A simple question, I thought. I was wrong.
A few years back, without thinking more carefully, I created a situation that resulted in an experience with me that was anything but wow. That was a bummer because I’m a firm believer in the importance of creating great experiences with anyone who will interact with you and your employees regardless of their role. And in this case, I was the one who blew it.
Mistakes happen. As human beings, that is an inevitable fact of life. How you handle the gaffe, I believe, is what makes the difference between turning an honest mistake into a positive outcome. I think of my early days as a customer service representative. It was amazing to me how I could quickly diffuse an angry customer situation simply by listening, acknowledging their pain and apologizing for the problem that occurred.
But on this day… I wasn’t paying attention. Here’s the story.
I use a scheduling tool called TimeTrade. Hours of wasted time and hassle when scheduling meetings are mostly a thing of the past. When I agree to meet with someone, I simply send them a link to my calendar. They find an opening that works for them and book the time. My calendar is automatically updated and all is right with the world. That is until it isn’t.
As a general rule, I don’t post my calendar link publicly. I know that many of my colleagues do post a public link as a way of creating a CTA (call to action), but my biggest concern was that instead of potential clients booking time with me, I’d be inundated with calls from salespeople trying to sell me. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to give it a try. I included my calendar link at the bottom of a newsletter with a few sentences that said if you’d like to have a conversation about our social selling services you can use the calendar link to book a meeting. What ensued was some temporary chaos. What I thought might happen, did. More than one sales person used that as an opportunity to book time on my calendar. Their objective wasn’t to learn about our services, though. Their goal was to try and sell me on theirs. The lack of integrity among many salespeople still surprises me.
I learned a lesson, and honestly, it had been months since it happened. I had forgotten all about it.
Which leads me to my mistake.
Looking at my calendar one particular morning, I noticed that I was scheduled to have a meeting with someone I didn’t recognize. Not a personal contact, we are not connected on LinkedIn, and I do not recall ever meeting the individual. I think the problem is that I felt burned by the earlier experience which definitely caused an error in my judgment. And the message in the schedule confirmation seemed suspicious. Perhaps this was a classic example of seeing what you expect to see?
What to do?
I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I wasn’t about to waste my time either. Been there, done that. I sent a message to the person and asked them to clarify for me the purpose of the call. Without thinking, I went on to say that I typically know the people that I am meeting with and was curious to know how they booked time on my calendar.
In the moment, asking for clarity about the call’s purpose made sense. After all, the message did not say that the meeting was to discuss our sales services. But that is irrelevant. Forgetting that we were the ones who made the link public was certainly my first mistake. I compounded my mistake when I assumed that this individual’s intentions were less than honorable. As a result, I did not think more carefully about the words I used in my email, nor did I consider what the question would feel like to the person reading my message. As it turns out, this was a legitimate buyer, who, judging by their response to me was offended by my question. I don’t blame them.
What’s the lesson?
Everyone makes mistakes, and I made a big one that day. What harm would it have done to take the call? If it was simply another salesperson, I could have ended the call right away. Or, if I’d stopped and thought more carefully before sending my email asking for clarification about the meeting, I wouldn’t have offended the individual who booked time with me.
That situation was a reminder to me that we should always stop and think before we act. Realizing my mistake, I offered a sincere apology. Though I never heard from that person again, I know I did the right thing by acknowledging my mistake and saying I was sorry. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.