Fixing A Customer Service Mistake | Positive Communication Pro (2023)

“Drum it into your employees that their jobs and their bonuses depend upon the satisfaction of your customer. If your customer is not happy, they’re not going to get a bonus, and they’re not necessarily going to have a job, because you’re going to earn less money.”
Leigh J. Abrams, President and CEO of RV components supplier Drew Industries

If you work with people, you’re in the customer service business, and you’re going to make some mistakes. You’re going to misdirect a package, provide incorrect information, misroute a file, forget a deadline, or goof up in some way.

However, mistakes are also opportunities. When you fix a problem, when you right a wrong, you get the chance to learn about your operations and improve your operations … as well strengthen your relationship with the customer … IF YOU HANDLE the mistake properly.

As soon as you become aware of a mistake in your customer service, there are a few things you need to do … do right … and do immediately.

1. Let your customer know that you care.

And quite honestly, a lot of your customers may not think you care.

Take many of the high-tech telephone systems for example. Most customers see them as customer avoidance systems rather than customer service systems. They make most customers feel like they don’t count and the company they are calling doesn’t care.

I know I’ve felt that way. When I called one such company, I received an automated answer that said, “Thank you for calling our help line. Your estimated wait time is 55 minutes.” On another occasion, calling a different company, the recording said, “All of our help-line specialists are busy helping other customers. Please call tomorrow.” And it disconnected me!

My reaction to all of that? I didn’t trust their wonderfully worded vision and mission statements. And I didn’t believe their stated list of values, one of them being “customer first” and the other one “customer driven.” Their actions spoke louder than their words.

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They forgot what Rusty Rueff, the senior Vice President of Human Relations at video game developer Electronic Arts, proclaims, “In today’s marketplace, people don’t want to be treated like a commodity. They want to know that someone cares about their dreams.”

As soon as you know you’ve made a mistake, or as soon as you hear a customer complaint, let the customer know you care. As the Bible says, love covers a multitude of sins. And in the customer service business, care covers a multitude of mistakes.

Take a hint from one of the world’s experts on caring customer service, J.W. Marriott, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, says, “You can build the best hotel in the best location with the best rooms and the best lobby, but if the service stinks and employees don’t care, customers won’t come back.”

2. Take responsibility.

Don’t pass the buck. Don’t bother to tell your customer who made the error or who is to blame (if it wasn’t you). They DON’T CARE, and they shouldn’t have to. They just want their problems solved quickly and effectively.

To be effective at problem solving, you must be willing to be held accountable for mistakes you did not make. You may have to fix messes that someone else caused. And no, it’s not fair, but that’s life. Deal with it. Be a professional and take responsibility. After all, YOU are the company as far as the customer is concerned.

That’s the kind of extraordinary service that Jim Bell delivers at the Catastrophe Call Center for one of the largest auto insurers in the nation. He and his fellow co-workers have been studying my newest book, “The Service Payoff: How Customer Service Champions Outserve and Outlast the Competition,” and challenging one another to put the skills to work.

As a result of that study experience, Jim recently wrote me saying, “My last call of the week was from a customer in Pennsylvania. She was tired from being up all night with worry, and she was frustrated that she had not heard back from her claims adjuster. As fate would have it, when I opened her claim to view it, someone else was working on it so I could not access all the screens. I explained this to the customer and said that I would get more information for her when I could access the claim, and I would call her back.”

She sarcastically said, “Thanks for NOTHING!”

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Jim emphasized that he would call her back but needed a little time to find out her information. As Jim continued, “Finally I was able to get into her claim and see that someone was working on her claim with her agent. When I called her back, she exclaimed, ‘You called back!’”

“I said, ‘Yes, I promised to get you more information.’ I explained what was happening with her claim and let her know that an adjuster would be contacting her soon. With this information, she felt instantly more relaxed and re-assured. She thanked me two or three times for calling her back. I simply let her know that I had promised to call, and I was not going to let her down. I wished her a good day and the best of luck with her repairs, and she wished me a good day …thanking me again.”

You see Jim didn’t cause the problem. Jim didn’t make any mistakes. And Jim didn’t blame anybody else for the slower-than-acceptable response the customer was getting. Jim is a Customer Service Champion who takes responsibility.

And I’d like every one of you to be a Customer Service Champion as well. That’s why I urge you to get copies of my book for everyone in your office.

