The Proper Way To Handle Mistakes In Customer Service

There are no perfect people — except those who appear in training films.  Everyone else is going to make mistakes, a lot of them. 

That’s no big deal.  The problem is that many people don’t know what to do when they make a mistake.  They don’t know how to respond, and as a result, they often make more mistakes, making the problem so much worse. 

Here’s what you should do.  First ADMIT YOUR MISTAKE.  In fact, the best way to prevent a customer or coworker complaint, or the best way to minimize the damage is to admit your mistake before he/she brings it up. That step alone will develop a sense of good will and trust between the two of you. 

Second, TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.  Even if your team or business unit made the mistake, the customer in front of you, the colleagues around you, or the boss above you doesn’t want to hear excuses or explanations.  All they care about is what you are going to do about it. 

Third, MOVE QUICKLY.  When a hotel loses a customer’s reservation or an airline loses a customer’s luggage, when such problems occur, there is a brief moment during which a front-line employee can turn a bad situation into a memorable one.  If you act willingly and quickly to correct the mistake, the disgruntled customer often walks away with renewed faith in your company.  If you don’t move quickly, your company may never get a second chance with that customer. 

Fourth, INVESTIGATE AND INSTIGATE.  Simple mistakes don’t always have simple causes.  There may be a problem in the system that caused the difficulty.  Investigate.  Find the cause.  Maybe there was a lack of understanding on someone’s part, maybe a lack of training, or even a lack of motivation behind the mistake.  If you don’t find the cause and instigate some corrective action, you’ll be repeating steps one and two over and over. 

The next time you make a mistake, don’t try to cover it up or lie about it.  Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right. Instead, do a couple of things I’ve suggested above, because two rights can sometimes right a wrong.