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Who Took the Service out of Customer Service?

Over the years I have found myself in various uncomfortable situations with clients, those calls or meetings where you would rather be anywhere else! It is not always your own fault when you find yourself standing in front of a client to apologize, to explain a tough situation or to just fall on your sword ... but it is your actions that will likely determine the future relationship with this client.

It is my experience that even the toughest clients are typically fair people. They will recognize the situation you are in, they will have some empathy for your discomfort ... even if they are mad.

They may well lose their cool and give you a blast. They might rant or even coolly tell you how badly you have messed up and what it has meant to them and their organization. Their reaction may well be very justified or, even if you think it over-the-top, it is a very normal reaction to bad news.

This client/supplier moment is a defining point in your relationship with this client. Strange as it may seem, it is actually an opportunity to deepen the relationship ... it is also an opportunity to damage the relationship beyond repair!

When the client has been wronged and they believe it is your fault then there are some very basic things that you need to do.

1. Apologize. It needs to be sincere and it needs to be a "significant" apology and not just some mumbled words.
2. Accept responsibility for your actions.
3. Offer to fix things in any reasonable way possible.

Some of the worst things you can do are to:

1. Blame some third party.
2. Fail to apologize.
3. Come up with excuses about why there was an issue.

Twice this week already I have received some kind of communication from "service providers" whose service was not available to me. Neither service provider apologized. Both of them tried to explain away their "business issues" with technology mumbo jumbo, and both of them referenced the fact that we would get a (insignificant) rebate on our bill in accordance with the contract.

As a customer I don't really care about my hosting company's circuit breaker malfunction, NIC issues or data collection servers, and I certainly don't care to hear that he had to "go to the office because remote diagnosis wasn't working"! All that I am concerned with, is that I need service ... and there it was GONE!

I really enjoyed the title on the email from one of these companies ... director, satisfaction and retention! Nice title ... I think that there must be some basic Customer Service training available for business people ... or maybe I'm just overly critical?