3. Welcome complaints.

Even though you might not like to hear complaints, recognize them for what they are. They are gifts.

Your customers are actually giving you a free consulting service. They’re telling you what went wrong and how to fix it, and they’re giving you a chance to make things right. They are giving you a chance to keep them as your customers.

That’s why journalism instructor Jeff Jarvis says, “Angry customers are doing you a huge favor: They care enough about your product or service to tell you what went wrong.”

So please, don’t ever assume that “no news is good news.” Just because your customers are not giving you feedback does not mean they are satisfied with your product or service. A lot of them think like the following.

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You know me. I’m a nice person. When I get lousy service, I never complain. I never kick. I never criticize, and I wouldn’t dream of making a scene.

I’m one of those nice customers. And I’ll tell you what else I am. I’m the customer who doesn’t come back. I take whatever you hand out, because I know I’m not coming back. I could tell you off and feel better, but in the long run, it’s better to just leave quietly. You see, a nice customer like me, multiplied by others like me, can bring a business to its knees. There are plenty of us. When we get pushed far enough, we go to your competitor.

Welcome complaints … because too many of your customers aren’t bothering to tell you.

As Case Western Reserve University found in their research, only 42% of dissatisfied customers will complain about their experience. And they do that in a variety of ways, from the:

*Voicers who tell the company there’s a problem and ask for satisfaction, to the

*Irates who complain to others, but don’t tell the company, to the

*Activists who broadcast the company’s shortfalls to anyone who will listen — including the traditional media, the social media, and the government.

Again, even though you might not like to hear complaints, you’re always better off hearing them than not hearing them.

4. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings.

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Just remember … FEELINGS BEFORE SOLUTIONS. If you jump into problem solving the moment you hear a customer complain, she will probably think you don’t really understand how she feels, and that has the potential to make things worse.

You see … Xerox had it right years ago. In one of their training manuals, they wrote, “If you can see John Jones through John Jones’ eyes, then you will be there when John Jones buys.”

Unfortunately, too many employees have been trained to be detectives, to stick to the facts, and avoid all those “touchy-feely” feelings. But any such customer service training is misdirected. Customers need to know that you know how they feel.

One desk clerk didn’t get that when my friend Desi Williamson called down to the front desk to say he wanted a different hotel room. His room was a taxidermist’s dream, where every inch of the walls were covered with mounted animal heads, but it wasn’t his dream. The room made him feel very uncomfortable, so he told the desk clerk any other regular room would be fine.

Instead of understanding Mr. Williams’ feelings, the clerk expressed amazement. In fact, she was appalled that Williams didn’t like the room because it had hosted many dignitaries over the years, including heads of state and captains of industry.

The clerk failed to see the situation through Williams’ eyes and Williams’ feelings. She needed to listen and learn what mattered to her customer, not what had mattered to other guests at other times. She needed to understand how her customer defined quality and value, not how somebody else did.

When you’re confronted with a mistake or customer complaint, look for his/her feelings and acknowledge those feelings. It could be as simple as saying, “You seem to be feeling (insert a feeling word). Is that right?”

Of course, there’s more you need to do than these 4 steps when you make a customer service mistake or field a customer complaint. We’ll talk about those other steps next week. But if you start here you’ll be in good shape.

After all, mistakes are inevitable. As Plutarch, the ancient Greek essayist, wrote, “To make no mistakes is not in the power of man, but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.”

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Most of your customers won’t remember you for your mistakes. But they will remember how effectively you resolved them.

Action: When it comes to your work style, and when it comes to customer mistakes and complaints, are you more like the person who takes responsibility or more like the person who points the finger of blame? If you fall into the latter category too often, what can you do to take more responsibility?


How do you fix a customer service mistake? ›

5 steps to correcting common customer service mistakes
  1. Acknowledge your customers' feelings. ...
  2. Apologize upfront. ...
  3. Take responsibility. ...
  4. Understand what went wrong. ...
  5. Personalize when possible. ...
  6. Open yourself up to feedback. ...
  7. Train employees properly. ...
  8. Provide round-the-clock self-service options.
Aug 25, 2020

How can communication improve customer service? ›

1. Communicate well with customers
  1. Build a relationship. Take the time to be professional and personable with your customers. ...
  2. Listen to customers. Active listening is a skill like any other, and you need to practice it. ...
  3. Use analogies. ...
  4. Develop customer service standards. ...
  5. Resolve disputes quickly.
Aug 4, 2021

