Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

Sorry - say it with meaning, not flowers

16 February 2017

HMRC has been trying to make amends for any inconvenience caused, by sending a bunch of flowers. However, the eight and a half grand bill has left taxpayers blooming mad.

Depending on which newspaper you read, the tax authorities have spent between £8500 and £10000 over the last three or six years, sending flowers to citizens, whom they’ve rubbed up the wrong way over tax matters.

They certainly mal-rubbed a little deli in Manchester with an implausible tax demand. We’re talking a business so little you have to enter the door sideways - and two customers at once means one is queueing in the street.

Anyway, according to documents revealed to the national newspapers, this business, which has a shopfront as wide as a whole paving stone, had racked up a VAT bill for over £979 million. The ever-so-slightly overcome owner would have collapsed into the street, were it not that she was standing at an awkward angle and couldn’t fall sideways through the door. The error - by a factor of ten thousand - was eventually admitted by HMRC, who sent a revised bill (for about £17000) and a letter of apology, and - just for good measure - a £10 bunch of flowers. That’s about the same as a decent spray of flowers from the local petrol station. The note of apology arrived after the flowers, which only added to the confusion. Oh well, carry on regardless and compound an error with another error.

Accepting that even perfect, six sigma, zero-errors, corporate ninjas get hit by lightning now and again is a pragmatic part of commercial life. The real secret to business is not achieving the impossible, it’s how you deal with the possible - the possibility that once in a blue moon you might not exceed customer expectations.

Good business means being prepared for everything - even lightning strikes. Put as much thought into your error elimination, complaint handling, and customer care - as you do into your front-end service and production - and you won’t be left wilting like a daisy in the heat of an angry and soon to be ex-customer’s ire, when things don’t go as smoothly as a lily drifting on a millpond.

We all live in an ever increasing blame culture. Someone always has to take it on the chin for some malfunction, malappropriation or malpractice. That’s bad news for everyone, unless you’re a professional liability insurance broker, in which case, business has never been better. However, if you’re a publicly accountable body with a reputation for multi-billion pound foul-ups, you’re absolutely going to get pruned to the roots for sending flowers as an apology for making mega-mistakes.

If there’s one blooming good piece of advice to take from all this, it’s to make sure that when things do go wrong, you nip the consequences in the bud, and don’t let it develop into a whole bunch of troubles.

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springfords blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

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