The Customer Experience Series: Oops, We Screwed The Pooch. Now What?


I think readers of this series are fairly clear on my feeling that great customer means never having an issue in the first place, right? Well, okay, but what happens when we mess up? What happens when we screw the pooch?

Responding to and solving a customer service issue is required whenever your team failed or your customer is simply being unreasonable. (By the way, whether your team failed or whether the customer is just being unreasonable is irrelevant to how you respond to a service issue.)

Solve It!

“I would like to offer our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience we caused ….” Ugh, stop with the insincere corporate speak! Save this drivel for your recap of the issue AFTER it’s been solved.

Customer issue? First and foremost, you must solve it. You must solve their issue because according to research it can take up to twelve positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. (The keyword there being “unresolved.”) If you’ll solve their issue – and do so quickly and painlessly – it’s almost like you’ve never had an issue in the first place.

Efficiency Matters

The last thing a customer with an issue wants is for your team to transfer them into some sort of “phone tree hell” or to take a roundabout path to a solution. They just want their issue solved… efficiently. In fact, delighting them is not necessary here – you just have to solve the issue, you don’t have to blow them away.

According to the Harvard Business Review, delighting your customers doesn’t build loyalty. But, reducing their effort – the work that they have to do to get their problem solved – does build that loyalty.

Conventional wisdom would say that customers would be more loyal to brands that go above and beyond when there is an issue, but the Harvard Business Review research shows that exceeding expectations during service interactions makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs. There simply isn’t the necessary ROI to blow them away; just solve their issue and do so efficiently.

In fact when it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily, not by blowing them away. Simply put, this might mean remove the obstacles and let them solve some of these issues on their own.

Automated Solutions?

Customers resent having to contact a company repeatedly to get an issue resolved. They don’t like being transferred; they don’t want to repeat information; and they want to stick to the first channel that they use. For example, they resent having to call your toll-free number after first trying to solve their problem through your website.

The key for most companies is to either make your websites better at allowing customers to resolve their issues themselves, or to remove the self-serve modules that are likely frustrating your already angry customers.

Next up in the series: Reactive Customer Service

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at