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Sharing Excellence in Parking & Mobility Management

Perspective (Waayib)

Welcome to “WAAYIB.” In the Mayan language of ancient Central America, this word means “The Dreaming Place.”

For the Maya of Central America, the time and place of sleep was revered as the refuge of the supernatural, as if one was visiting a sacred temple in search of enlightenment and reinvigoration.

In “WAAYIB,” creative inspiration could arise from within one’s self, or be a revelation from ancestors or deities. This inspiration was only possible when one put away the worries of the day and surrendered control over ones thoughts to the starry night sky.

In "WAYYIB", or "The Dreaming Place" of sleep, ancient Mayans believed revelations about the future could be experienced (Glyph is courtesy of Inga Calvin, "The Hieroglyphic Decipherment Guide," 2012.)

As Latin America is the focus of our services, we reflected upon this concept as a way to present our thoughts on ourselves and on serving the Public Customer. We should not take ourselves so seriously that we cannot enjoy what we do. Nor should we take our Public Customers so lightly that we cannot empathize with their troubles.

The Public Customer, especially in transportation settings, often has little or no choice in transportation options. In many cases, we are not competing for the business of Public Customers as if we were in a market. Rather, we are dictating to the customer how they will receive the service we are providing.

This shift of power from the customer to us should place a special burden on those of us in Mobility Management. Because when this shift occurs, the Public Customer becomes a Captive Customer.

For us, “The Dreaming Place” is a time to enjoy our profession of helping people reach their destinations in life. It is a place to be sensitive to the wants and desires of the Public Customer. It is thinking about how to free the Captive Customer.

We have the knowledge and power to improve the quality of transportation services the Public Customer receives. Let us share our knowledge with our peers and our power with our customers.

Join us here in “The Dreaming Place” for the way things could be or should be. Let us imagine . . . or re-imagine transportation service.

The Power of Saying “Sorry” , Part 2

(Not Being Sorry Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry. For Part 1, see here.)

Part 2: When to Apologize?

Barbara Kellerman, in an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review (When Should a Leader Apologize and When Not?) says, “Leaders should not extend public apologies often or lightly. One or more of the following conditions should apply: The apology is likely to serve an important purpose; the offense is of serious consequence; it’s appropriate that the leader assume responsibility for the offense; the leader is the only one who can get the job done; and, the cost of saying something is likely lower than the cost of staying silent.”

However, on a smaller, personal scale, the risks of ‘sorry’ are much slighter, as for example in the case of a mobility management patron who has experienced a billing error or whose car has been vandalized. In Part 1 of this post series we mentioned there were two kinds of “sorry”. One brand of “sorry” expresses empathy; the other delivers justice.

But sometime customer-victims want both. For example, when an incident of vandalism is first reported to management, they are looking as much for “empathy-sorry” as they are “restitution-sorry.”

Saying you’re sorry early in the process – and meaning it – can defuse a larger emotional bomb down the road. Early in the process, with an investigation of the incident pending, you probably are not in a position to provide restitution. But not offering even a few crumbs of empathy or contrition tells the customer you simply don’t care and you’re probably hiding the truth. Unrequited anger is left on high boil…and you’ve just left the kitchen.

The Art of Being Truly Sorry

There’s a bit of art to properly processing ‘sorry’, but it can be learned.

For example:

  • I’m so sorry this has happened” [you recognize the event, real or imagined].
  • I know you’re upset and concerned about this” [you acknowledge the emotion].
  • Please allow me to investigate this on your behalf and get back to you” [you offer action].
  • Here’s what I can do for you right now” [you offer something tangible in real time].

Acknowledging the customer’s pain and promising some action keeps the relationship momentum positive . . . or at least rescues it from its downward arc.

When Sorry is Easy: Giving the Customer Good News

Later on, you may be able to tell the customer some “good” news – well, good news for the customer, not necessarily for you.

Perhaps upon completion of a review of the incident, you discover it was indeed your – or your firm’s – responsibility. You now face the inevitability of cost or liability from the error. At this point, there is not much downside to “sorry”.

Sorry as in, “Upon investigation, it turned out that the incident was indeed our error. Again [reminding the customer we have been empathetic all along], we are very, very sorry for this inconvenience. Here’s what we propose to fix this situation…”

When Sorry is Difficult: Giving the Customer Bad News

Or, you may have to deliver some “bad” news. Maybe the error was on the part of the customer. However, at that point at least some trust and good will have been built up and the customer is more likely to be accepting of the outcome. In this sense, you want to express that you’re sorry – empathy – for the distress the incident caused the patron.

This is also a moment of opportunity to exceed the customer’s expectations. For example, you might say, “As I promised [reminding the patron you followed up on your earlier commitment], I checked with our insurance carrier and the vandalism is not covered by us. However, I’ve prepared this report for you on the incident. You can provide this to your own insurer and, of course, I will be available to answer any questions they might have . . .

[. . . Pause for customer acknowledgement and acceptance . . .]

[. . . Continuing . . .] Again, we are terribly sorry this incident has occurred and although we’re not directly responsible, we’d like to offer you [insert something of value here] as a token of our good will.”

Toss Me a Bone?

The token should be something tangible, within your immediate power to deliver and have real value to the customer. Think about what to provide in the context of the future value of that disgruntled patron. A discounted or free month of service? Car detailing?

If monthly parking is $100 per month, maybe give the patron a special rate of $80 per month for five months. This keeps the patron coming back. And if they leave, never to return, it doesn’t cost you anything. Hey, you offered.

Making Things Right Again

Perhaps this is what Wells Fargo and John Stumpf will evenutally do for customers whose trust they betrayed in the recent scandal where Wells employees created fake customer accounts to meet corporate sales goals. Stumpf promised in testimony before the U.S. Senate panel, to make things right,” but didn’t illuminate the path to that destination.

However, Stumpf finally did something he should have done at the very beginning of the crisis: In his opening statement to the panel, he said, I am deeply sorry we failed to fulfill our responsibility to our customers, to our team members, and the American public…I want to apologize to all Wells Fargo customers. I want to apologize for violating the trust our customers have invested in Wells Fargo. And I want to apologize for not doing more, sooner, to address the causes of this unacceptable activity.”

If only Stumpf had said all that at the very beginning, perhaps the reaction would have been more muted, the bank’s reputation would not be in tatters and the institution’s coffers would not be $185 million lighter due to fines and penalties related to the problem.

Bottom Line: Find a Way to Say it

Atlanta-based attorney Ally Fuqua acts as outsourced “in-house counsel” duties ranging from strategic planning, to litigation and contract management for parking industry operators. Fuqua says, “You can be helpful – and sorry – without admitting liability. Be careful how you say you’re sorry, but don’t be afraid to say it.”

(Want more information? Please check out our forums. If you have comments or suggestions for improvements to our content, please share your experiences with us and other professionals visiting our site. Add your comments below – if Comments are “on” – or by contacting us directly here. This post was adapted from an article previously published in magazine or website format. The author retains all second serial and electronic rights. This work has been updated, edited and is distributed by the H2H2H Foundation with the express permission of the author.)

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