Sorry seems to be the hardest word

We drive a Volvo family car, since a car of this brand once saved my life in a car accident.

Last May, my wife had a meetup with her best friends. On friday night she picked up 2 other friends from our neighbourhood and they drove to the city of Leiden, usually half an hour from our home in The Hague. But suddenly they heard this strange cluttering frighting noise banging somewhere in the front of the car. At the nearest highway parking, they stopped the car to check visually, but they couldn’t find anything. But as the noise still occured and frightened them, they drove now very slowly to the friend’s meetup which was already nearby.

Another friend at their meet had a closer look but didn’t find where this noise came from. My wife called our Volvo garage to ask if she could continue driving back that night, but they were busy and someone would call her back very soon. My wife then called roadservice ANWB, and within half an hour their mechanic checked and found the evil quickly. It seemed that the bolt’s of the left front wheel weren’t secured safely, but just loosely attached! What a shock to my wife, this could have ended totally different. What if the wheel would have gone loose on the highway….

The roadservice mechanic said this was a serious fault from our service station (we had changed our wintertyres two weeks before this incident). And this should have never happened! But he kindly fixed the bolts and told and reassured her that she could drive back home safely, and that she should contact our garage immediately to check on any damages that might have been occured. Perhaps they needed to replace elements.

So next morning, saturday, my wife again called our Volvo garage as she hadn’t received a call back. To inform how to handle. They were busy and would give her a call back. Monday she called again, no call back.

I came home on tuesday and was in shock when i heard about this incident and that our garage didn’t call her back. Why? I always had high stakes of them, expecting a professional team taking care of driving in a safe and secure vehicle. So during lunch time i visited them and asked about the incident. To my surprise i directly met the head of customer service. The man was totally aware of this situation, telling me it was still under internal investigation and that was the reason why they hadn’t called back yet.’ It must have happende two weeks before during the exchange of winter to summer tyres.

‘But why haven’t you called my wife’ i asked him. Because they first wanted to find out what caused this incident was his answer. Full of emotion i bursted out that i really didn’t understand why he still hadn’t called her, seemingly not aware that my wife was seriously afraid what could have happened in the worst case to her and her friends. And i was mad about that as well! And even afterwards no calls, knowing nothing what to do with the car (driving) next. I went home for work.

At 15:00 my daughter called me ‘Dad, there’s a man with flowers at the door’. It was the head of service from our garage. I invited him at our kitchen table and offered him a cup of coffee. He made apologies to me and handed me 3 things: a large bunch of flowers ‘for your wife’, a bottle of wine and a voucher for spending a few hundreds of euro’s at their garage. This all to make good for what happened.

We talked about his role and the situation and i understood that they were worried about what happened and found it a serious internal incident, working and discussing on it with their team.

I said to him: ‘Thanks for the flowers, the wine and for the voucher. But may i now give you one advice: Please call my wife as soon as possible to say sorry directly to her.’ He seemed to understand and would do.

Tuesday evening, no call to say sorry…

Wednesday, no call to say sorry…

Thursday, no call to say sorry…

On Friday, he called my wife.

When my wife and i returned home on friday evening and she told me about the call from our garage, I asked her how she felt now. Her answer was simple: ‘It’s too late now to offer the apologies, simply too late’.

And that’s my whole point, writing this story for you. Large or small things happen in our lives and things go wrong. Not intentionally, things go wrong. But let’s not forget about how our customers feel in these situations.

How simple would it have been to organize your process and the awareness of all our teammembers in a way, that when you realize that such a serious incident has happened, someone ‘simply’ CALLS THE CUSTOMER to have a human interaction, understanding how bad this must have been for her and simply SAYING SORRY.

Is your organisation ready to say Sorry?

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