How To Pacify An Irate Customer

No matter what industry you’re in, customer service is part of the job. Whether it’s human services, the airline industry or product sales, you have to interact with the people who use your services or products.

Customer service can be a tricky business. You can’t always control the outcome but you’re still held responsible. And even if you think the outcome is fine, you’re dealing with people’s expectations, which can vary widely.

I recently had a series of interchanges about a product I had purchased that did not hold up as promised. The first person I contacted responded quickly (not always the case!) but defended the product and indirectly blamed me for what had happened.

In the second interchange, the company president personally reached out to me with a very different tone. The message itself wasn’t all that different, but from his tone I felt understood, affirmed and treated fairly.

Here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

“I am really sorry about this and will get this taken care of. I have my shower stool in the shower and can promise you what happen to yours isn't normal and will be replaced. You mentioned there was a crack and the water got in there. That would be the issue and why this is happening. Cleaning the outside will never get clean inside those cracks.

Please let me send you a replacement unit. You will see this isn't normal and you will be happy with it.

Please follow up with me.”

When I asked for a refund instead of a replacement, he continued with the same understanding tone:

“Thanks for getting back to me. I don't ever want a customer of mine to be uncomfortable with any of our products. And since this did cost you a lot of money, I would rather send you a full refund. It’s the answer I would want to hear if I was in your position so that's what I will do for you.

I'm sorry this didn't work out. We stand 100% behind our customers and products and hope that if you do come across any of our other products in the future, you will consider giving them a try still.”

Both interchanges felt so personal and genuine that I will consider purchasing from this company even though I’m still disappointed in the product. 

What makes good customer service? Based on my recent experience, it’s three things:

  1. Seeing things from the perspective of the customer.
  2. Taking personal responsibility for your part in the situation.
  3. Offering to make things right.

Whatever business you're in, customer service is key to your ongoing success. It's not always easy to take a leadership role in calming an irate customer. But making the effort to create a win-win is likely to produce loyal customers who extol your virtues even if they're not always happy with everything you do. That kind of goodwill can only be earned by treating people fairly.

What do you think makes good customer service? How are customer service and leadership the same?