Turning Service Challenges into Stronger Client Relationships

By: Greg Mazares, CEO

Customer service issues represent an opportunity to both grow and acquire new business.  It’s a dynamic that I have witnessed numerous times over my 36 years as a business leader in litigation services and technology.  Now, please don’t think I am advising you to instruct your service operations team to intentionally drop the ball.  The best way to generate more revenue is to deliver great work the first time, every time.  That’s the goal, but it is simply not possible.  Any combination of complex data, fallible human beings doing the work, imperfect technology, poor communications, and unproven processes (not to forget the extremely rare instance of working with an unreasonable client) will ensure less than a perfect customer service record.  I am simply saying that when things go wrong, you may be able to “turn a stone into gold.”

Most experienced clients understand that mistakes will happen.  Some of our most understanding clients admit that even THEY make mistakes that can contribute to service issues.  Also, as we commonly work on matters with so-called “modern data types,” we find ourselves engaged in “science projects” almost every week.  That’s why we hired proven data scientists and project management experts who are amazing at avoiding or resolving complex data traps.  And, of course, even the best professionals make mistakes.

So, when problems occur, how can your team turn them into opportunities? Here are things you can consider and address in advance of and during such service remediation “opportunities:”

  1. Elevate your business by creating a culture of superior customer service.  Hire talented people, invest in their ongoing training, and give them the technology they need to do more and better work faster.  By providing exceptional customer service and resolving issues quickly and effectively, any professional services company can establish a reputation for reliability and professionalism. Your reputation will help you attract new customers who are impressed by your company’s dedication to meeting or even exceeding their expectations.  It also helps you recruit the industry’s “best and brightest” professionals who want to be part of a winning organization with high-quality standards.
  2. Listen to customer feedback to improve your services.  Take their feedback seriously, don’t be defensive, and admit when you and your team have failed them. When your team errs, document to your client what happened, what caused the problem, and how you are going to resolve it.  If your staff doesn’t have the experience or knowledge needed to address a challenge they haven’t seen or dealt with before, don’t hesitate to bring in expert help on a consulting basis.  As in the practice of medicine, “specialists” can save the patient and expedite recovery.  The focus must be on resolving the issue.  This proactive approach will not only help you prevent similar future problems, but it will give your clients confidence that they can count on your company when things go wrong, leading to increased customer loyalty and overall satisfaction. Plus, your professional staff will be even better prepared and less stressed the next time they face a similar situation.
  3. Make things right: Following a service problem, you should consider offering to credit the client for the angst and delays your company has caused. You can also offer “professional considerations” on the troubled project or towards future matters. This will not only help your client feel better about the current situation but may also create future revenue streams for your business.  But first you have to rectify the issues at hand.  Offering future discounts won’t help your company if your client doesn’t trust your team’s abilities to both do things right the first time and, when necessary, swiftly and permanently resolve service issues.
  4. Leverage customer testimonials: Encouraging satisfied customers to provide positive reviews can help showcase the company’s dedication to customer service and demonstrate to potential clients and prospects the company’s ability to resolve problems effectively. This can help attract new customers who are reassured by the positive feedback from your existing clientele.

  5. As a business leader, understand that how you respond in the middle of a “crisis” situation is going to impact your team in both the present and future.  Be steady, be in control (of yourself and the situation), and be determined to resolve the issues.  Encourage and lead your team, don’t punish them.  Problem situations are teaching opportunities on multiple levels.  During a service challenge, you can show your team how to behave, how to remain calm and unflappable, how to think through alternative courses of action, how to evaluate corrective options, how to communicate with your clients, how to identify and deploy remediation experts, and how to encourage your staff to stick together and assist each other when they need support the most.  When problems occur, we find out the most important things about leaders and professional staff members.  Your clients and your staff need to truly internalize that no matter what happens, everything is going to be alright.  When this level of equilibrium occurs, there are no limits to how much your people and business can grow and prosper.   

Overall, by addressing service problems promptly, offering solutions, and providing exceptional customer service amid a storm, a services company can turn challenges into opportunities to strengthen existing customer relationships, increase future sales, attract new clients, and enhance its reputation in the marketplace. But please remember that it is perfectly acceptable to do things right the first time!