Saving Face

save face

Avoid humiliation or embarrassment, preserve dignity, as in Rather than fire him outright, they let him save face by accepting his resignation. The phrase, which uses face in the sense of “outward appearances,” is modeled on the antonym lose face. [Late 1800s]
To do something so that people will continue to respect you. Are the ministers involved more interested in saving face than telling the truth?
See also: face, save
Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006. Reproduced with permission.” [The Free Dictionary by Farlex]
In our last post, we provided an example of a good way to respond to a customer’s unwarranted BBB complaint. In the example, the customer complained that your fence company was dishonoring your warranty because you would not, for free, replace parts of the fence damaged by their ferociously angry dog. Your response, besides explaining why post-installation damage by a dog is not covered under a workmanship warranty, also gave the customer the opportunity to “save face” by providing them with a means by which they could back out of the complaint while maintaining their dignity. In this post, we’ll talk about why that is so important for reputation management.

 Your Customers’ Dignity . . .

Once your good reputation has been attacked, it’s only human to want to retaliate in like kind. But that’s what children and immature adults do, not honest, ethical business people. How you meet the insult can make or break your reputation with future customers.
This may seem like a well-duh! kind of moment, but you would be surprised by how many erstwhile honorable business people don’t quite get it, while proven scoundrels do. The Letterista has visited the BBB sites of businesses who have ripped her off only to find that they have done the same to a plethora of others, as well. Yet, their responses to the complaints often include some measure of a face-saving concession. It actually makes them look like they bent over backwards for their victims when, in fact, the Letterista, based on her own experiences with the company, suspects they had not. Sadly, these companies are disingenuous, shown by the number of “customer was not satisfied by the company’s response” results.  But they’re worth studying for face-saving methodologies.
When you give your opponent the opportunity to walk away from his complaint in a dignified manner, whether he deserves it or not, you demonstrate to all the readers of that complaint that you are a bigger person than your accuser.  Think about it a second.  Have you ever taken umbrage at somebody else’s action, only to find out later that you didn’t have all the information or were confused or even that you were actually the one in the wrong? How would you like it if that person turned around and rubbed your nose in your mistake?
You would hate it, of course.  It would be quite humiliating and your relationship with that other person would probably be strained, at the very least. However, if that other person gracefully acknowledged that your aggravation had been an honest mistake on your part, you would not only agree, you would be much relieved, even grateful, at that person’s kind understanding.
Some of us call this the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Others might call it karma or something like that.  Either which way, giving your antagonist a safe way out is not only kind and mature, it is also very selfish.

. . . Is Your Gallantry

In the example above where you mistakenly took offense at someone else, what if that person did, in fact, rub your nose in it?  He’d be a real jerk, right? Anyone who heard the story, either from you, the BBB, a reviews page, or the jerk himself, would think the jerk was a real jerk if he couldn’t bestow a little understanding but just had to dance on your dignity.
On the other hand, by giving you the benefit of the doubt, not challenging your character or motivations for the offense you took, he looks like a knight in shining armor to all outside observers and to you, too. Who doesn’t love a good hero?
By providing your customer with a way to say, “Yeah, we didn’t have the dog when we hired you to build the fence, and we had no idea how much power this little guy would have, so we can see your point, after all,” you give him a way to save face with the BBB or whatever review forum on which he attempted to besmirch your good name. You still won’t get referrals from him, most likely, but he’ll probably not go spreading bad things about you, either. Had you not provided a face-save, though, he would likely feel cornered, and we know what cornered things do, don’t we?
By granting this grace, you look like a hero to all the observers and the BBB agents. So when people read your response, they think, “These people are very kind and patient. They would certainly treat me well as a matter of course. I think I’ll give them a call.”  And bam! Just like that, you’ve picked up another customer.
How selfish of you.
In the next post, let’s take a look at a genuine bad review and how it was handled by the business.
As always, The Letterista would love to hear from you with your own stories in dealing with unwarranted attacks on your business reputation.  How did you respond to complaints that you didn’t earn?  Were you successful?  Could things have gone better?  Please leave your comments below or visit the Contact page and write to us about your situation. We learn and grow from your individual take on life.

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The Letterista

Throughout The Letterista's adult life, she has been an employee for several employers in both retail and contract fulfillment (private contract companies); she's been a private contractor and a small business owner, as well. A great many years were spent managing the offices of a construction trade where the competition was thick and the stakes were high, so the proper, professional handling of complaints and bad reviews was more than just a little important. The skills of good documentation and letter-writing were finely honed in that environment. Now, she writes for fun and profit.

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