How Do You Handle a Problem That’s the Customer’s Fault?

Q. I attended your webinar yesterday on customer service. I found it helpful.

Most of the scenarios discussed were when the company “messes up”. For instance, UPS’ strike caused service issues. The company did not make the old woman’s ink stamp properly. How do you recommend we handle situations when it is not our company’s “fault” and still be viewed as providing good customer service?

My company provides very expensive medication infused intravenously in the home setting. The cost of a typical dose is $2000+. Not infrequently the patient causes the “mess up” and they become dissatisfied. For example, we may have left multiple messages to arrange a nursing visit to administer the medication and arrange the delivery of the medication. The patient finally returns the call at the last minute and then demands to have their dose scheduled “immediately”. Another example is the patient makes demands which are not justified. The medication we provide is manufactured in glass vials. The expiration date of the vial is what is stamped on it by the manufacturer (usually a 1 – 2 years). We prepare some patients’ medication by transferring it into an empty IV bag. When we do this, the expiration date is shortened (usually to 21 days). Although we have documentation from the manufacturer stating the medication is stable for that time, we have some patients who refuse to use it.

Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

Myra’s Answer:

It’s especially tricky trying to handle a problem that is actually the customer’s fault. Research shows that 67% of problems customers encounter are actually the fault of the customer.

Here’s how I suggest handling some of your common issues:

Situation

“We may have left multiple messages to arrange a nursing visit to administer the medication and arrange the delivery of the medication. The patient finally returns the call at the last minute and then demands to have their dose scheduled “immediately”.

Express empathy for the customer’s predicament, explain your attempts to help the customer/patient, tell the customer what you can do and finally, apologize. Here’s how this might look:

“I can certainly appreciate your need to have your dose immediately. In fact, we’ve urgently tried to reach you, leaving # messages over the last couple of days. We can schedule a nurse for your dose on _____. Regrettably, it is not possible now to get the does scheduled this afternoon because our nurses are fully booked. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.”

Situation

“The patient makes demands which are not justified. The medication we provide is manufactured in glass vials. The expiration date of the vial is what is stamped on it by the manufacturer (usually a 1 – 2 years). We prepare some patients’ medication by transferring it into an empty IV bag. When we do this, the expiration date is shortened (usually to 21 days). Although we have documentation from the manufacturer stating the medication is stable for that time, we have some patients who refuse to use it.”

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to relate to their fear and concern and explain very carefully the actual stable period of the medication. Here’s how this might look:

“I realize this can be confusing, but I’d like to explain what’s going on to try to help you understand. In most cases, your medication is provided in manufactured glass vials with an expiration of 1-2 years. There are times when we prepare the medication by transferring it into an empty IV bag. When we do this, as in this case, the “expiration” date is shorted to 21 days. But here’s where it gets tricky. While the medication expires in 21 days, it is still stable and absolutely safe to use for ____ (period). I’m happy to mail/email/fax you documentation to prove this. If the medication wasn’t stable, we would not issue it to our patients.”

Note: I recommend putting this statement on your website in your FAQ section on your website and including it as an insert with the medication.

For more help, check out: “Helpful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult Customers” right here on my blog.

Good luck!

Myra looks forward to answering your questions about customer service, contact center management, and customer service training. Please e-mail Myra at info@myragolden.com or tweet her at @myragolden.

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myragolden

Myra Golden is an author, trainer and keynote speaker who has been helping companies for over twenty years to improve the customer experience through her customer service training workshops. Myra has a master’s degree in human relations and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, helping her to understand the challenges of developing the best customer experience as it relates to the psychology of the employees. Myra has helped Verizon Business, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Michelin Tires, Frito-Lay, Vera Bradley and many others improve the customer experience through her training. She was named one of the Top 10 Customer Service Bloggers by Huffington Post and she is the co-author of Beyond WOW!

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