How to Fix Bad Customer Service Situations

Matthew Brown

We’ve all been on the other side of the phone before when a company has completely dropped the ball. Whether they forgot about our ticket, shipped us the wrong product, or refused to issue a refund; these experiences are very real and memorable. Positive reviews are great, but simply put negative reviews are more influential and memorable to potential customers when evaluating their purchasing options (especially in the B2B industry).

So how can companies go about fixing bad customer service experiences? Here are some “how tos” that will give you a good chance of smoothing over these situations…

  • Talk to employees and get their side of the story – Before you do anything you need to be more informed about the situation. Talk to the employees involved and ask them what happened. Remember these are your employees and you likely have built trust with them over a long period of time. Believe them until proven otherwise.
  • Offer a sincere apology over the phone – Have someone with a positive working relationship with the customer reach out and apologize over the phone. This person should lead the conversation but have the employees behind the support experience present to accept responsibility and apologize if necessary. This isn’t the time or place for an argument and the conversation should be brief.
  • Escalate the issue to senior leadership – If the situation was severe enough, have more senior leaders follow up sincerely via email or phone. This shows the customer you have taken the issue seriously enough to let the decision makers of the company know about it. However, don’t use this tactic every time or it will lose value with the customer.
  • In-person visit – This is not always possible but it usually works well. Have a team led by a member of the senior leadership group visit their office or tradeshow presence. Offer to take them out for lunch and keep the conversation casual to start. Bring up the bad situation in passing and offer a sincere apology.
  • Send an “I’m Sorry” gift or discount – This can work well depending on your industry. Some customers will love a discount and it will resolve everything quickly. Others may view it as a reward for creating conflict and may do so again in the future. Consider all of the options before doing this and be aware that some people cannot accept gifts if they are representing a company.
  • Prevent it from happening again – This is listed last but it is the most important piece of information. The mantra “the customer is always right” simply isn’t true. Sometimes a customer is at fault but they just won’t admit it. For example, a bad customer service situation could have occurred because a customer didn’t know what version of the software they were on and the support team took several days investigating to figure it out. The right customer support software solution automatically tracks information like this and prevents these type of issues from happening. Being as prepared as possible when dealing with difficult customers and situations is important.

In short, there are several ways to fix a bad customer service situation but arguably the best way is to prevent them from happening altogether. Make sure your company has the right customer support software solution and offer training to employees on how to diffuse situations. If you’re stuck on how to do the latter, listen to calls and review correspondence with companies who offer support solutions. Many of these companies take support very seriously (we sure do!) because it's their lifeblood and they are a good example for displaying timely and thorough customer support.

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