You may want to read the first post in this musing before reading this one.
Problems are part of life. Problems are also part of the customer service experience. Dan, in my story, left me hanging on the phone and had the opportunity when I was in front of him to make me a wild fan. He almost did it, but didn’t because instead of making my situation, albeit a small one, better, he made an excuse.
Here’s the deal: Problems are inevitable, excuses are optional.
It’s easy, even seems natural, to make an excuse when a customer points out a problem. I’ve done it. In those moments, we want our customer to "empathize" with our trouble and cut us a break. More often than not, the customer isn’t going to do what we want. Instead, an excuse makes our customers feel slighted. Whether customers should be more tolerant or not, isn’t the issue. For me most part, "they" or better yet "we" are not that tolerant.
What to do?
Resist the temptation to give an excuse, instead make your customer’s day. So let’s replay the conversation with Dan and make one slight adjustment right at the moment he made the excuse. Here’s the part of the conversation that can remain the same:
" Dan," I said, "I’ve been on hold for at least 10 minutes."
At that point, he stopped me and didn’t let me get one more word out.
"I’m sorry, that was me, and I’m sorry."
Now here’s what he should have said next:
"Let me tell you what I"m going to do, I’m going to take $5.00 off your order. I shouldn’t have forgotten your call and you shouldn’t have been on hold on your cell phone while driving to the restaurant. I apologize, let’s take $5.00 off your order and why don’t you just grab a cup; the drink is on us too."
If Dan would have said (and done) this, my angst would have evaporated and I would have been spreading his name around for mayor of his city. If you "make it better" for your customer, in the midst of a problem, your credibility shoots out the roof. You get a fan.
So, when the problem occurs, don’t make excuses, make it better. And that, makes fans.