What are the four ways to resolve customer service issues? ›

By following these simple steps:
  • Make Them Feel Heard. This seems obvious, but the real problem comes from the customer receiving a cursory, apologetic email followed by nothing. ...
  • Make Their Time Worthwhile. ...
  • Make it a Fair Deal. ...
  • Make it Better with a Little Extra.
Feb 1, 2018

How do you professionally correct a mistake? ›

Beyond fessing up to a mistake, career experts say there are several steps you can take to right to your wrong.
  1. Be sincere in your apology. ...
  2. Evaluate the extent of the harm. ...
  3. Regain your boss's trust. ...
  4. Don't dwell on mistakes. ...
  5. Determine the root cause of your error.

How do you politely correct a customer? ›

This is why it's vital that you handle an awkward situation in the right way.
  1. Potential difficulties. ...
  2. Know when the client is wrong. ...
  3. Make sure the client is wrong. ...
  4. Understand your client. ...
  5. Get straight to the point. ...
  6. Focus on facts. ...
  7. Mention your experience. ...
  8. Come up with a solution.

What is the importance of clear communication in customer service? ›

Without communication, there's no customer service possible. Listening to the customer, being patient, displaying empathy, and understanding the issue or problem are skills that help you communicate effectively with the customer and are a must-have while working in customer support.

Why is it important to improve communication skills? ›

Successful communication can deepen relations in personal life or professional life. In personal life, they can help us understand better people and situations that happen on a daily basis. Developing communication skills can help us avoid conflicts compromise, and help in better decision making.

What are three benefits to improving communication skills? ›

Benefits of effective communication
  • Creates better relationships. Relationships built on the solid ground of good communication tend to be stronger and can even help participants find opportunities for personal growth. ...
  • Helps handle conflicts better. ...
  • Builds empathy. ...
  • Increases self-awareness. ...
  • Builds trust.
Sep 12, 2022

What are the 3 A's in customer service? ›

The three A's are for when you mess up—and that's why they're so hard for most businesses to swallow, because business people tend to like to avoid the hard part: apologizing. But here's where you get the magic formula, and it goes like this: acknowledge, apologize, act.

What are the 5 A's in customer service? ›

The 5 A's: Apologize, Acknowledge, Appreciate, Act, Audit. Apologize to the customer: If the customer is calling and they are upset, the first thing you should do is apologize.

What is Golden Rule in customer service? ›

In spite of all the noise and hype involving customer service these days, it truly boils down to one simple, age-old truth, often referred to as the Golden Rule: "Treat others as you would want to be treated."

What are the 4 P's that improve customer service? ›

Promptness, Politeness, Professionalism and Personalization: these 4 characteristics are the key ingredients to any successful service interaction, and when you think about it, they are the basics you expect to receive as a consumer.

What is the most effective way to correct errors? ›

There are three basic approaches to correcting written work: 1) Correct each mistake 2) Give a general impression marking 3) Underline mistakes and/or give clues to the type of mistakes made and then let students correct the work themselves.

How do you address a mistake in the workplace? ›

If you need to apologize for an error, do it quickly and politely. If it's a small issue, a sentence or two via email or chat messenger is enough to make amends. If it's a larger issue, consider holding a meeting or giving your manager a quick phone call.

How do you communicate mistakes to clients? ›

Be professional, direct, and honest. Explain the issue, the cause, and how you'll rectify it. If you need a deadline extension, outline the circumstances, and offer a new deadline. If you inadvertently made a mistake or error, own up to it and explain how you'll avoid similar situations in the future.

How do you say you are professionally correct? ›

10 expressions to Use In Speaking And Writing:
  1. Yes, that's right.
  2. You're quite right.
  3. Yes, that's correct.
  4. That's spot on.
  5. You're dead right (there).
  6. Absolutely.
  7. You've hit the nail on the head.
  8. You could say so.

How do you tell a customer you messed up? ›

Say You're Sorry ‼️

You want your client to know that you really understand what happened, why it went wrong, and where it started and that they can trust that it wasn't just a random blunder that you tried to cover up but couldn't.

What makes communication clear and effective? ›

For communication to be effective, it must be clear, correct, complete, concise, and compassionate. We consider these to be the 5 C's of communication, though they may vary depending on who you're asking.

