Investing in Damage Control

Everybody screws up. I don’t care how careful you are, how many times you double check your spelling, how many spare house keys you have, how often you hit the “save” key. Sooner or later, you’ll make a mistake, personally or professionally, and it will cost you. The best you can hope for is to reduce the frequency of such mishaps and minimize the damage control when things do happen.

We work with a number of integrators on a variety of projects, and the above axiom holds true here as well. But the way people handle their mistakes is telling for us; we are often more likely to look favorably on the integrator that makes occasional mistakes and responds appropriately over the one that has performed flawlessly. Why? Because Mr. (or Ms.) perfect is going to drop the ball sooner or later, and we don’t yet know how they’ll react.

Case in point: we are currently working with one integrator who is pulling cable on a large project. In areas where the conduit was exposed, the client asked that it either be painted to match the finish or hidden. When we brought that up to the integrator, we were given a lengthy explanation about how they hadn’t priced painting conduit in their proposal, that the client should have known what color it was, and so forth. As the specification calls for installed material be painted to match the surroundings in publicly accessible areas, it ultimately won’t be a problem. Coupled with the fact that the client is holding all the money, the issue is certain to be resolved to the satisfaction of our client.

Meanwhile, halfway across the country we are working with another integrator on a project. There’s been a flurry of E-mails today discussing a problem with a video server not meeting the specification (it doesn’t have the right number of hard drive bays for future expansion) and I just got off the phone with the owner of the company. His first and last question was “How would you like me to handle this?” End of story.

In both cases, the problems will be resolved. But the first integrator wants to be right, and the second integrator has decided to invest in damage control. When there’s a problem, he’ll step up and do whatever it takes to resolve the problem, understanding that he’s scoring points and winning clients. At the end of the day, when someone calls to check references, who do you think is going to win the most praise?


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