Responding to Customer Service Failure

No matter what business you’re in, there will be times when things go wrong when serving your customers. From forgetting to process an order to selling a product that doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations, you’re going to let your customers down.

Customer service failures don’t have to define you. It’s how you RESPOND to service failures that can make or break your business.

A few years ago, I had a college roommate and her family coming to visit for a long weekend and didn’t want our dog to be a pest, so I thought I’d get him a really nice toy to keep him occupied while they were here. I went to a local pet shop and purchased a stuffed toy that was labeled by the manufacturer as “Indestructible,” because I knew from experience Jack was quick to demolish toys. Fast forward a few days and our guests had been here no more than 30 minutes when the toy lay on the living room floor, eviscerated and surrounded by its white, fluffy entrails.

The next time I was in the store, I mentioned the incident to the owner, not because I wanted a refund or even an apology, but because I wanted him to be able to let his distributor know the product was far from indestructible. Here’s what happened next:

Store owner: Well, no toy is indestructible, you know.

Me: That may be the case, but when a toy costs $35 and is labeled indestructible, you’d expect it to last more than 30 minutes.

Store owner: Well, did your dog enjoy himself for 30 minutes?

As you can imagine, I never did business there again and not surprisingly, it has since closed its doors.

How you respond to customer complaints, product failures or customer concerns can make or break your business. You can send customers running out the door, never to come back, or you can handle things correctly and turn them into raving fans.

If you’d like to create raving fans when service failures happen, here are five things you should do:

1. Say, “I’m sorry”. 

Offering a sincere apology can go a long way toward calming an upset customer. Too many people avoid saying, “I’m sorry,” because they think that means they’re accepting blame for the problem. I’m sorry doesn’t mean you’re to blame, it simply means you feel badly that your customer isn’t happy.

2. Ask how you can make it right for the customer – right now.

Too many times, service providers don’t simply ask, “How can I make this situation right for you?” If the store owner had done that, I would have said, “I’d just like you to let the toy maker know they either need to make a sturdier product, or re-label their toy.” You might have other customers that want a replacement toy or a refund. It’s up to you what you do in response to their request, but simply asking is the only way you’ll know what your customer wants and expects.

  1. 3. Investigate the problem.

  2. In the case of the store owner, he should take a good look at the toys, talk to his distributor to see if there have been other complaints, and let the manufacturer know about the problem. It could be that it was just one particular faulty product, a particularly aggressive dog with a powerful chewing drive, or the whole product line could just not be “indestructible” as promised in its labeling.

4. Fix the problem.

If it turns out the toy is defective, the store owner might consider not carrying that product anymore- or wait for the manufacturer to make a better product before stocking the toy again. He could also look for other sturdy toys to offer his customer.

5. Follow up.

No matter the outcome, it’s great to get back with a customer to let him or her know the outcome of the complaint and your investigation. It would have been awesome if the store owner had taken my name and number and called me a few weeks after the incident to let me know that he checked out the toys in response to my complaint and to share his findings. Even if he called to say, “Amy, I think this happened because Jack is just a particularly intense chewer, so I have some other toys that are a lot sturdier that I can recommend,” that would have made the difference between me never going there again and me becoming a life-long loyal customer.

Be sure to read next week’s blog post which will include my Customer Communication Quiz! Find out if you’re a Customer Communication Star or whether you (or your team members) could be better at communicating with your customers!

 

If you and your team need help with service recovery processes and procedures, contact Amy about programs just for you. With both live and virtual learning opportunities, you can discover:

  • What causes service failures
  • What NOT to say when a customer is angry or upset
  • How to respond with professionalism and grace when a customer complains
  • Why it’s critical to your business to have a specific service recovery plan that ALL employees understand and are empowered to employ

Related Articles

Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own

   

My coworkers post such vile things on their Facebook pages. I want to tell them that they’re all idiots.

I want to work out; I don’t want to argue with my trainer about the election. If she doesn’t stop talking about her candidate, I will go elsewhere.


I don’t want to discuss politics at work. Yet, my colleagues say nasty things about the candidates and often end up yelling at each other. What do I do?

 

The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it’s time for people to fight back – politely, of course – and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave.


Bear in mind:

— You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

  

— You can be “polite and powerful” and express yourself without resorting to bad behavior.

