If you work with clients, you’re bound to make customer service mistakes. It happens to every company, and it will happen to you. (It’s okay – you’re human!)
You’ve spent a lot of time putting processes in place to make sure your clients have a good experience. But what happens when they don’t?
Customer service mistakes don’t have to be the end of a professional relationship.
In this post, we’ll take a look at companies who are doing customer service right, sit down and talk with customer service expert and Back Office Betties Founder & CEO, Emily LaRusch, and dive into our tips and advice for navigating customer service mistakes.
Two companies that stand out as examples of admirable customer service are Chewy and Zappos.
You’ve surely heard of them, right? But did you know that both of these companies have reputations for caring about their customers and going above and beyond to make things right?
Chewy is an online pet store selling food, supplies, and prescriptions for pets.
You don’t need to search long to find raving customer reviews for Chewy. Their approach is one of genuine care and compassion (for both the animals and their human owners). This Forbes post details two stories from Chewy customers.
In the first, a customer whose pet cat has just passed away calls to cancel their auto-shipments of cat food. Not only does Chewy’s customer service representative spend extra time on the phone with the customer to offer condolences, but they also send out a handwritten note and bouquet of flowers by mail.
In the second, a customer emails Chewy when their shipment doesn’t arrive as scheduled. Chewy’s customer service overnights a second shipment free of charge noting that the customer should keep the first shipment as well, should it arrive. Sure enough, the following day the customer receives both shipments. A week later, a handwritten note arrives from Chewy welcoming them and hoping their cat is loving their new toy.
As you can see, Chewy’s customer service model is intuitive and easy to understand. They make real connections through emotion and attention to detail that foster effective word-of-mouth marketing and brand loyalty. It really works.
Zappos is an online shoe and clothing retailer.
Their call center, located in Las Vegas, NV, is open 24/7/365 and always has a live representative on the line. But Zappos doesn’t restrict its employees with call time limits or give them scripts to follow.
Instead, Zappos puts every new hire through 4 weeks of customer service training (with an additional 3 weeks for customer service operators) and takes a hands-off approach.
They’re known for their accommodating and sometimes outlandish customer service stories. Like in 2011, when they paid for all the tolls along the Allston/Brighton Massachusetts Turnpike plazas for 2 hours the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just to be nice. Or their ultra-long customer service calls – the longest Zappos call lasted 10 hours and 51 minutes.
Zappos puts their focus solely on customer happiness. Their willingness to go above and beyond leaves them with happy customers that return later knowing they will be taken care of. Of course, a little attention for some of their antics doesn’t hurt either.
For more on Zappos’ customer service, check out Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, Former Zappos CEO.
. . .
A Customer Service Conversation with Back Office Betties Founder & CEO, Emily LaRusch
Emily LaRusch knows customer service. In fact, it was her own experiences with bad service that led her to create Back Office Betties in 2014, knowing that she could make a difference.
What is customer service and why is it so important?
Emily LaRusch: I believe customer service is a reflection of a company’s values. One of our BettieISMs (Back Office Betties’ core values) is ‘Deliver Unparalleled Service’.
Before starting Betties, I worked for a top-three bank. On my first day, they were not ready for me. I stood at the security desk for 30 minutes until someone I knew from a prior bank saw me and authorized my entry. I sat at my new desk. The phone wasn’t installed and my logins weren’t ready for use. My manager didn’t arrive for another hour. It was an unwelcome experience, and sadly, many companies provide experiences like this to employees and customers. Before I had fully fleshed out the services Back Office Betties would provide, I knew what I wanted it to feel like to do business and work here.
What is your favorite customer service success story?
Emily: I took my four-year-old to Disneyland. He had been very potty trained, but with all the excitement and long lines, he had an accident. I went into the nearest store and couldn’t find any underpants or shorts that would fit him. I asked an employee for help and explained what happened. He found new Mickey Mouse underoos and shorts, placed them into a bag, told me where to find the nearest restroom, and wished us a magical time at Disney. Thousands of people who have visited Disney share stories just like this and that’s why it has earned a reputation for unparalleled service. Great service costs little but generates tremendous rewards.
What was your biggest customer service mistake?
Emily: Not doing enough to communicate the importance of having an ongoing relationship between our clients and our client concierge team. On the surface, it would appear that we are a vendor to which certain work has been outsourced… and as long as we do the work with no issues, no one needs to communicate.
The reality is, virtual receptionists are an extension of the internal law firm team. As an employee, continual feedback and modifications are essential to success. There should be at least a quarterly conversation to determine if the sales script is working, are the leads converting, is the call flow process providing callers with the best experience? Etc.
What did you do to fix it?
Emily: Our client concierge team is reaching out regularly to have these conversations and obtain feedback to help strengthen the receptionist team and increase the value and results for law firms. We are also working on content creation that will provide quick, easy-to-understand, actionable edutainment to help the law firms we work with thrive.
What makes Back Office Betties’ customer service stand out?
