Every once in a while a person or organization makes a big mistake. Customer satisfaction takes a hit and the problem goes viral in the press and on the internet (blogs, social media, websites, etc).

Why is this important?

The process of recovering from a big mistake will determine if an organization  or person will be forgiven or not.  The degree to which they are forgiven may impact the company’s fortune or the person’s future (financial, social, emotional, etc). Failure to take recovery steps  can affect revenue, profit and status for organizations and individuals as well.

What is clearly evident is that what might have worked in the past such as the manipulation of the media (the  keepers of the communication channels to the public), no longer works.

What are Big Mistakes?

Let’s look at a few high profile examples in the recent news.

1. Tiger Woods’ fall from grace started in Nov 2009 with a car crash in front of his home. Subsequent revelations exposed multiple sexual affairs and impacted his revenue from sponsors,  may have ruined his marriage and caused him to withdraw from public life, including his livelihood of playing golf for a period of time.

2. Toyota has had a serious falling out with governments and customers alike with recent recalls in late 2009 and early 2010. The main issue is the honesty and transparency of Toyota with both stakeholders on the safety of the cars they manufactured.

3. Most recently the Roman Catholic Pope has been criticized for lack of action concerning sexual abuse of children by priests, with recent stories from Ireland and Germany.

What is the normal practice for recovering from these very public issues.

How to  Recover?

1. Acknowledgment.

The first action any one or any organization finding itself in this position needs to do is to ‘acknowledge’ the issue. Failure to do so, makes the person or organization look like they have their heads in the sand; that they are in denial; or worse, that they are trying to cover up the truth.  In today’s social world,  these issues just won’t fade away. If there is no acknowledgment, the public pressure grows and more and more evidence is gathered to demonstrate the problem to the person or organization involved.

2. Ask for Forgiveness.

After the acknowledgment of the problem, the next stop to recovery is to go public (using the media and social ) with an apology.

a. Tiger Woods press conference Feb 19, 2010

b. Toyota’s president publicly Apologizes

c. Pope Benedict XVI issues an apology

3. Publicize Actions  to ensure the problem does not recur.

a. Tiger Woods has sought help at a sex addiction clinic and spoke of a return to Buddhism. 

Update as of Sept 2, 2012: the video that used to be posted here has been removed from its source by ESPN.

b. Toyota has started a program within his organization to review the processes top to bottom. In this video he promises to work to restore confidence of his customers.

c . Pope Benedict XVI is sending a pastoral letter aimed at bringing ‘repentance, healing and renewal’. The Bishops in Ireland have agreed to cooperate with government authorities in these matters going forward and address their parishioners with humility.

What to do  next?

The degree to which the announced actions are followed up with real verifiable and visible changes will often determine if these actions are good enough to restore customer satisfaction (fan satisfaction, or satisfaction with the church).

As an example, Tiger Woods recently announced he  is returning to golf for the Masters Tournament in April 2010. One of the things he failed to do in his  public apology in February  was to deal with the women he had affairs with, in his public apology. One of the women is coming at him with a vengeance now that he is returning to a more public life. She is exposing his text messages to her during their affair.

The lesson to be learned here is that all stakeholders have be considered when trying to recover from ‘Big Mistakes’.

What is your opinion?


The following two tabs change content below.

Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

4 Responses to “Recovering from Big Mistakes impacting Customer Satisfaction”

  1. Frank Brinkman Says:

    There is a delicate balance to the need to resolve the issues with all stakeholders. I have seen situations where the anger is so great that nothing will satisfy the offended and their grievances. Yes, an honest effort to even go beyond an apology to ameliorate the damage must be made. Yet, a decision must be made when not to satisfy unreasonable demands. There are individuals and companies that take advantage of the situation.

    Records need to be kept and a decision needs to be made concerning transparency of actions taken and recompense made to the stakeholders. Openness translates to a preception that the resolution provided is open to review by all re-inforcing the integrity of the solution and the person/company.

    There are circumstances where the offended party asks that the resolution is kept confidential. Resolution of the issues needs be restored and rebuilding of the reputation to be well on it’s way before normality can is possible.

    If hidden problems are found while rebuilding process is underway it will be much more difficult and expensive to restore the reputation.

    Excellent post Adele..

  2. Frank Brinkman Says:

    In the attached video from Al Jazeera – Europe is an investigative report. The scope of the abuse problem for the Roman Catholic Church is wordldwide. The satisfactory resolution and recompense to those injured are critical to the future of the church. Here is the link to the video: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35960566/ns/world_news-europe/

    Like the Toyota issues we have heard just the beginnings of this satisfaction story. Much must yet to be determined and resolved.


  3. BP CEO Tony Hayward ousted as Gulf Oil Spill Spokesman | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] my earlier post ‘Recovering from Big Mistakes in Customer Satisfaction’, about Tiger Woods, […]

  4. Suzanna Burgan Says:

    omg…elin nordegren is so sexy! i can’t believe tiger woods would cheat on her!

Leave a Reply

Hide me
Sign up below to receive a Free Report (Retail Value $150.00)
Name: Email:
Show me