What are the 7 ways to communicate effectively with customers? ›

7 Rules for Effective Customer Service Communication
  • Personalize the interaction. ...
  • Avoid negative phrases. ...
  • Use positive language with a touch of empathy. ...
  • Listen closely and avoid interrupting the customer. ...
  • Use consistent brand vocabulary. ...
  • Give thorough answers to technical questions. ...
  • Make communication clear and concise.

How can I improve my professional communication skills? ›

There are specific things to do that can improve your communication skills:
  1. Listen, listen, and listen. ...
  2. Who you are talking to matters. ...
  3. Body language matters. ...
  4. Check your message before you hit send. ...
  5. Be brief, yet specific. ...
  6. Write things down. ...
  7. Sometimes it's better to pick up the phone. ...
  8. Think before you speak.

What makes communication effective? ›

It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what's being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.

What is the value of communication skills? ›

Because communication skills aid in learning and revision, your marks are likely to improve as well. Communication skills allow you to put your point across and persuade others. Good communication also ensures that you experience far less stress than other students.

What are the positive benefits of effective communication? ›

Good communication also improves relationships, both with employees and in your personal life with friends and family members. Listening carefully and offering quality feedback helps people to feel heard and understood. This, in turn, nurtures mutual respect.

Why is clear communication important in the workplace? ›

Good communication in the workplace ensures employees have the information they need to perform well, builds a positive work environment, and eliminates inefficiencies. Effective communication should accurately convey information while maintaining or improving human relationships.

What are goals to improve communication skills? ›

7 Common Communication Goals and How to Achieve Them in 2022
  • Speak with more clarity and confidence. ...
  • Communicate effectively in online meetings. ...
  • Advance your career through effective communication. ...
  • Increase your executive presence. ...
  • Engage participants in meetings. ...
  • Improve your virtual presentation skills.
Jan 3, 2022

What are the 3 C's of customer service? ›

The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency. It may not seem sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy. However, it's difficult to get right and requires top-leadership attention.

What are the 3 R's in customer service? ›

The Three Rs of customer service marketing are Relatable, Relevant, and Respectful and they are vital to the success of your ability to grow and scale your business.

What are the six rules for good customer service? ›

Business English Coach
  • Answer your phone.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Listen to your customers.
  • Give complaints your full attention.
  • Take the extra step.
  • Give your customers something extra.
May 5, 2019

What are the 5 C's of customer service? ›

Care is at the heart of all customer service success. There you have it, the 5 C's for Customer Service SUCCESS! No go out there and show someone you care, by communicating, compensating, being compassionate and living up to your amazing culture. We believe in you!

What is the number 1 rule in customer service? ›

1. Be Nice. The first rule is so obvious that we almost feel silly stating it “¦ “Be nice.” No matter what the scenario, being warm, friendly, and engaging will go a long way toward making your customers happy.

What is the 10 10 Rule customer service? ›

I've expanded the Disney concept in my customer service training workshops by encouraging employees to greet customers within 10 seconds of coming within 10 feet of them. I call it the 10-10 rule. You can have fun by applying the 10-10 rule to other scenarios.

What is a good customer service philosophy? ›

“Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome. Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs. Present a solution for the customer to take home today. Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.

What is the second rule of customer service? ›

2: The Customer Is Actually Always Right, But Mistakes Are Rarely One-Sided. There's a caveat to this rule. Not every customer is right, but you have to show your customers that you're willing to work with them, no matter what.

What are the 3 most important parts of customer service? ›

Essentially, the 3 important qualities of customer service center around three “p”s: professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. Although customer service varies from customer to customer, as long as you're following these guidelines, you're on the right track.

What are the top 3 5 priorities in customer success? ›

Customer Success Empower and enable your CSMs. Product Create elegant product experiences. Customer Experience Identify trends across the customer journey. Revenue and Sales Drive a high performing renewals process.

What are the 4 main customer needs? ›

But as a general rule, the four crucial things a customer needs are:
  • A fair price.
  • A good service.
  • A good product.
  • To feel valued.
Aug 31, 2020

How do you solve a customer problem give 5 techniques? ›

Ben Ridler
  1. Listen carefully to what the customer has to say, and let them finish. ...
  2. Ask questions in a caring and concerned manner. ...
  3. Put yourself in their shoes. ...
  4. Apologize without blaming. ...
  5. Ask the customer, "What would be an acceptable solution to you?" ...
  6. Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it— quickly!

