Great Customer Service Is Not About Being Perfect

Sue Cockburn Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Posted on May 18th 2014

Great Customer Service Is Not About Being Perfect

Customer Service Best Practices

Great customer service is not about being perfect. That doesn't mean we shouldn't TRY to deliver great products and services. But the truth is, it really is impossible to get it right every time.

Most customers know this and expect an occasional problem to occur. It's not so much the problem that is the issue, usually. It's the way we (or our team) handle the situation.

I learned early in my career that problems (aka complaints) actually offered a great opportunity to build relationship and loyalty with a client. The catch? Owning up to and taking responsibility for the problem - sometimes even if it was on the client's side and not ours. Often it was on our end, but not always. But we've all heard the saying 'the customer is never wrong'.

If you're in business that pretty much needs to be your motto. It's not so much that the customer IS always right. They're not. But, they need to see us owning the problem when they believe they are in the right. Arguing to prove we are right and they are wrong may allow us to win the battle, but we'll likely lose the client.

OK, we may not lose the client immediately. But there will likely be a crack in their loyalty. They may feel betrayed, resentful, wronged, embarrassed, whatever. They may even know they were mostly responsible. But that often won't matter if we don't handle the situation well.

Conversely, handle their concerns well - whether it was our fault or theirs - and we can deepen the relationship with the client. They'll (usually) appreciate and respect our willingness to own the problem and will (likely) extend a certain amount of grace. Provided we fix the problem quickly and make things right. All with a caring and courteous attitude (also known as humility), of course!

Heck, you may even find they are more committed to you AFTER the problem is addressed/resolved. Why would that be? Just maybe, we've proved ourselves as trustworthy and deserving of their business. They have confirmation that we have their best interests at heart, that we really do value them as a client. And chances are, if we've handled the situation really well, they'll become one of our biggest promoters or ambassadors - assuming the service and products we provide is truly deserving of this.

If you take a minute to think back on problem situations you've experienced as a client and how you've been taken care of, or not, you'll get the picture. I wrote about one of my experiences recently in an article called 'Great Customer Service Is More Than A Smile.'

Clients deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sure sometimes we'll be taken advantage of. And sometimes we won't be able to fix mistakes or won't be able to take responsibility for something that is very clearly customer error and possibly not fixable.

But where we can own the problem. Where we can fix it, whether we're at fault or not. Where we can give the client the benefit of the doubt, rather than arguing with them. Where we can, the long-term payoff can be huge.

Keeping the customers we have and building on that base is much more cost effective than gaining new customers while existing ones stream out the back door!

Photo Credit: Best Customer Service/shutterstock


Sue Cockburn

Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Sue is the founder and CEO of GrowingSocialBizGrowingSocialBiz provides website and social media services to micro and small business. Sue also writes on topics related to branding, customer service, employee engagement, online presence and social media. Her articles are published on the GrowingSocialBiz blog, on LinkedIn and on the Nimble blog. 

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Justin Belmont
Posted on May 29th 2014 at 11:11AM

Customer service is such a tricky part of marketing.  I like the point you made that you can use customer complaints to actually build a relationship with them and turn something negative into something positive. It's crucial to know where your audience stands. One of the things that Prose Media recommends is to actively use discussion comment sections, as a way to get feedback. Great job!

Posted on May 29th 2014 at 12:53PM

Justin, thanks for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to weigh in.