Anyone who has been in business for any length of time is well aware "stuff" happens. Whether you're partly at fault, fully to blame, or have no responsibility at all, you should get involved and support your client or business partners as best you can when challenges come up.
Yes, it's true these will often consume your time, energy, and, at times, financial resources. But the way you handle these situations is an investment in your company's reputation, and an opportunity to strengthen the relationships you have with those involved.
Practically any negative situation with a customer or client can be turned into a positive experience. Here are seven things you can do to alleviate a customer service problem as soon as it pops up.
1. Contact the Customer—ASAP
Don't wait—talk to the customer right away. Communicate with them, even if it's just to let them know you are still gathering more information and will call them back when know you more. (Then, actually call them back when you know more.)
2. Be Ready to Do a LOT of Listening
This can be challenging, especially when whatever situation causing the friction is not your fault. But let the client share their frustrations and understand this: it isn't personal. Make sure you consider all contributing factors, and take the time to ask pertinent questions—information will help you decide the right course of action.
3. Don't Draw Quick Conclusions
Even if "the facts" seem obvious at first, take time to hear the whole story and ask more questions. Sometimes you need to delay a decision in order to draw on additional information resources and hear all sides of the story. Get a feel for where the client is at, as well as anyone else attending the meeting. The one exception: If you fully understand the issue and want to take 100% responsibility for the remedy—do it.
4. Visit the Jobsite
If there is a jobsite involved, visit it as soon as possible. It's amazing how what is described to you over the phone can be very different than what you witness in person. You also oftentimes learn other things that can help you execute on the best response. Invite supplier partners to accompany you, but don't send them to the site alone. As much as you may trust and respect them, they will never be you. Give your client the respect and courtesy of making their problem a priority, and show up in person.
5. Be Clear About Next Steps
Every time you communicate with the client, make sure they understand what will happen next, and when they can expect it. Be proactive! Take responsibility to check in with everyone who has a role in executing the agreed-upon next steps. Sometimes this involves prodding yourself to do your part. If the agreed-upon solution is to replace work that was done previously, consider incorporating the latest best practices when redoing the work, even if they weren't part of the original project. This will create a more durable solution for the client, and let them know the extent of your commitment to solving their issues.
6. Educate Vendors
It's your job to educate your vendors on the way you expect them to interact with you and your customers. If vendor partners are involved with the solution, help them understand your company culture. It's important to share with them why you may choose to do more than the minimum repair work or go beyond official product warranties.
7. Think Long-Term
Look forward, to future profits. It is very easy to get hyper-focused on the client issue happening right now, especially if the remedy will involve you spending your own dollars. Try to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: If you can provide a solution without putting your company at risk, consider doing so. All your efforts to "do the right thing" for your clients will strengthen your business in the future in ways you never imagined.