Customer Experience News & Trends

When things go wrong, this is how to make them right

Few customer journeys fail to encounter at least some bumps in the road — and when something goes wrong, this is how to make it right.

Whether customers report a problem, or you uncover one that affects customers, rebounding isn’t just a matter of what you do for them: Making things right often relies heavily on what’s said and how it’s said, according to Diana Booher, author of What More Can I Say?

Who will excel

“The 5% of companies that learn to handle their customer communication correctly will gradually rise to the top of their industry,” Booher predicts. “The other 95% will continue to struggle. Customers can now spread the word faster, better and louder than ever before about who those companies are.”

Front-line employees are usually proficient in what they can do for customers when something’s gone wrong. For instance, they know to give a refund when a product arrives damaged, or they were quickly trained on what to do for customers following a recall or service interruption.

This is a plan for how to communicate through times when something has gone wrong.

1. Stay honest

No one intends to lie when something goes wrong. But little, white lies sometimes surface:

  • “We’ll have this resolved shortly” (when no one knows how long the issue will take to resolve).
  • “We’ve never had something like this happen” (when a similar thing happened, but we didn’t figure out why).
  • “I’ll have him call you back” (when you can’t guarantee someone else will do what you’ve asked).

It’s important when something goes wrong to only share information and make promises based on what you know is 100% true. One key: Assign a person to gather and give status updates each half hour until the situation is resolved.

2. Recognize and plan for exceptions

You probably have processes and procedures in place to follow when things don’t go according to plan. But when mistakes and unusual situations develop, the normal method of operation often doesn’t work.

Customers understand that these things happen. So their biggest expectation when things go wrong is that your organization and front-line employees perform consistently.

For the times when your process and procedures go off-track, the most important thing you can do is have a plan for consistent communication and an expected service level. For instance, the plan might include social media updates every 15 minutes in the event something happens that affects a large customer population. Or, if a customer alerts you to an issue, you might have one rep stay with the situation and update the customer every hour until it’s resolved.

3. Reduce layers

One of the best ways to maintain customer trust and loyalty when things go wrong is to give authority on the front line.

Employees shouldn’t have to get approval, call a supervisor or wait on a signature when a customer deserves a fix to an obvious mistake. The key is to train employees to handle anything, trust that they’ll do the right things and back them up — even when a better decision could’ve been made — to build their confidence.

4. Remember the little things

An extra minute to explain what customers can expect next, an extra effort to make sure a program is running as it should or an extra check to see that a product is in its place, communicates one important thing to customers: You care.

When front-line employees take an extra step to listen, respond or act after something goes wrong, they show that they care things are right for customers. That’s what builds loyalty despite a glitch in the customer journey.

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