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Making service right, when it goes wrong

Associates helping with Microsoft products
Associates helping with Microsoft products
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

All businesses experience customer service gone wrong, and customers making a complaint. It's at this point, however, the manner in which you choose to resolve the situation, matters.

"It is exactly when things go wrong that customers are most sensitive about how they are treated, most likely to share their experiences with friends and colleagues and most likely to make lasting decisions about whether to bring their future business back to that company, or to its rival. Act correctly at this time and you can improve customer loyalty", writes

According to, "Every business has to deal with situations in which things go wrong from a customer's point of view. However you respond if this happens, don't be dismissive of your customer's problem, even if you're convinced you're not at fault. Although it might seem contradictory, a customer with a complaint represents a genuine opportunity for your business."

They go on to state the following:

  • If you handle the complaint successfully, your customer is likely to prove more loyal than if nothing had gone wrong.
  • People willing to complain are rare, your complaining customer may be alerting you to a problem experienced by many others who silently took their service elsewhere.

Here are 6 phrases to remember 'not' to say when things go wrong, with an alternate way to say it better, from

Don't say: "I don't know."

A better way: "That's a good question. Let me find out for you."

Don't say: "All sales are final."

A better way: "Let us know if you're not satisfied and we'll make it right."

Don't say: "Calm down."

A better way: "I apologize."

Don't say: "We're closed."

A better way: "We close at __ o'clock and reopen at _ o'clock. Is there something I can quickly help you with now?"

Don't say: "It's over there."

A better way: "Follow me, I'll show you right where it is."

Don't say: "That's not my department."

A better way: "I'll be happy to get you to the person who knows more about that department."

When done well, customer service creates loyal customers. It's when it's done bad, that causes a negative reaction on a business reputation that goes well beyond the immediate bad interaction.

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