Home Thinking Aloud Bouncing Back From A Damaging Customer Service Slip-Up

Bouncing Back From A Damaging Customer Service Slip-Up


by Lewis Robinson

Waitress serving customers

When doing business with your customers, mistakes are going to happen. Perhaps a Client gets bad service, or an error is made in billing. Perhaps one of your representatives says something that they shouldn’t when dealing with a difficult patron. Perhaps a promised result fails to be delivered.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to customer service slipups. In fact, 71% of customers have ended their relationship with a company as a result of poor customer service.

However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to make amends. When your business relationship with a customer is at stake, you need to know how to handle it quickly, so that you don’t lose that customer forever.

Essentially what you need is damage control, and a plan put in place to avoid making the same error a second time. Taking the following measures when a mistake is made will limit the amount of damage done, as well as help in retaining and restoring customer trust.

Identify the Source.

First, find the root of the problem. Determine whether the complaint has been reported before, or if this is the company’s first exposure to it. If it is a mistake that has been made before, you may have a training/re-training issue on your hands. If it is a mistake being made by the same person repeatedly, disciplinary action (or even termination) may be necessary. Identifying problems at the source has to be done before any further action can be taken.


Part of doing damage control is making sure you have a clear and correct count of everyone that was involved or affected by the mistake. Once you have all parties identified, you can contain the issue so that it doesn’t continue to do more damage. Think of it as a quarantine; you want to limit the number of people or accounts that could be exposed and therefore decrease the number of Clients at risk of being lost.

Customer Contact.

Once you have identified where and how the mistake was made, you’re next step is to contact the customer directly. Get their side of the story so that you can fully understand your customer’s experience and make it clear to them that you value them as a Client. Do this by:

• Listening carefully to their complaint (without interrupting)

• Be ready to acknowledge the mistake

• Take full responsibility for it.

You do not need to go into detail with the customer about how or why the mistake was made unless they ask you for an explanation. What you do need to do is accept responsibility for the error, offer a sincere apology for any inconvenience it may have caused, and find out what it will take to regain that customer’s confidence. Tell them that you will do everything in your power to reverse the mistake and make sure that it doesn’t happen again, then follow through by taking the necessary actions to credit their account, process a refund, offer to pay any shipping costs involved, apply a discount to their order, or whatever other reparations may be appropriate. In the end there will be some customers that just can’t be pleased, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Your actions will depend on what kind of business you are running and the type of relationship you have with the customer, but the bottom line is that without customers, you have no business, so do whatever is necessary to make them happy again.

Keeping Track.

If your company doesn’t have a method of recording customer complaints, it needs one. A very basic CRM (Customer Relations Management) ticketing system with a searchable database will achieve wonders in regards to improving your customer service. This way you can keep track of complaints, and with a basic reporting function you can know at a moment’s notice how well or how poorly your company is meeting your customers’ expectations.

CRM Reporting.

CRM reports can help you fully understand what is going right and what is going wrong with your clients, which will provide you with the information you need to make adjustments to your business processes and/or customer service providers. If you already have a CRM system in place, make sure you are pulling the right data for your reports. What you want from these reports is a big-picture understanding of your customers’ experiences.

What You Need to Know.

• What percentage of calls to customer service are complaints?

• How many of these complaints have been made before?

• Who is responsible for the mistake?

By assigning different values to individual complaints, you can see in your reports if more than one client has had the same complaint, which would indicate that the same mistake is being made multiple times. This gives you some idea of the scope of the problem, such as whether it was a one-time occurrence, or if it is a large-scale problem that could continue to cost the company significant revenue.

While it may not be possible to avoid making mistakes from time to time, there’s no reason why you should have to make the same mistake twice. When you have a handle on your customer service performance levels and customer satisfaction levels, you can assure your clients with confidence that if/when a mistake is made, you are ready and willing to make things right. Customers are more likely to forgive a mistake when they trust that you are on their side and dedicated to meeting — or even exceeding — their expectations.


lewis robinson

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in social media marketing, CRM, and sales.  He’s begun multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and business consultant.





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