 

Use these tips to encourage polite behavior in your workplace and in your wider world. (These apply to your social media postings, also.)

 

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I know this may be a hard concept to accept, and even harder to implement – but it is worth practicing. If somebody says something to offend you, it may feel good to respond with a comment like, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” But this type of response is not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything. Plus, it gives the other person power over you, by getting you to say things that most people will regret later. 


2. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Explain your reasons. Provide the specific information, quotes and/or research. You can say, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” which is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Or, you can say, “Let’s agree to disagree and move on,” or “I am not discussing politics at work. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.” 


3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “dumb” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Name calling is just wrong – and childish. Cursing at people is not only mean, it also reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing. (Additional information on word choice and how to respond assertively to aggressive comments can be found in my book, 
The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)


4. Remember that it’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  This includes meetings in person or via Zoom. Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Greet others when you see them. Don’t interrupt people. Help them when you can. These behaviors are common sense, but unfortunately they’re not always common practice.

 

5. Do something. If you really don’t like something, take action. Don’t complain to others, get involved. Join organizations. Volunteer for causes you support. Start a blog where you assertively (politely and powerfully) express your opinions – but make sure you follow your company guidelines, if you do. 

6. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite discussions by removing yourself from the conversation or taking a break from social media.

 


Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com.    

 

 

 

 

The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations

Tax Day greetings from the middle of Texas (the iconic Underwood’s Cafeteria sign is pictured – it’s definitely a Texas thing) and from Davidson/ Lake Norman.  Feels good to be on the road again.  This week, we will divide our time between first quarter earnings preview for Verizon and AT&T (both scheduled to report this […]

The post The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations appeared first on RCR Wireless News.

Meeting online? Don’t become “Eye-roll Ruby” or “Angry Andy”

With almost the entire business world operating under the restrictions of a coronavirus pandemic, many of us are becoming all too familiar with meetings conducted online instead of in a conference room or office.
 
But, as a woman I coached via Zoom recently observed,

“Since your colleagues aren’t in the room with you, it’s easy to forget that they are still observing you!”

Her comment highlights a key pitfall about online meetings – not paying attention to how others see you during a videoconference. 

This is especially true if you are not accustomed to presenting yourself professionally online, but now find yourself working from home and using videoconferencing apps to meet with colleagues, bosses, customers, clients, vendors, or even friends and family. It can lead to distracting behaviors that I’ve attributed to such characters as Eye-roll Ruby, Angry Andy, and so on.

These eight examples of what not to do will help you to be mindful of how you are presenting yourself when video chatting:

1.    Too-close Cody.  We don’t want to see your nose hairs! Position yourself far
enough from the camera so you don’t show a tight shot of your face – that is, from forehead to chin. In most instances, you want to show your head, shoulders, and part of your chest.
2.    Who knew, Nell? Your background for a videoconference can be a simple wall or a
section of a room in your home. Be aware of what others will be able to see behind you. The paintings or artwork on the wall, items on your tables, or books on your bookshelves will reveal aspects of your personality that your colleagues may not know. For example: Who knew Nell collected trumpets! This may be a good thing, as colleagues will discover more about her – or they may learn way too much about her!   
3.    In the dark, Daniel. Make sure your location has good lighting. You want to be seen
clearly, without any shadows hiding your appearance. Be careful if you have a window behind you. If it is bright outside, you will appear as a dark silhouette.   
4.    Interrupting Isabella. These are unusual times. People know that kids, pets, or
grandparents may be roaming around your house during business hours. Your dog coming up to you occasionally might be fine, but being interrupted constantly by your kids or pets will disrupt the meeting. To the degree that you can, manage these interruptions.
5.    Eye-roll Ruby. One woman I coached recently complained that her colleague kept
rolling her eyes whenever my client spoke. Such behavior is distracting and rude. And speaking of eyes, look at and talk to the camera, not the image on the screen. If are looking at your computer screen, you may appear to be looking down. If you look directly at the camera – usually positioned in the center of the frame above the screen – you will appear to be looking the other person in the eye.  
6.    Angry Andy. This is the person who has a very stern Standard Facial Expression,
which is what I call the expression your face assumes when you are in neutral mode. Your SFE is what people see when you are looking at them, listening to them, or just not talking. Many people have stern facial expressions and don’t even realize it. What message is your face conveying about you?  (See my suggestion below; additional information about facial expressions can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.) 
7.    Gesturing George. You don’t want to gesture too much. Waving your arms around
can become a distraction. Resist the urge to twist your hair, play with rubber bands, or click your pen. These are all distractions that make you appear nervous. Resting your head on your hand makes you look bored. And, as many people know, crossing your arms can make you appear defensive or “closed.”
8.    I’m still in PJs, Poppy. One woman I coached via Zoom looked like she was
wearing her pajamas. Working from home is more casual than working in the office, but not that casual! Match your clothing choice to the purpose of the meeting. If you are seeing your CEO, dress more professionally. If you are meeting with your team, you may want to dress more casually. But remember, it’s still business. “Casual” does not mean sloppy. And yes, you do need to wear the entire outfit, not just the top that shows above the table. You never know when something might happen that requires you to stand up suddenly. Need I say more?

