The Quest for Integrity In Business

I can be a pain in the rear when it comes to good customer service. I think that is the cornerstone of a good business….and good business matters to me, because people matter to me and businesses are people. We forget that sometimes, and buy into the thought that a business is an entity of itself. It never really is, so don’t ever let anyone hide behind the idea of the “corporate machine”, lest you become the star of “The Emporer’s New Clothes”. Don’t remember that story? Google it, or go and read it here:

Public relations and marketing are fascinating to me. I have a fixation on both and have since my college years. Maybe even before that. Truth is, they can make or break a business. Over time they have become spin doctors…..those who mold the truth to make it palatable. In this world that is a great skill. One that can make or break a business. Unfortunately it can also make or break a person’s (company’s) character when used to pass off a lie as truth or only reveal part of the story.

I give feedback. Don’t ask me what I think about your business (or your personal life) unless you are prepared for the truth according to Kim. Not that I am always right….or that my opinion is better than your own or that I expect you to change things just because of what I say. But if asked, and often when not asked, I will try to give it to you, limited knowledge and all. You can tell me to stop, and I will. Almost always.

So, I was eating a Quest bar one day, one of my favorite protein bars for a variety of reasons (they meet my protein requirements….no wimpy amounts for me…and are constantly ranked as one of the best out there…and you know I am a geek who reads up on this stuff). Anyway, I noticed something in there that wasn’t supposed to be there. It looked like a hair, or maybe a string. Freaked me out for a bit, until I realized I didn’t think I had eaten any of it (note I didn’t ponder this at great length. If I did, I didn’t want to know.)

But because if I were a business I would want to know such a thing, I sent them an email. Not because I was horrified, or plotting a lawsuit (I find that silly and wrong), but because they needed to know.

They took immediate action….sent me a box to put the remains in and said they would study it. Had someone come and pick it up. Also sent me a couple of boxes of Quest bars…. which I was not afraid to eat, by the way. I had eaten hundreds before with no issue.

I thought that the whole thing was over, until I received a letter from them the other day. The letter made me love their company and not just their product. To me it was the best in customer service. Taking a complaint seriously, investigating it, figuring out what happened and why, putting in a plan of action for it not happening again, and keeping me included as part of the “team” solving the program. Here is that letter:

I share this to celebrate this company, not to shame them. I have much respect for how they handled the situation. Here’s what I think we can learn from this:

1. Check things out. I could have been a crazy person wanting to sue….or someone just wanting free Quest bars. They checked out my claim…..asked for the evidence. As someone who doesn’t like false claims, I totally respect this. If making a claim about the quality (or character) of a product, company, or person, offer the first hand proof to back it up.

2. Consider the fact that you might be wrong. Listen to criticism, check it out, and take it seriously.

3. Acknowledge fault. When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. Don’t gloss over it, don’t try to hide it.

4. Don’t only look at the problem on the surface. Ask the important questions – how did this happen and how can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?

5. Use any problem or mistake as a learning experience. How can it make you better?

6. How is your quality control team? Are the people who surround you effective at guaranteeing your quality? Whether you are a business or a person, having a good quality control staff is gold. Sometimes a business has to remind and re-train. Sometimes as an individual you need to make sure those who surround us care about our quality (our character and well-being) and make the effort to speak up or challenge when there are problems.

7. When people give you good feedback, let them know if you use it. Let them know if it changes who you are or how you do things. Even if it is years later. Too often we don’t do this, and we have neglected an opportunity to help that person see why they are here. Let’s encourage people for the good they do, and not just criticize those who de-rail us.

 8. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of people or companies. We all make mistakes. That bonds us. Let’s not be finger pointers, without being willing to make things better. And let’s be gracious in our forgiveness.

When problems occur, the best approach is just to go naked, not pretend you are wearing clothes, adding a few extra layers or putting on a complete disguise so no one can really see you. When we see others make mistakes, let’s remember our own and be part of their solution, not blow the problem out of proportion. Let’s also not ignore mistakes if they need to be revealed. Be pure in your quest. Covering up who you really are and what you really do does nothing but diminish your humanity and your integrity.

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