Starbucks recently faced a challenge many businesses dread. It had what it called a “technical glitch” in its system. That glitch caused outages in 7,400 stores in the United States and 1000 stores in Canada. The result: The company’s employees couldn’t get the store’s point of sales registers to work. That meant employees couldn’t take money for anything.
Caught off guard, Starbucks’s employees didn’t panic. Instead, they applied a simple solution: They gave coffee away free to customers all day. That’s right. They gave coffee away free to customers. Sure, some stores closed early. But these stores still gave away what product they had while they were opening.
What these employees did made sense. Instead of wasting product, they created good will by giving it away. As one writer put it: “They put their best foot forward with their customers and showed them a little love.” In short, they turned a potential disaster into a chance to demonstrate epic customer service.
Poor Customer Service Can Cost You
Business can’t escape customer service challenges like Starbucks’s. They’re a fact of life. But poor service during emergencies can cost you. Poor customer service cost American businesses about $83 billion last year, says one report. The same report says that 63.9% of consumers consider customer service to more critical than price when deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
Bad customers service can also create bad publicity. Things like confusion, fear, ignorance, and mistakes can hurt customer service during chaotic times. These things tell customers that your team isn’t as well-trained—or as knowledgeable—as it should be.
If your team is knowledgeable and well trained, however, it will handle customer service challenges without turning people off. That, in turn, will generate positive PR, increase profits, and boost customer loyalty.
Addressing Minor Customer Challenges
Some customer service challenges are minor. Your employees will encounter them regularly as they deal with customers face to face. Below are some of these challenges and responses to them that will help you and your staff deal with them effectively:
What to do when you don’t know — The last thing you want an employee to say to a customer is “I don’t know.” Customers want answers. Instead, have your employees say “Let me quickly check this out” or “Let me find out for you.”
What to do when there’s a mistake — Employees shouldn’t try to hide mistakes. That’s the worst thing to do. Instead, have them apologize for the error and take accountability. Then, expedite a solution and contact all customers impacted by your mistake.
What to do when you don’t keepa promise — Customers have expectations, business needs, and so on. When promises aren’t kept, they’re not happy. After your staff apologies for the mistake, have them offer the customer a bonus, such as one month’s free service or a discount.
What to do when a product or service isn’t available — Your customer will be upset. Make sure your staff stays calm and doesn’t panic. Apologize and propose the best alternative available or find out when the product or service will be available.
What to do when customers complain — One of the hallmarks of good customer service is handling customers complaints effectively. Your staff needs to be well-trained in doing that. When customers complain:
Listen closely to the complaint
Acknowledge the problem
Express empathy for the problem
Find out went wrong. Dig deep.
Apologize for the mistake
Refocus on providing good service
Above all, be friendly and professional. The last thing you want to do when customers complain is upset them any more than they already are.
Addressing Unique Customer Challenges
Other customer service challenges are serious, such as a robbery, a security breach, or a fire. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with these challenges. The key thing with them is to make sure everyone—employees and customers—are safe. You should also prepare beforehand to address these challenges if they occur. Here are some steps to take to be ready for this challenge:
Review the risks. Do a “What if” analysis
Determine what you know and don’t know
Discover undocumented or outdated procedures
Meet with your team to cover what to do
Determine what staff needs additional training
Train the staff on the potential emotional impact
Assess how your staff handled the emergency
Provide emotional support/comfort if necessary
Use professionals to help employees deal with the aftermath. They’re trained to handle these types of problems. You’re not.
Customer service challenges are a fact of business life. Some are relatively minor, like the problem Starbucks had with its point of sales registers. Others are much more serious. These challenges are chances to show off your customer service skills.
Deal with them challenges effectively and you’ll put your best foot forward, creating customer loyalty and increasing profits.