It seems that mistakes are no longer acknowledged. One of the most important childhood lessons I learned was how to accept being wrong. It taught me to be humble and to know that everything I do is not perfect.
Lately, it seems that every phone call I make to a customer service department at nearly any company, from those known for their stellar customer service, to those not so known for it, is answered by someone whose number one priority it is to assert just how right they are.
It doesn’t matter what I have called about because 99% of the time, they aren’t listening. All they seem to want to do upon answering the call is let me know that they are right. Their opinion is the only one that matters. Have a question? We don’t care. We’re not here to answer your questions. We’re here to be right. Is our product defective? Don’t care about that either as long as we’re right.
If everyone was perfect, it would be a pretty boring world. We learn from our mistakes. A mistake is a small form of failure. Failure rocks because it teaches us how to succeed. “Why do we fall down? So we can learn how to pick ourselves back up.” (- Batman Begins, 2005)
All of this rightness begs the question: If every company is always right, who does that leave to be wrong?
It leaves only the customer to be wrong. How do you think that makes customers feel?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Think about it for a second. You’ve just given your hard-earned money to a company. You’ve got a question or a problem, so you call customer service, and the first thing they tell you is that you’re wrong or your question is irrelevant. How does that make you feel?
This kind of rightness can only lead to resentment and a damaged brand. The good news is that always being right presents opportunities for competitive companies to steal away business. People do business with people they relate to. People make mistakes. Companies make mistakes. When they can admit it, they go well together. When companies claim to be perfect, humans can no longer relate to them, and they move on to someone else.
When companies claim to always be right as a flawed tactic for eliminating liability or due to an over-inflated ego, they are really losing customer loyalty by alienating people and creating a disconnect that damages their brand reputation.
Whether you are building a personal brand or protecting a corporate brand, you must learn to relate to your customers, admit your shortcomings, and embrace your failures. Only after doing these can you realize your greatest possible success.
My call to businesses great and small: Go out and fail today!
Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.
Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.