If you’re startin’ here, you’re four days late. Back the truck up.
A few years ago, I fielded a very angry call from a guy whose wife and young daughter had attended our church a few times. He was steaming (rightfully so) because his wife had come home with an address directory that included her name, her daughter’s name, and their address, phone number, and email address. Her husband was asking me the question How did it happen WHY did it happen and WOULD YOU LIKE FOR ME TO REARRANGE YOUR FACE?!? (My answers: I don’t know. I’m not sure. Maybe next week after my glamour shot.)
No seriously, I apologized profusely and told him I’d have to find out and call him back. After a couple of hasty conversations, I was able to return his call and tell him that his wife had accidentally picked up an address directory that was intended for a Summit Kids’ leader. That’s a really short way of saying that we identified a systems problem from the Sunday before.
Here’s what I’ve learned from that and other similar incidents: anytime you blow it, you have to regain ground. Whether it’s rebuilding trust or putting feet to your apology, people need to see that you’re serious about fixing what you broke. Here are a few ways to make that happen, along with some examples from this particular incident:
- Explain why it was a problem. My angry guy already knew there was a problem: I’d published his wife and daughter’s info for anyone to pick up. My goal was to explain to him that it was a bigger problem than he thought. I told him what had led to the incident, why it shouldn’t have happened, and the Summit’s desire to let guests proceed at their own pace when it comes to a relationship with the church.
- Explain what you’re changing. When you take steps to identify the problem, go a step further and figure out a solution. In this case, we’d printed the name of a prospect as a part of our general membership directory. We’d left that directory on a common table that was intended for leadership, but accessible by anyone. I explained that our administrative assistants were now instructed not to publish guest information in a common directory, and directories weren’t available to anyone unless they were a designated leader over a specific group of people. (Even now we have people who ask for a listing particular groups: stay at home moms, business owners, etc. We don’t share that information if there’s not a Summit ministry behind the request.)
- Follow up at a later date. Following up proves that you’re still watching the situation and gives your critic an opportunity to share any further issues with you. In this case, follow up wasn’t necessary (“Hey, has your wife picked up any directories with her name in it lately? Do you still want to beat me up? I sure hope not!”). But in most cases, you can follow up to make sure the situation is still resolved to their satisfaction.
What do you think? What are some particular ways that you can regain ground after you’ve blown it? Comment below.
See all posts in this series:
- You Blew It
- I Know You’re Sorry, Now Apologize
- What Went Wrong?
- Regaining Ground
- It’s Not Me, It’s You