Emily: I care about the entrepreneurial journey and understand the enormous pressure that business owners carry. When I work with vendors, I look for the ones who are passionate about business and want to see me succeed.
With standard answering services, the customer is signing up for services that fit into the provider’s box. I train my team to build the box around the firms’ needs as much as we can. We don’t want to just answer the phones, we want to be the unparalleled customer service representatives for the firms we work with.
. . .
Have You Heard of the Service Recovery Paradox?
First coined by McCollough and Bharadwaj in 1992, this phenomenon demonstrates how customers leaving a service failure situation can end up with higher satisfaction and brand loyalty after a successful service recovery than customers who never experienced a service failure at all.
There’s no reason to go creating service failures to give yourself service recovery opportunities, but don’t miss them when you get them either. Not only do customer service mistakes not need to cost you a professional relationship, but if handled correctly, they could even strengthen it.
There are many variables that affect the Service Recovery Paradox. This meta-analysis is a great resource for more details.
With All of This in Mind, How Can We Navigate the Rocky Waters Following Customer Service Mistakes?
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
You made a mistake… Own up to it! Sweeping customer service mistakes under the rug while hoping your client doesn’t notice or won’t mind is the worst choice you can make.
All this does is leave your client thinking (a) you’re not paying attention or (b) you don’t care.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, you want to be the one drawing attention to your mistakes, not your client.
Reach Out Fast
Best case scenario, the first time your client hears of a mistake will be when you bring them a solution wrapped in a bow.
The stress that comes with discovering a problem and the weight placed on the client to reach out in hopes of getting it fixed are big factors to remove from the equation.
Imagine the following scenarios:
- You learn you were accidentally charged $3,000 instead of $300 – but don’t worry, a refund is already processing.
- You find a $3,000 charge on your account.
You can see just how big of a difference it makes on an emotional level for the client, even if the final outcome would have been a refund in both cases.
Asking questions makes your client feel like you care and want to understand the situation.
(Just saying that you care alone is unfortunately not very effective.)
Not only will you be able to genuinely understand and help your client better with more information, but your client will know that you’re invested in their situation, not just trying to get them quiet to make it go away.
Don’t Make it About You
Sure, maybe your customer service mistake wouldn’t have happened if you had been able to get your coffee that morning, and your daily meeting hadn’t run overtime, and you weren’t understaffed at the busiest time of the year!
But while your natural instinct may be to try and explain yourself, this often does more harm than good.
A disgruntled client does not want to hear why their problem is hard for YOU, or how the business they’re giving you is a lot of work. They want to hear that you understand why it’s hard for THEM, and how you’re going to fix it.
Those blessed with a high level of natural empathy will always have a leg up in customer service.
For the rest of us: Practice.
If empathy isn’t something that comes naturally, it’s important to keep it at the front of your mind throughout customer service interactions. Actively putting yourself in your client’s shoes, or even just recognizing their emotion and pretending to feel the same way for a moment can go a long way.
Sidenote: The famous book, How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a great read for those looking to improve their empathetic skills.
Remember That the Customer is Always Right… About How They Feel
The phrase, “The customer is always right” might just be the fasted way to elicit eye rolls from anyone who has ever worked in customer service.
But while your clients might not always be right, the important thing is actually how they feel.
Even if your client’s complaint is unjustified or inaccurate, the negative emotion and dissatisfaction they are presenting you with is real. And it’s that dissatisfaction that leaves negative reviews for your law firm.
Give Gifts, Not Discounts
Discounts are easy. And while ease may be a plus, it can come off as generic and impersonal.
Giving or sending a personal gift holds a much heavier weight. Simple flowers, a nice notebook, a gift card, or something similar paired with a handwritten note shows that you went out of your way to add a little something positive to balance out the negative that your mistake caused.
Gifts show that you recognize that your mistake has had an impact on your client’s life (be it small or large), not just your business relationship. Think something along the lines of:
“Sorry for the stress we’ve caused you this week. We hope you’ll use this gift card for a free massage to get back some Zen.”
Now that’s not to say that there is no place for discounts… In many cases, a gift alongside a discount would likely be the best option. The concept of gift-giving is to show your client that you care about them, you’re not just throwing a discount at them because they’re upset or it’s your policy.
Disclaimer: Be sure to check with your local Ethics Rules & Opinions before sending gifts. In the case that gifts are not an option, default to a heartfelt message and a nice card instead.
Gift giving is a Back Office Betties favorite!
Anyone on the Back Office Betties team has the power to determine if someone needs a gift.
Keeping this policy not only ensures that customer service mistakes will be remedied, but also creates an open environment for mistakes to be owned up to. When every member on the team has the power to make things right, they do so. Giving your team the responsibility of customer satisfaction without empowering them to fix their own mistakes is what leads to things being swept under the rug, and leaves little room for professional growth.
Have a crazy customer service story or helpful tip? Let us know about it!
Interested in giving your callers the customer service experience they deserve? Schedule a call with our Growth Solutions Strategist now and let us help you craft the perfect call experience for your callers.