How do you Save a Customer When Things Go Wrong?


Photo Credit - Nate Grigg

Photo Credit – Nate Grigg

I know we all have the goal of delivering great products and services and giving our customers amazing service.  But, no matter how good you and your business are, you are going to have those moments where you don’t deliver and you fail a customer.  At that moment, you have a challenge and an opportunity.
How is this an opportunity?  “The customer is mad.  They are going to stop doing business with me and they are going to tell their friends,”  you say.  Here’s a little secret… your customers already know that you aren’t perfect.  They just want to know that you care, that you will try to make it right, and work to improve in the future.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@brianmininger” suffix=”#smallbusiness #customer service”]Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter[/inlinetweet]

Recently I had an experience that demonstrates this well.
In the rural area where I live we have small independent gas stations.  Many of these have the old style gas pumps that don’t take credit cards.  One of those gas stations is called Ducks Corner.  It is such an iconic station that everyone refers to the area where it is located as “Ducks Corner.”

Photo Credit - Richard Elzey

Photo Credit – Richard Elzey

The other morning I stopped in to get gas.  I went inside and prepaid for the gas with my debit card. I went back outside and started to pump the gas.  When the pump started, I immediately knew I had a problem.  The pump started pumping really slow!  This sometimes happens with these old pumps so I immediately flipped it off and then back on hoping to reset it.  However, it did not work and continued to pump really slow.  I resolved myself to the situation and just stood there waiting on the gas.
A few minutes later, the owner of the station came out and apologized and tried to get the pump working faster.  He tried turning it off inside the station and restarting it, but to no avail.  If I hadn’t prepaid for the gas I would have left and gone somewhere else.  I was not angry, but I certainly wasn’t excited about my experience.  I was thinking, “I probably won’t come back here for gas and run the risk that this would happen again.” As I was finally finishing pumping the gas, the owner walked back out. He apologized one more time, said “It should not take 20 minutes to get gas”, and handed me a cold Coke.
At that moment everything changed in my mind.  I now appreciated the business owner, and I wanted to support him again in the future.  I am now more willing to patronize his business than I ever was before.  I WANT to do business with him.

So what can we learn from this story?

  • Be Aware of your customers experience
  • When something goes wrong, apologize and try to fix it.
  • When you can’t fix it do something unexpected for them BEFORE they get mad and complain.

That’s it!  It really is that simple.  You can turn a potential disgruntled customer into a raving fan.  Look, I realize that there are some people that are impossible to please and just want something to complain about.  But most people are not like that.  If you make an effort to take care of them when something goes wrong you will take advantage of this opportunity.

When has a business resolved a problem for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  • Brian