When things go wrong

In the relationship between a wholesaler and a retailer or restaurant, things will go wrong. It’s just a matter of time.

A forgotten invoice. A screwed up delivery. A change of vintage from the 95 point wine everyone wants to the new vintage, which is only 85 points.

Or something bigger. A shift in the customer relationship. An unexplainable error in pricing. Major miscommunications. Arguments. Personality conflicts.

It’s just a matter of time: things will go wrong in the relationships with customers.

What do you do? You have three choices:

  1. You try to fix it. Even if it really isn’t your fault. You apologize. You explain. You own up to it. You propose ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  2. You ignore it, hoping the problem and conflicts go away.
  3. You tell the customer they are wrong and at fault. You start to burn the bridge, knowing the consequences if the fire catches.

In one scenario, years of relationships and hard work and sales may continue into the foreseeable future. You’re in a little more control of the outcome.

In another, you walk in every week wondering if this will be it. Will this be the week we get kicked out? Is this the week that a minor problem becomes a major issue? You’re in no control of the outcome.

And in the last scenario, where you are in full control, you destroy what you’ve worked for and any future profitability and relationship with that account. You’ve put a label on yourself that you have guts and are willing to walk away from the profits of that relationship. This can feel so good at first but will wreak havoc later as the employees and buyers from that account move onto other jobs. “I don’t work with that wholesaler. Let me tell you what happened five years ago at my former employer…” It can also become an issue as your wineries discover they have no future in that particular account through no fault of their own, only yours.

Maybe, sometimes, it’s best just to say you’re sorry.

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