight, a being who seems to defy you at every turn and who is bent on the wanton destruction of most of the items in your house. She refuses to listen or to go to bed, commits acts of violence against siblings, refuses to eat on occasion, and says hurtful things to you. The terrible twos are upon you, and you need to decide on the best course of ...


You didn’t think it would happen, but it did. The sweet little angel that you were raising has turned into a hell raiser almost overnight, a being who seems to defy you at every turn and who is bent on the wanton destruction of most of the items in your house. She refuses to listen or to go to bed, commits acts of violence against siblings, refuses to eat on occasion, and says hurtful things to you. The terrible twos are upon you, and you need to decide on the best course of action to ensure everyone’s survival.

The key to discipline at any age, including the terrible twos, is to understand why your child’s behavior has undergone a change. It is probable that your child will not experience the behavioral manifestations typically associated with the terrible twos upon turning that age. Many parents observe changes in their children’s behavior well after and sometimes even before the age of two, and the fact is that these behaviors can continue for quite a while.

A child who is undergoing the behavioral transformations of the terrible twos is actually expressing a greater awareness of both himself and those around him than he may have realized existed previously. Combined with a lack of verbal communication skills, your child may become frustrated and begin to act out this frustration in acts of defiance that appear to be merely selfish behavior- in some cases, this may be true, as your child is also learning to stretch her boundaries and push their limits.

The key to discipline in the terrible twos is understanding. It will be very hard to remain calm when your child is outright defying you or throwing a screeching fit, but it is imperative that you focus on the issue and push aside your frustration and anger- punishing your child in anger may only serve to exacerbate the situation. This is the age at which you will want to begin incorporating discipline techniques such as time outs and the taking away of privileges, things that a child will understand.

In short, the best discipline tool you will possess at this developmental juncture will be your own self-discipline. Many parents will cling to the idea that physical punishment is necessary at this stage, but the fact is that when this is applied it can make the situation much worse. Too often physical punishment is a sign of the parent’s own frustration.

The key to the terrible twos is structure. You should set a schedule for your toddler, as difficult as this may be with your busy life. This is really the only stage in your child’s development where a schedule needs to be adhered to, for the simple reason of maintaining the sanity of the entire family. Set strict limits, and do not stray from them when your child tries to stretch them. When it is needed, apply discipline in a consistent manner and pattern, so that the child does not receive a mixed message. Do not make threats that you will simply never back up- you can bet that your child will stop falling for these the instant she senses you are not going to carry through (ie “Well, I guess we will just leave you here in aisle four then!”). Finally, when you have to discipline the child, make sure you explain why you are doing so. Never give in to their tantrums.

Effective discipline during the terrible twos starts with the parent. In truth, it may start long before the terrible twos do. If you spend enough time with your child, developing their communication skills and abilities, the odds are that you will not experience some of the more terrible aspects that the terrible twos can bring.


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