Business Practices | | Published September 21, 2012

Dealing with Missed Grievances

Just recently we celebrated Labor Day. Most of us had a (hopefully) stress free weekend. It’s a fun holiday weekend that for many is filled with barbecuing, relaxing, and getting ready for the fall season. Of course at my house it rained the whole time but that’s myluck. I hope yours was filled with fun and sun!

Unfortunately, customers don’t stop having issues just because it’s a weekend or a holiday! If their product breaks on a Saturday, they don’t wait until Tuesday morning to get upset about it. Feelings of anger and betrayal linger around no matter what day or time it is.

Sometimes you’re just flat out going to miss an email or phone call from an irate customer. While it’s ideal to take care of issues immediately, occasionally it’s just not possible. In this case, you’ll have to deal with someone who’s been upset for a while, which will require some tact to get through.

A Well Crafted Message

When your customers have had time to stew, the message you send them or deliver over the phone is crucial. If anything goes wrong you run the risk of infuriating them even more. With pre-planning and a little luck though, you can immediately diffuse the situation.

Of course, make sure you start off with an apology. A natural reaction is to not want to assign blame to the company for anything or take the heat for something you couldn’t possibly help or avoid. For example, if the customer dropped their phone into the toilet and they’re mad it doesn’t work, it’s not exactly your fault.

That’s beside the point. What you’re apologizing for isn’t necessarily the product messing up; you’re merely saying sorry for the inconvenience they experienced. Starting off with a simple “sorry you’re having trouble” can make a huge difference in a customer’s attitude.

Next, explain the situation as best you can. Don’t lay it all on the customer though; forego saying “You broke the phone when you dropped it into the toilet” and go for a more polite “At this time our phones do not support waterproofing technology.”

Hopefully by this time they’ll start to simmer down. This is when you hit them with your plan to make the inconvenience up to them. It helps to be as detailed as possible as they’ll undoubtedly have questions if you’re not. Let them know the what, when, where, and who of the situation and they should be covered.

All done? Not quite. Bookend the conversation with yet another apology – again, it is not about assigning blame to anyone, just that you feel horrible about the fact that they were inconvenienced. By now they should be much calmer and will probably tell you “it’s ok” when you apologize again. If not, you may have missed something during the conversation. Don’t be afraid to inquire if you can help them even further. Doing so may save you some headache later on!