I recently had an interesting conversation with a client about customer service. In particular, the discussion was about managing a customer crisis.

Here are 10 tips I suggested for future reference:

Stay Focused. Every problem has three issues – how you got into the mess you’re in, how you get out of the mess you’re in, and how you avoid getting in the same mess ever again. While in he midst of the problem, keep everyone focused on getting out of the mess. You can and should address the how we got here and how we avoid this in the future as part of an after action report.

Listen. People need to be heard. Give the emotional person a chance to vent. Let them get it off their chest…once.

Communicate. Let your customer know you and your company understand the business impact of whatever crisis you’re managing. Business impact is the issue you ought to stay focused on.

Don’t Make A Promise You Can’t Keep. Nothing makes a bad situation worse than over-committing and under-delivering. If you don’t have the answer, don’t offer one. Instead, offer the time you will have more information.

Offer Alternatives. Many problems have more than one solution. While some solutions are obviously better than others, offer them all to your customer and make a recommendation with explanation why it’s being recommended. This goes a long way in letting them know you’re putting thought behind your actions and acting in their best interest.

Get The Customer Involved In The Solution. Related to the item above, involve your customer in the solution selection process. This puts the two of you on the same side of the table. Be sure to lead the conversation, you don’t want to give the impression you aren’t in charge of the resolution — they expect you to be.

Be Honest. Many fixes have associated risks. Let your customer know what’s happening next, what may happen as a result, and what you’re doing to remain cautious of their concerns.

Guard Some Information. While being honest and communicating with your customer, don’t go too far and share with them every wild and wacky idea you’re pursing internal to resolve their problem. In a crisis, sharing too much information can make your organization appear confused and haphazard. Guarding information is a balancing act. Use caution.

Coordinate Your Message. Streamline communication to a client to give them a consolidated voice from your company. Out of sequence information and mixed messages further frustrates the situation.

Set Expectations. Let your customer know what to expect next and when. This goes along way to building trust and confidence. Keep every promise you make.

There are 10 tips I shared for handling a customer crisis. What would you add to this list? Which of the above tips do you think are most important? Why?


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