Impossible Customer Service

Meikah asked me to be part of the Customer Service Carnivale, and this post is my entry in her requested topic: "Impossible Customer Service". While I suspect that Meikah was looking for examples of service that went to great lengths to achieve the "impossible", I’d like to approach the topic a bit differently.

I have, many times, been in call centers when the CSRs were put in truly impossible situations. I remember one client who went through a system conversion that went horribly awry. Almost every customer was adversely effected by the system nightmare. The queue was off the charts, every customer was (understandably) irate, and CSRs had little or no information with which to resolve issues. The situation went on for days that turned into weeks.

There are always going to be times when it becomes humanly impossible to resolve an issue to the customer’s satisfaction. When that happens, I fall back my #1 Rule of Customer Service:


There are other principles and strategies that you should employ. They are the core to "doing the best you can" and will help you keep your cool and your sanity when faced with impossible situations:

  • Apologize
  • Be honest
  • Provide the best information you have
  • Actively listen
  • Restate the customer’s issue so he/she knows it is understood
  • Empathize with the customer’s emotion/frustration
  • Don’t blame the company, but accept responsibility as a representative of the company
  • Breathe slow and deep
  • Keep your tone soft and even

All of these can help, but they will never make the frustration go away. There is no magic bullet to make a difficult service situation easy. So, go back to Rule #1 and keep doing the best you can with what you have been given. Some days, that’s all you can do.

Flickr photo courtesy of Munky-D

  1 comment for “Impossible Customer Service

  1. September 25, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Doing the Best You Can With What You Have Been Given…

    This is #1 rule of customer service for Tom Vander Well of QAQnA. I thought it a profound statement because when all is said and done, as long as you do the best that you can, thats all that matters….

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