So should business talk about their mistakes? I’m going to start by saying that I don’t like to call them mistakes, they are more learning curves. I can proudly stand here and tell you I have made many, but from each and every one of them I have learnt a lesson and have been able to take my business forward. Maybe not in the direction or speed that I originally intended, but it was a step forward all the same.
Having spoken to many businesses, and I can tell you that although it doesn’t seem like it at the time, the learning curve enables businesses to pivot, improve productivity, communications or knowledge that would either protect or grow the business in the future.
When should we talk about about our business mistakes/learning curves?
At Squark we have been working with our clients to embrace any learning curves in the business and to use them to your benefit of the brand instead of hiding them away in your desk draw in shame, hoping that no one will ever find them. Learning curves should only be mentioned if they cover either of the reasons below:
– If they are customer facing and will effect brand trust.
– You have learnt something from it and as a result you or your business as grown in strength.
Internal struggles, arguments and anything else can be kept to yourself.
Why are we so scared to communicate our learning curves?
There can be a mixture of reasons, but being seen as a failure, stupid or unprofessional are up there. All of these are personal and emotional reasons rather than business reasons. Like with most things, the problem is generally bigger in your head than in reality. Let’s look at the following 3 statements we often receive from our clients:
‘Doesn’t communicating our achievements show they can trust us?’
You believe that only communicating your successes will improve your customer’s opinion of you. You made another 15% growth this year. You’ve won another contract. You’ve got another great testimonial – big whoop. You expect them to shake your hand and congratulate you on a job well done, when in fact most customers don’t care. Why don’t they care? The truth is if it doesn’t help the customer with their immediate problem, pain or stress, then their interest is a lot less.
If you talk about a customer facing learning curve and the solution you provided to make the customer, or situation better – that makes you real, relatable and honest. We are all humans and we all know errors can be made or wrong roads can be taken. If you went through life not making a mistake I’d think you were a robot.
Emotion helps us make decisions, and occasionally the wrong ones, but if you think about two companies, one that made a customer facing mistake, was open about it and showed how they resolved it, or one company that made the same mistake but you later out found about it in the press, which company would you have more trust, loyalty and respect for?
‘But I’m not that interesting..’
Being British, we love a story. You just have to look at the television for proof.
The news: Stories from all around the world.
Soap operas: Providing escapism through storytelling.
Singing competitions: How the contestants have had to go through a terrible event in their life but are striving forward to do the thing they love.
Stories are told because they are relatable. We all have events and moments in our life that are quite frankly rubbish, but we keep going. We are quite a resilient bunch.
In our lives right now, both personal and business, we all have a focus. You may just want to get to the end of the week, loose that extra weight, to go to a specific place around the world or even to make our first million. We are all on a journey.
For most of us we are so focused on the end goal we forget to enjoy the journey on the way there. The journey may not be filled with sweetness and light all of the time, but we would not appreciate the good if everything was great all of the time. This may sound all a bit too positive for you, but my message is simple – telling your brand story including the bumps along the way creates authenticity and relatability – just make sure you tell it in the right way (focus on the positives that came from the event).
‘But my customers wont understand.’
No business I have ever heard of has never experienced a mistake or learning curve. Shock horror – customers don’t mind. They know mistakes happen, but it’s how we manage them as business owners that counts – and how we will be remembered. KFC had no chicken and took out a full page advert in a well known paper being open and honest saying how they had made a mistake and apologised. Did it damage their business after chicken stocks returned to normal? No – because they were open and tackled the issue head on.
One of my design jobs that I had sent to print and came back with the registration marks on the final product. I phoned the printer, explained what I had in front of me and sent images to prove what I was looking at. The printers automatically turned round and gave my clients 20% off and an apology to forward on to them, along with the offer reprint the damaged copies. I was then able to phone my customer and tell him the issue, refund the money to him and he was able to give me a figure of how many damaged copies he had so they could be reprinted. He said to me later that he would hate to be on the wrong side of me. I took that as a compliment as I fought on the behalf of my client. Since then, that client has given me a further six projects to work on.
Customers just need to know how you will respond to any problems. If you don’t talk about them – how will they ever find out? How will they trust you? There will always be some doubt until they experience it themselves.
Being authentic, open and honest wins hearts and relatability. Boasting about profits and your amazing business – not so.