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The ultimate customer service crisis-checklist

22nd Apr 2016
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Karma's a bitch. It happened to all of us: that one time you leave 1 minute too late for the train station because 'yeah, trains are always late' and just that moment, the train is perfectly on time. We never want bad things to happen but truth is, nobody's immune for tragedies. Even for companies karma's lurking around the corner. You can be faced with server outages, negative press, negative feedback on social media, leaked sensitive information or black-outs.  

The list goes on and on. Shit happens and it's not going to skip you or your company. When you're faced with an unfortunate position as I listed above, you might forget that there also are customers in your point of sale. You can't help that the power is out, but neither can they!  

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

That's why a good preparation is crucial. Benjamin Franklin once said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". These vital points really need to be on your crisis check-list for guaranteeing the best customer service at all times. 

1. Start with apologising 

There's one thing that's absolutely necessary to do when facing any kind of crisis: saying you're sorry. Even if the crisis or mistake isn't your fault. Your customers don't expect you to be perfect, nobody is. The least you can do is make up for what went wrong. 

Saying you're sorry isn't about taking the blame for a crisis. When there's a black-out in the entire city of course that's not your fault, at least let's hope it's not! ;-) Apologising is about empathy and showing that you understand how your customers feel. It's the least you can do and it's free. 

2. Never blame your customer 

We've all blamed someone else when something went wrong. Honestly, that never is a good idea. Your customers don't want to hear that something was their fault. How can it ever be their fault? The only thing your customers want, is for you to take responsibility and resolve the issue. No matter what it may be. 

Take Apple as an example. When they launched the iPhone 4 there seemed to be a problem with the antenna. Apple responded blaming their customers, saying that they're holding the iPhone incorrectly causing the signal to drop out: 

“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance with certain places 
being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”

That response only resulted in more dissatisfied customers. They shouldn't have to change how they hold the iPhone. It's Apple that should have changed the iPhone in a way that it works when people hold it, any way they want. Apple responded by giving the customer what they wanted: free bumpers for improving phone signal. The PR crisis could have been a lot smaller if they came up with that solution immediately. 

3. Don't start arguing 

Arguing with your customer about who's right and who isn't is completely ridiculous. If you win, you'll lose the customer. But losing the argument might have the same outcome. So why continue arguing? It's not worth it, trust me. 

Think about it like this: would you want to lose a good friend for the sake of your bruised ego? Just by proving that you are right and they are wrong? You'll probably lose the friend. Well, the same counts for your customer relationship. Continuing to argue will give them the feeling you're arrogant and not customer friendly. So next time, they'll just go to your competitor.  

You could stop them from going to your competitor, just by staying calm and trying to resolve the issue reasonably. If you show them you want to work towards a positive outcome they'll appreciate what you've done. And I guarantee it to you, they'll come back.  

When you stop looking for someone to blame, things will resolve naturally. 

4. Don't allow stress taking over 

When things go wrong there's a lot that need to happen. Imagine having a restaurant and during rush time the power is gone. There's nothing you can do: you can't finish the meals for your customers, your POS system probably won't work and it'll be dark in your restaurant. There's so much that needs to happen: first and foremost the problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible, your guests that already have their food need light (eating in the dark is difficult), you're guests that didn't received their food are hungry, others might be ready to pay or ready to order and maybe there are even people that are going to try and leave your restaurant without paying.  

It's stressful to deal with situations like these. But it's extremely important to remain calm at all times. Losing your temper might cost you more than the actual problem: unsatisfied customers. Make sure your customer doesn't become a victim of your mess. That counts for every situation. A black out is something you probably can't help. You're a 'victim' as much as your customers that need to continue their mail in the dark. But what you can help, is the way you and your team handle the situation. 

5. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst 

Ideally, your crisis-plan remains unused forever. However, at some point you'll probably need it. And trust me, when that time comes you'll be glad that you've put a crisis-plan together.  

According to me it's important to prepare for the worst at all times. Not because I think everything can go wrong, but because I like being prepared when something does go wrong. When you understand what could go wrong, you can avoid a potential disaster.  


As I said before nobody wants tragedies to happen but no one is immune to them either. With the right preparation these are only tests that you'll succeed with distinction. Just keep in mind: your customers can't help it. Make sure you keep providing them the best customer service.  

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