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Customer Mishaps and What To Do About Them

It happens to the best of us.  The simple truth is, we are human and no matter how hard we try, we WILL make mistakes.

Case in point. Apple Inc.

J.D. Power has ranked Apple highest in consumer satisfaction for smartphones eight years straight since the introduction of the first iPhone.  But even Apple messes up sometimes!  Let’s look at the iOS 8 release fall of 2014…major bugs were detected and they quickly released iOS 8.01 as a fix.  What happened next?  Well, iOS 8.01 caused, even more, problems and was pulled within an hour.  Will they fix the problem?  Of course, they will.  But they still made a mistake, and they will be held accountable for it.  They are not just going to let it go, nor will they let their customer base suffer.  So whether you have millions of customers, or just 10, you need to resolve mishaps with care, kindness, and expediency.

A colleague once said to me…

Handling customer complaints is like riding a motorcycle, you must stay calm and focused in order to survive.

Note, I have never driven a motorcycle, but I did get the point.  Completely.

Everybody who works in the field service industry will come into contact with a customer who is just plain angry. In fact, it might not even be your fault, but we have to be sensitive to the customer and do our level best to make things right.

So let’s look at how to handle an irate customer.  The basics will be the same, regardless of whether you are face to face with the client, over the phone, or via e-mail.

  • Listen: This may seem obvious, but I mean really LISTEN.  Stop multitasking, you are on a motorcycle now, not riding the train.  Pay attention to details, tone of voice, body language and facial expression (if you are face to face with the person).  In an e-mail, read the tone, respond quickly, but not hastily.  You see, sometimes all a person wants is to be heard.  You can be that sounding board.
  • Apologize:  The moment that there is a break in the conversation.  Be sincere.  Be human.  Say “I’m sorry.”  This simple gesture can go a long way.
  • Empathize:  Put yourself in the persons’ shoes, and understand that they are frustrated.  Acknowledge their concerns, and gain their trust so that they feel confident that you are going to make things right.
  • Take Responsibility (when it is your fault):  If something went wrong and your company is to blame, OWN IT, and make it right.  If it really is not your fault then listen to the client and try to determine how you can best make them happy and realize, and this can be tough, that sometimes you cannot make them happy.
  • Turn it Around: With assurances in place that you are going to fix the problem, apologize to the client again and thank them for their continued loyalty.  Thank them for their feedback, and ensure them that you will indeed share the feedback with the team in order to improve the service.
  • Follow-Up:  Even if you don’t have a resolution yet, follow up within 24 hours.  Even if all you have to tell them is, “I’m working on it”.  Use the communication channel that the customer prefers.  A phone call would be best followed by an email.  Let us not forget the power of a handwritten note!  It’s a fact: people still love REAL mail with an actual stamp on it!  It shows a certain degree of thoughtfulness and can go a long way.

The key takeaway here is that we all want to do the best and be the best the first time around.  The reality is that we do all make mistakes from time to time.  Great training and great employees can make your business really good, but I believe that it’s how we rise to the difficult stuff that makes a business great.