All businesses make mistakes sometimes. Whether it’s dropping the ball during a customer interaction, messing up a customer order or not doing enough as part of a post-service follow-up, every business has been there.

The one factor that differentiates good businesses from great ones is how they handle these types of situation. Often, a bad experience can be turned into an opportunity with a bit of work.

Don’t believe me? How about this recent piece on the Harvard Business Review, which outlines how prompt and personal customer service does indeed pay off?

Don’t stick your head in the sand

According to the analysis of some 400,000 customer service-related tweets sent to major US-based companies, customers are willing to reward brands that treat them well.

In fact, ‘simply receiving a response — any response at all — increased the customer’s willingness to pay later, even in cases where customers were aggrieved.’ In other words, even if your customer is angry and using negative language, respond to them! Ignoring them completely is the worst thing you can do.

However, be careful in your responses and avoid excuses at all costs. As the title of this piece states, excuses are never acceptable as part of a great customer experience.

From Cumbria to Cambridge, an excuse is an excuse

I recently had two separate customer service interactions in the space of two weeks that left me feeling rather bewildered and shaking my head.

The first one came whilst I was on a family trip hiking the hills of Cumbria.

I called the rental management company of the location we were staying at, to let them know that on change over (the next day) they should bring some new light bulbs. Five hadn’t worked since we’d been there and so I thought I’d give them a heads-up before their next guests arrived. I also suggested that as the bathroom extraction unit was broken (prior to our arrival) and the cooker was overheating they might like to get their handy-person to call by too.

The person form the rental company whom I spoke to on the phone ended the call with: “Thank you so much for letting us know. Without guests like you, we’d never know what needs to be done at our properties”.

Luckily, they couldn’t see my quizzical face over the telephone. It reflected my thought, doesn’t your cleaning company check the property and let you know what’s broken or do you not make your own supervisory checks after cleaning?

The second excuse I’ve recently been offered for poor customer experience was while I was visiting my sister in Cambridge.

I stayed in a medium rated, well-known hotel chain for two nights with my hubby. I popped down to the reception to ask for a second set of towels, as there was only one set in the room.

While asking for the additional towels, I acknowledged that the mistake was probably ours as we might have only stated one guest in the room when booking on-line.

“Oh no! I doubt it.”, said the very friendly and amiable receptionist. “We do it all the time. We don’t notice if there are two occupants, we wait for someone to ask.”


In my line of work, I don’t go out looking for problems when on my own travels. I’m off duty, enjoying quality time with my family, but incidents like these really stand out and stick in my mind.

These excuses make me disappointed not only with the brand I’m staying with, but disappointed for all the other guests too.

The most frustrating thing is that interactions like this need not happen, ever!

Preventing them is easy: review your processes, train your staff, empower them to take responsibility and have pride in their finished work.

Okay, so it’s not possible to mitigate every eventuality, but at least make an effort in the first place. Don’t wait for your guests to come and tell you, many may not be as patient as me. Potentially, they have travelled to get to you; they might be tired and hungry or have any other reason to be frustrated.

It only takes one small thing to affect your customers’ experience, to impact your online review or cause you to have to make a monetary or product amend.