6 Tips for Managing A Customer Service Nightmare

You love your customers. So when they get mad at you, it’s painful. You feel bad. It was out of your control. It was an accident, and if you could go back in time, you would have stopped it.

Yet here you are with a very unhappy client on the phone. They’re hurting. You’re hurting. They might even be yelling at you and threatening to terminate your business relationship. What should you do?

Keep cool. This scenario happens to the best organizations, from small businesses to Fortune 500 brands. At this point, the mistake has already happened. Instead of feeling bad and dwelling on a bad situation, you need to focus your energies on making it right. Mistakes happen, and most customers get that. But if your customer service sucks, the damage will be irreparable. So here’s what you do:

1. Keep cool, listen, and don’t take it personally

Focus on the objective at hand. Listen to your client. Do not (I repeat – do not) start making excuses. Just keep quiet, and focus your energies on understanding the full extent of the problem. At this point, the last thing you want an unhappy client to do is to repeat herself. Show that you care, but don’t get upset. What you’re doing right now is focusing your mental energy on getting through the rest of your conversation.

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2. Say you’re sorry

It doesn’t matter if your customers are in the wrong or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault. When your client is upset, you’re sorry, and that’s that. Things go wrong. Even if your client is mad, he knows that. He needs to be confident that you’re committed to making things right.

3. Take action immediately

At this point, you are your client’s customer support system, and you need to take action on resolving the problem immediately. Walk the talk, and be relentlessly committed to finding a solution. If you can avoid it, do not stick them in a queue. When you go the extra mile in maintaining a personal touch, your client will notice. Most importantly, you’ll show that you’re equally committed to the success of your client’s business as she is.

4. Get the team involved

If you can’t solve an issue alone, ask for help. There is no shame in looping in your team, especially if the customer problem is outside the scope of your responsibilities. If you’re going to open up the conversation to the rest of your team, do it fast. And let your client know.

5. Be an emotional support system and provide consistent status updates

Angry clients are likely losing out on time, money, or both. They are likely on edge and would very much appreciate regular status updates. Even if an update seems pointless, remember that there are emotions at play. People feel good when they’re kept in the loop. It’s a kind gesture that few businesses execute well and will truly help you stand out from other sales and customer service reps (who are stragglers).

6. Learn from it

Share your experience with the rest of the team, and to the best extent possible, make sure that it never happens again. The learning experience is something that you can and should reinvest into the future success of your business.

7. Follow up

Keep tabs on your customers to make sure that everything has been resolved. Send a follow-up note as a reminder for how much you care. Depending on the extent of the problem, send a gift or freebie if you can. A small personal touch can make an entire world of difference.

Mistakes happen. How you handle a problem can make a world of difference. Don’t let your hard-earned customer relationships fall through the cracks because of a silly misunderstanding. Be the best partner possible.

You love your customers. So when they get mad at you, it’s painful. You feel bad. It was out of your control. It was an accident, and if you could go back in time, you would have stopped it.

Yet here you are with a very unhappy client on the phone. They’re hurting. You’re hurting. They might even be yelling at you and threatening to terminate your business relationship. What should you do?

Keep cool. This scenario happens to the best organizations, from small businesses to Fortune 500 brands. At this point, the mistake has already happened. Instead of feeling bad and dwelling on a bad situation, you need to focus your energies on making it right. Mistakes happen, and most customers get that. But if your customer service sucks, the damage will be irreparable. So here’s what you do:

1. Keep cool, listen, and don’t take it personally

Focus on the objective at hand. Listen to your client. Do not (I repeat – do not) start making excuses. Just keep quiet, and focus your energies on understanding the full extent of the problem. At this point, the last thing you want an unhappy client to do is to repeat herself. Show that you care, but don’t get upset. What you’re doing right now is focusing your mental energy on getting through the rest of your conversation.

2. Say you’re sorry

It doesn’t matter if your customers are in the wrong or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault. When your client is upset, you’re sorry, and that’s that. Things go wrong. Even if your client is mad, he knows that. He needs to be confident that you’re committed to making things right.

3. Take action immediately

At this point, you are your client’s customer support system, and you need to take action on resolving the problem immediately. Walk the talk, and be relentlessly committed to finding a solution. If you can avoid it, do not stick them in a queue. When you go the extra mile in maintaining a personal touch, your client will notice. Most importantly, you’ll show that you’re equally committed to the success of your client’s business as she is.

4. Get the team involved

If you can’t solve an issue alone, ask for help. There is no shame in looping in your team, especially if the customer problem is outside the scope of your responsibilities. If you’re going to open up the conversation to the rest of your team, do it fast. And let your client know.

5. Be an emotional support system and provide consistent status updates

Angry clients are likely losing out on time, money, or both. They are likely on edge and would very much appreciate regular status updates. Even if an update seems pointless, remember that there are emotions at play. People feel good when they’re kept in the loop. It’s a kind gesture that few businesses execute well and will truly help you stand out from other sales and customer service reps (who are stragglers).

6. Learn from it

Share your experience with the rest of the team, and to the best extent possible, make sure that it never happens again. The learning experience is something that you can and should reinvest into the future success of your business.

7. Follow up

Keep tabs on your customers to make sure that everything has been resolved. Send a follow-up note as a reminder for how much you care. Depending on the extent of the problem, send a gift or freebie if you can. A small personal touch can make an entire world of difference.

Mistakes happen. How you handle a problem can make a world of difference. Don’t let your hard-earned customer relationships fall through the cracks because of a silly misunderstanding. Be the best partner possible.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 2

  • Great tips Sammy,
    I would just add one thing re #2
    Customer service reps should not say “i’m Sorry’ until guilt is established. They should give an empathetic statement such as ‘I regret your inconvenience’ or ‘I know this can be frustrating’ Saying I’m sorry too soon can put you in a bad position if you did nothing wrong as you have already admitted guilt and there may then be a financial consequence that is not warranted. Too many times polite reps say ‘I’m sorry’ way too soon. Try empathetic response instead which still shows your customer that you care.
    Teresa Allen
    Author: Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines
    http://www.AllenSpeaks.com

  • Ian Zafra says:

    This is definitely an interesting read, especially for those who have to deal with customer service on a daily basis. I agree that customer service providers should deal with conflicts immediately in order to avoid any further complications. Time is of the essence in this age of social media.

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