We Blew It! - How to Recover from Customer Service Mistakes

No one is perfect, so chances are you will, as a company, make a mistake and upset a customer from time to time. It’s not if, it’s when. Obviously, you will have processes in place to avoid this happening and if you haven’t, now might be a good time to start putting some in place.

Customers, however, will often judge you more on how you fix your mistake than on the actual bad event itself. So, let’s first look at some things you should NEVER do when you drop the ball before looking at ways to put things right.

What Not to Do

  1. Creative blaming - Some businesses try to turn things around and make whatever happened the customer’s fault. This never works and even if the problem goes away, so will your customer. And, they’ll tell others.
  2. Playing dumb - Pretending that you can't imagine how such a thing could happen in your company, or worse, giving your customer the impression that you don't believe them, will send your customers running to the nearest competitor.
  3. Giving customers the runaround - Assuring your clients you'll take care of their problem while passing them through every department in your company hoping they'll get lost in the shuffle, or give up, will get you nothing more than an angry customer happy to share their experience with everyone they know. Your customer’s first point of contact in your company should be empowered to help them.
  4. Not keeping your promises – promising you will rectify the issue and then not following through will lose you customers, and if you continue this course of action the problem will escalate, costing you more time and resources.

So, what are some positive ways you can salvage your client relationships when you blow it? Whether your mistake involved thousands of dollars or just a few, these five basic principles will put you well on your way to establishing a reputation for integrity in business – something that's becoming a rare commodity these days.

5 Ways to Keep Them Coming Back

  1. Simply Admit Your Mistake
    Your customer doesn't care that the delivery truck crashed on the way to the store, or that your newly hired employee can't count. If you took their money and didn't deliver on your product or service for any reason - it's your fault. Excuses are not an acceptable part of the equation, ever. Admit it and move toward resolving the situation.

  2. Always Have Options
    It is always in your control to do something to rectify the situation for your customer. Maybe it means ordering a part from a different supplier, staying open late to accommodate your customer’s schedule, providing the product or service at a discount, or throwing in something free. Show you care and offer your customer different options to put things right. A company, who is willing to put their customer’s needs ahead of their profit, will gain their loyalty. People can be very forgiving, if they see you are doing your best for them.
  3. Seek the Customer's Input
    Most of the time your customers are more than willing to let you know how you can rectify a situation for them. You’ll be surprised at how this can calm a situation and immediately allow the customer to feel you are listening and care about an equitable solution. Just ask!

  4. Go Beyond Making It Right
    Your customer obviously expects you to put right what went wrong, but if you go above and beyond making it right, you will win their trust and their business, and reap the rewards of recommendations to other potential customers. It often doesn't take much. For instance, if you have to make someone wait longer than normal, perhaps give them a coupon for a free coffee at a neighbouring coffee shop. When you throw in an added bonus that says "thanks for your patience, we really appreciate your business", you'll have them bragging about you all over town.

  5. Value Your Word
    Integrity in business is something you can't buy. It must be earned. Above all, show your integrity by valuing your word. If you say you'll do something, do it. If you promise something, deliver it. If you can't do something, be honest about it. People will put up with a lot if they feel they're being dealt with fairly and honestly.


These five simple steps will help you turn a potential disaster into a loyalty-building exercise. All of us make mistakes, but those who can turn their blunders into opportunities will outshine their competitors, be the talk of the town, and keep their customers coming back year after year.

About Trenval

Trenval Business Development Corporation is Bay of Quinte’s Community Futures Business Specialist, financing business start-ups, expansions or successions in the Quinte region for 34 years. Trenval can help with small business support including small business funding and small business loans.





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