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Customer service mistakes: how to overcome them

Everybody makes mistakes. Yes, that’s totally true. It’s also the perfect message to deliver to your kids when they put clothes on inside out, or spill milk over the newspaper. But the thing is, mistakes also do cause real problems in the adult world, and if we’re talking about customer service mistakes in your company, then things can really go south.

Sooner or later, one day a member of your team (or it could be yourself!) will find out that a technician has screwed up in a job. What do you do in these situations? How can you handle it so that it has the lowest impact possible?

Customer service mistakes: how to overcome them

Prevent mistakes from the beginning

The most obvious course of action is… trying not to make those mistakes in the first place. Prevention is, like in many other areas in life, the best advice to avoid customer service mistakes that can end up ruining your reputation.

A really simple but effective way to make sure you reduce the number of possible customer service mistakes is to use checklists. Seriously, if industries like healthcare, air service and space exploration use checklists all the time, it must be because they’re really effective at preventing screw-ups – including customer service mistakes.

For example, a few months ago the phone and internet lines in my building had to be repaired, which meant communications had to be temporarily switched off. I knew I would be offline for a few hours, but after spending most of the day without internet or phone line, I called the company. Turns out the technicians had left for the day without plugging the main switch back. If only they had done a checklist…


Evaluate the situation

Not all mistakes are the same. In my previous example, it only took 30 minutes for a technician to come back to the building and plug us again, in order to fix the problem with communications.

But in other situations, customer service mistakes can be really serious, to the point of putting human lives at risk. Imagine a technician who fails to properly install a heating system – it could perfectly cause a fatal leak that could injure or even kill the homeowners.

Technicians in these situations may need proper re-training, but not only that. Depending on the seriousness of the mistake, disciplinary consequences are in order. Customer service mistakes that can result in personal damage or death must be taken very seriously, to make sure they don’t happen again.

The best advice here is not to overreact, but not to underreact either. Because when dealing with customer service mistakes, one thing is “everybody makes mistakes” like we said at the beginning, and another very different thing is to “you could have killed someone with that mistake”.


Apologize to the customer

No matter how many customer service mistakes you make, always apologize to the customer. You don’t want to be one of those companies which never admit fault, and make their customers fight for compensation.

While the customer is not always right, if your company or your technician made a mistake, your best option is to admit it, apologize to the customer and think ways to avoid them in the future. Also, always take the first step in offering the customer something to make it up to them – like a special discount. In this way, instead of having an angry customer who would probably never hire you again, you’ll have the chance to win back their trust with your honesty.

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