Suggestion: A practice session can help you to become aware of the image you are conveying to others. Situate yourself in the same location you will use for online meetings, and then connect with a friend to analyze how you appear on camera – and make any adjustments necessary.  

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills, career advancement, professional presence, and business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at Joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com) 

WHO MOVES? SIDEWALK ETIQUETTE IN A SOCIAL-DISTANCING WORLD

Etiquette rules for the sidewalk? I know that sounds strange, so let me explain. 

A colleague recently called me and wanted some help. She said that she had been out walking and saw a couple approaching her on the sidewalk. She wanted to follow today’s social-distancing guidelines, and she realized that the other people were going to be too close to her if everyone continued walking straight. Her question: “Who should have moved over?” 

This question highlights an etiquette dilemma in our coronavirus-dominated world —to ensure adequate space between people outdoors, who moves out of the way when two or more people are sharing a walkway? 

This situation may arise more frequently as people are being encouraged to exercise. David Pogue, a correspondent for the television show Sunday Morning on CBS News, did a segment this week on How to live AND work at home without going stir crazy. His fifth rule was “Go Outside.” His suggestion was to take walks with people who live with you, but steer clear of others.

Obviously, etiquette concerns are nowhere near as critical as getting needed masks and respirators to hospitals, but having answers for day-to-day situations can help people to stay safe, and also give them a sense of having some control in our uncertain world.

Below are guidelines to help you safely navigate sidewalks and walkways shared with other people: 

1. Pay attention. Notice your surroundings and anticipate. If you are talking on the phone or texting, it’s easy to become distracted and not notice someone coming your way. If your view is obscured for any reason – such as when you are approaching a corner – you may be unable to see someone walking directly toward you. Be aware of that possibility, and proceed cautiously until you can see what’s ahead. You don’t want to bump into people!  

2. Who moves? If someone is approaching and you realize you’ll be too close when passing each other, what are you to do?  Generally, it is the responsibility of each walker to move to the right when passing so that there is at least six feet between you. If the person approaching you is walking with a cane, pushing a baby stroller, or struggling with agility issues, you are the one who should move out of the way. Bottom line: Don’t stand on ceremony. If you believe that someone will be too close to you, move over!   

3.  Walk single file. If you are walking side by side with someone – even if you are several feet apart – go to single file when passing others. If you don’t, you put the person approaching you in the awkward position of deciding whether to go around one of you or to go between the two of you. 

4. Don’t hog the sidewalk. If you block the walkway when you stop to chat with someone – from a safe distance! – or to let your dog do his business, it’s your responsibility to move aside and let other people pass.

5. Pass people carefully. If you want to pass someone, make your presence known. You can call out “behind you” or “on your left” so you don’t startle the person. You then move to the left, keeping your social distance. The other person can also move to the right, making it easier for the person who wants to pass.  

6. Greet others. People can hear a “good morning” or see a wave from six feet away. Even though we are social-distancing, we still want to be social. (See my blog on Greeting Others In A Social-Distancing World.) And remember, if someone says “hello” to you, good manners require that you say “hello” back.  

7.  Wash your hands when you return home. You don’t know what you might have touched while you were out. Frequent hand-washing is high on the list of recommendations for fighting this coronavirus. 

Additional information about etiquette and your career can be found in Barbara Pachter’s book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw Hill). Other books by Pachter include The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Communication Clinic

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills, career advancement, professional presence, and business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at Joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.