If there‘s one thing in business you can be sure of, it’s that you’ll find yourself correcting customer service mistakes at times. And that’s ok. Nobody’s perfect (at least, the last time I checked).
But these mistakes will affect your customers, so it’s important you know how to fix them – especially common ones that keep coming up.
If you see customer service mistakes purely as a sign of failure, then you’re missing out on an opportunity.
It’s when we get things wrong that we learn the most, in fact. You could even say you need mistakes for your business to reach its true potential. After all, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not innovating. And like they say: practice makes perfect.
In the end, the impact of customer service mistakes on your company all comes down to how you view them. Think of it this way:
So, the first step is to accept that mistakes will happen, and embrace the opportunity to learn.
Welcoming mistakes in this way helps you keep your cool and remain solution-focused, thus making it easier to reassure your customers. And to do this in a structured way, here’s a practical plan for correcting customer service mistakes.
We all know that mistakes are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you should just let them slide. Your customers will certainly expect you to make it up to them one way or another. Here are some steps you can take to do just that, and maintain customer satisfaction.
When customer service mistakes happen, there’s a good chance you have frustrated customers on your hands. The first step is to acknowledge how these customers feel. Failing to listen properly, not taking them seriously, or dismissing their complaints will only serve to exacerbate the situation.
Empathy is very much the watchword – putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Imagine how you would feel if you had been looking forward to receiving a product, only for it to be faulty when it finally arrives. And then to be treated with disdain when you try to sort it out? That would really get your goat.
So, after customers explain their situation, you can say something like:
Offering an apology is a good way to help customers keep their temper in check.
Never underestimate the healing potential of the word “sorry.” It’s a powerful tool in the arsenal of any customer service agent.
By and large, customers are reasonable people. They’re not looking to be vindictively punitive. A genuine apology is often at the top of their ‘how-to-make-it-up-to-them’ list. In fact, the Carey School of Business found that when a business said sorry on top of offering compensation, the percentage of satisfied customers increased from only 37 to 74 percent.
So, apologize to your customer as early on as possible. This helps to set the tone for the rest of your interactions. Depending on the business you are in, you may want to send an apology email. Where possible, the more personal the better, so call them when you can.
There is nothing to gain from finger-pointing and shirking responsibility. In the eyes of your customers, your business is one coherent entity. And they just want that entity to put its hands up and say “Our bad, that’s on us.”
Incidentally, it’s no coincidence we have used the phrase ‘taking responsibility’ instead of ‘accepting responsibility’ here. ‘Take’ implies control, and mistakes need to be owned, not simply accepted.
There may be occasions where customers are unaware of a mistake. Perhaps they were given the wrong information. In these instances, it may be tempting to think you can get away with it. But, it’s far better to fess up and be honest. Besides, if the wrong information leads to a problem later down the line, this reflects far worse on you than owning up in the first place (owning being the operative word).
Be proactive, and say: “Look, this has happened, we’re very sorry, here’s our options on how to fix it.”
Sweeping mistakes under the carpet is asking for trouble in the long-run, and you will simply lose your customers’ trust and loyalty.
Part of correcting customer service mistakes is offering an explanation to customers. They deserve to know what happened.
And, it’s just as important to prevent you from repeating mistakes in future. In the case of our faulty product arriving, for example, perhaps the item wasn’t packed properly before pre-shipping. So a more rigorous pre-shipping check is required. Maybe even better training for your warehouse employees.
Getting to the bottom of mistakes helps show the customer how you are striving to prevent the same mistake happening again, and also improves your business offering to future customers.
Although an apology and the acceptance of responsibility are key, fixing customer service mistakes often involves tangible reparations as well.
Use this opportunity to flex your personalization muscles and show that you really care.
For example, take into account your customer’s particular likes and interests. Say, for instance, you are a telecom company, and you make a mistake that impacts your customer. If you know they like sports, but don't have the premium package, offer them free use of that package for a month.
Well, customer service mistakes are unavoidable. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t try and prevent them where possible. Here are a few simple things you can do:
If customers have no way to voice their concerns, then you might not know about a mistake you made until the proverbial door swings back on their way out. Learning about mistakes when it’s too late to do anything is far from ideal.
That’s why it’s so important to open up a dialogue. The most obvious and structured way you can do this is through proactively asking for customer feedback through surveys. Not only does this provide invaluable information to help correct or even prevent mistakes, but it also shows customers you care.
Failure to plan, is planning to fail.
The easiest way for mistakes to happen is if employees aren’t well-prepared to perform their duties. So, it’s absolutely crucial that your staff get the training they both need and deserve.
Data gathered from customer feedback can also be useful to help inform what needs to be included in the training. Customers’ expectations and desires, as well as areas they have identified for improvement, are great foundations to build a solid training plan.
One of the best ways to prevent mistakes becoming a problem in the first place is through self-service. Not only does this help alleviate some of the pressure placed on customer service, it also reassures customers faster, provides solutions, and prevents customers from getting angry. A well-designed, informative knowledge base and chatbots equipped with effective chatbot scripts are both popular self-service options.
As your company grows, mistakes will keep on coming (we’re sorry, but it’s true). Just like with the mythical creature Hydra, when you cut off one head another pops up.
But, don’t worry – if you consistently address mistakes and learn from them, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them next time. And remember, making up for mistakes might even create a positive experience the customer will never forget.
Benedict Clark is a psychologist and writer, having previously spent 8 years in the digital marketing industry. With a master's degree in Business and Occupational Psychology from Kingston University, he writes about the interplay between customer experience and psychology for Acquire.