Keep Clients Happy by Humbly Asking Forgiveness

December 08, 2010

Keep Clients Happy by Humbly Asking Forgiveness

By Jeanne Bliss

As Catherine Walker’s Alzheimer’s disease advanced, her daughter Gail Watson tried to balance her mother’s disease and caring for her ailing father. Struggling as caregiver to both her parents, she found Vancouver, BC-based Nurse Next Door, a company that rescues caregivers by providing support to help care for loved ones at home.

Founded in 2001 by John DeHart and Ken Sim, Nurse Next Door was born out of their personal experiences when, seeking a caregiver for their parents, they were repeatedly sent inappropriate candidates. Like many small businesses born out of personal passion, Sim and DeHart’s business has grown rapidly. But as with any fast-growing business, growing pains occur. So DeHart and Sim decided that when mistakes happen, they would send a sincere and heartfelt apology, explaining what went wrong, how they will resolve the situation, and humbly asking forgiveness.

How $1,500 Spent on “Humble Pies” Saved $100,000 in Business

When they slip up, Nurse Next Door sends a freshly baked pie as part of their apology. Not any old pie—they send a humble pie, with a note that says, “We are very humbled by our mistake and sincerely apologize for the poor service.” They depend on a few local bakers in Vancouver to supply the pies, the most notable of which is an outfit called Acme Humble Pie. Sim and DeHart say, “What’s wrong with eating a little humble pie?” Especially when a customer is at stake?

Decide to Say “Sorry”

Gail Watson, whose story we began with at the top of this blog, received one of those pies after Nurse Next Door missed her initial appointment. Though she was angry at first, the swift delivery of a heartfelt apology and the whimsy and humility of this simple gesture took the edge off. Watson remains a loyal customer today.

What started as a spontaneous gesture by one employee is now a regular part of how Nurse Next Door nurses customers’ wounds from the occasional service failure. DeHart estimates that yearly, Nurse Next Door spends about $1,500 on humble pies, but saves around $100,000 in sales. “It’s more about keeping clients than a question of whose fault it is. The value of lost clients is very high,” DeHart says. “And satisfied customers share their experience with friends and family.”

Since its early years, Nurse Next Door has thrived and grown to become British Columbia’s largest home health-care company. It’s likely that their much-talked-about services fuel their growth . . . or do people just want a piece of that pie?

Go Try This

Evaluate How Well You Say “Sorry”

  • How would you rate your ability to identify and acknowledge mistakes?
  • How would your customers say you are doing?
  • Do customers rave about your humility and recovery from mistakes?
  • How do your decisions to recover from mistakes compare with this beloved company?
  • Do your apologies earn you “beloved” status?

Can You Decide to Say “Sorry”?

  • What’s your version of “humble pie”?
  • Are you open enough to consider that there are times when you’ll need one, and proactively go out there and find a baker to make them?
  • What’s one way to earn back a customer’s trust when you occasionally slip up?