What are effective communications for resolving complaints? ›

Effective Communication Skills When Dealing With A Complaint
  • Understand the complaint. ...
  • Ask for clarification. ...
  • Personalize the response to the customer. ...
  • Say that you will solve the problem as soon as possible. ...
  • If delivering a good message, say it first. ...
  • Use positive and polite tone. ...
  • Avoid blaming the customer.

What are the five 5 steps in complaints resolution? ›

A 5-step process for handling customer complaints
  1. Step 1: Dig deeper by asking the right questions. ...
  2. Step 2: Identify the type of customer you're dealing with. ...
  3. Step 3: Respond to the customer quickly. ...
  4. Step 4: Present a solution, and verify that the problem is solved. ...
  5. Step 5: Log the complaint so you can track trends.
Jun 2, 2022

What are 5 effective communication strategies? ›

Strategies for effective verbal communication
  • Focus on the issue, not the person. ...
  • Be genuine rather than manipulative. ...
  • Empathize rather than remain detached. ...
  • Be flexible towards others. ...
  • Value yourself and your own experiences. ...
  • Use affirming responses.

What are 5 effective communication techniques? ›

Effective communication skills help you to receive and convey information, ideas and messages in ways that are powerful and appropriate to the situation.

What are the 5 communication strategies? ›

Five Types of Communication
  • Verbal Communication. Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. ...
  • Non-Verbal Communication. What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. ...
  • Written Communication. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Visual Communication.
Jul 12, 2018

What do you do when you realize you have made a mistake with a customer? ›

How to Admit to Your Customers That You Messed Up
  1. Apologize. Don't save the apology for later. ...
  2. Admit your mistake and take responsibility for it. ...
  3. Empathize with your customer. ...
  4. Explain in detail what went wrong. ...
  5. Show how you will prevent it from happening again.
Dec 5, 2018

How do you fix service failures? ›

Here are Wagner's steps for companies to make customers happy again after they complain:
  1. Act quickly. Don't give the customer time to fume about the problem.
  2. Apologize … and mean it. Say a genuine “I'm sorry,” because you don't want to lose the customer. ...
  3. Solve the problem as fast you can. ...
  4. Follow up with the customer.
Mar 26, 2018

What is a common customer service mistake? ›

Mistake 1: not listening to your customers

Most, if not all, customers, contact your support services because they have specific issues. Make sure you identify them during a conversation with a customer and keep it in mind throughout the whole duration of the interaction.

How to apologize for a mistake professionally to a client sample? ›

Dear [Customer Name], Please accept my apology on behalf of our company. I am sorry to learn that your experience with [Interaction that took place] was less than satisfactory. We value our customers and exceptional service is always our priority.

What are the 3 things you should do after you make a mistake? ›

Here's your seven-step recovery plan.
  • Step 1: Allow Yourself to Feel Awful About it (But Not for Too Long) ...
  • Step 2: Keep Things in Perspective. ...
  • Step 3: Confront Your Worst-Case Scenario—Then Let it Go. ...
  • Step 4: Apologize if You Need to—But Don't Overdo It. ...
  • Step 5: Create a Game Plan for Next Time.
Jul 14, 2022

Can you give an example of dealing with a difficult customer? ›

During a shift, two angry customers approached me at the same time. One demanded a refund, and the other one was frustrated because someone gave them the wrong order. To resolve the situation, I apologised to both of them and explained that we're dealing with understaffing, which means one of the clients has to wait.

How would you communicate with the customer that you forgot one of the tasks? ›

Don't panic when you miss a deadline

The best and more professional option is to send your client an email communicating the situation. In the email, take responsibility and don't place blame. This way, your client will believe that you can identify where you went wrong and can prevent the problem in the future.

What are the 5 A's of service recovery? ›

The five major steps to intervention are the "5 A's": Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange.

What are the 5 steps of service recovery? ›

There are five logical steps in the service recovery process:
  • Anticipating customer needs.
  • Acknowledging their feelings.
  • Apologizing and owning the responsibility.
  • Offering alternatives.
  • Making amends.
Oct 15, 2010

What are 3 causes of customer service failure? ›

The 5 main causes of poor customer service include hiring the wrong people, lack of training, employee burnout, misunderstanding customer expectations, and lack of employee engagement.

What are the 3 categories of common mistake? ›

Common law has identified three different types of mistake in contract: the 'unilateral mistake', the 'mutual mistake', and the 'common mistake'. The distinction between the 'common mistake' and the 'mutual mistake' is important.


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