What to Do When Things go Wrong

Service guarantees that guarantee nothing will go wrong and the customer will always get exactly what was expected, if not more, aren’t guarantees … they are shiny, hopeful wishes.

It would be nice if you could categorically state that each and every time you or one of your team members interacted with a customer the customer would leave thrilled, but the reality is, stuff happens.  Life happens, weather happens, unrealistic expectations happen.

The question isn’t “Can we promise our customers will get exactly what they want, need and expect every single time?” The question is, “When something does go wrong, how will we fix it?”

Example: My husband needed to get a little bodywork done on his car.  Last week Friday, I followed him in my car to the body shop where he was getting the work done.  He dropped his car off, brought me to my office and then he went off to work.  At the end of the day, he picked me up to get his car back.  Just before we left, he called the shop to let them know we were on the way.  That is when he found out the person who was supposed to work on his car had called in sick and nothing had been done.  Was it the owner’s fault his employee go sick?  No.  Life happens.  People get sick.  All the owner had to do was pick up the phone and explain the situation to my husband.  It’s not about fault. It’s about recognizing and apologizing for not being able to deliver as promised. It’s about providing alternatives and suggestions to lessen the disappointment and the negative impact.

In the end, Chad got his car back.  It looks great.  We are both willing to bet there are a lot of other businesses that could have made his car look just as good. The product they offered was acceptable. The service wasn’t.

The chances of one of our cars needing body work in the next little while are slim.  With any luck, no accidents are in our future.  But, when if and when we do need work done, we know where we are not going.  And if anyone asks us for recommendations, that business lost an opportunity for free advertising and promotion from a satisfied customer.

Companies that provide great customer service know things can go wrong. They identify potential service delivery cracks and they put a service recovery plan in place. They train their team members so that when challenges arise, they are prepared to deal with them in such a way that the customer feels their disappointment was recognized, validated and acted on.

Go ahead. Walk through your business.  Identify potential service failures. Talk to your team.  Let them help you come up with more. Then work together to come up with strategies and tactics on how to fix the problem … from the customer’s perspective.