In the Trenches: Dealing with an Unhappy Client

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on November 17, 2010
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We all know it’s impossible to please every single person, but in a customer service business it’s important to make that the goal. Still, some people will be unhappy, and we had to work through that with a customer recently. A good dose of apology combined with a refund seemed to do the trick. I also decided it was important to offer a future credit to get him to try us again.

A couple of weeks ago, a client who was being handled by one of our concierges sent me a note directly saying he didn’t feel he had been given the service as promised. My first internal reaction was to reach out immediately and apologize — the customer is always right, right? — but I had to temper myself. I didn’t have the full story, and I didn’t want to rush to judgment. After all, I have to trust my concierges to do a good job, and I want to believe they do everything right. So I responded to the client that I was very sorry to hear he hadn’t received service up to his expectations. I told him that I would investigate what happened on our end and get back to him within 24 hours. In the meantime, he was more than welcome to a refund under our service guarantee if he so chose.

Once that email was sent, I immediately contacted the concierge to see what happened. I was told that emails had been sent but there was no response. After a search of the emails, I found them to be inadequate. Emails hadn’t gone out when they should have, and the sparse ones that were sent were incomplete and not up to standards. It’s a service business owner’s worst nightmare. The problem was entirely our fault.

I told the concierge I would be back in touch after I resolved the issue with our client. I decided to immediately issue a refund and apologize for leaving him in the lurch. Fortunately, there weren’t any problems on his flights so he wasn’t truly angry. I then decided that the best thing I could do was to offer him the opportunity to use our service again without charge. I wanted him to come back so he could see what our service really was like. He responded that he appreciated the offer and would use us for a future trip.

Then I had to turn to our concierge. Instead of getting angry, I wanted to find out what went wrong. I knew that not receiving payment for the client would be hard enough, so I just wanted to focus on making sure it didn’t happen again. In the end, we found there were some issues with the way internal flight notification was being handled and we’ve worked to fix that. While I’m confident this exact problem won’t happen again, there’s always going to be another unhappy customer. We just have to make sure to react quickly to solve the problem.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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