4 Steps to Prepare to Handle Errors

One of my clients has me call people to let them know somewhere along the line an error has happened. I get to be their Switzerland or neutral territory. Usually disappointment ensues. Sometimes other emotions…it can be like being a punching bag. It’s important to stay cool, have grace and logic. It’s important to accept the responsibility for the error, no excuses, then move forward hoping for a positive result. At least it is important to me. I don’t look forward to this part of my job so it’s good it’s not needed much. I have a call to make today though. Here’s how I prepare.

  1. Listen (or read the message) with the exact issue at hand. It’s important to understand the direct complaint, not someone else’s version of the problem. It’s also important to do as they ask, return the call, or message back in the time they request if at all possible.
  2. Find out what happened on the company end–I gather the documentation to have in front of me for the call, as well as the timeline. It’s important to understand whether the customer has jumped the gun or if a problem is already resolved.
  3. Research the options to correct the situation and the time required to do so. Fortunately the company that is my client, is generous and wants to make things right. One unhappy customer can spread a lot of unhappiness. More than that, if you provide a service or product, you need to want people to be happy if at all possible! I try not to ever make promises that can’t be kept in a reasonable way. It’s not fair to either side to expect superhuman powers. I know I can’t possibly promise an action that someone else must carry out. I’m just the communicator.
  4. Filter appropriately. Not all information has to be relayed, but communication is important. This goes both ways. It even goes for the who you are communicating with! I usually have a plan to share the basics and reserve details only if they are needed. I want people to know I’m on their side as their liaison.

No preparation means a second or third call is needed, or even an undesirable result. I hate when that happens. I like to be prepared and appreciate when others are too. I have my Church Administration job to thank for these skills. Working with committees, ministries, pastors, staff, and the congregation is a lot like being Switzerland, neutral, working toward fairness, and hopefully always, forward. It doesn’t mean not being strong individually, it means being strong collectively. It’s always better when things turn out win win. Being prepared is a key advantage to good results for everyone.

Back to my task at hand. I’m ready for the call and have communicated with the customer, letting them know to expect my call. I’m confident in my preparation we will have a good result and I’ll have the chance to connect with the customer.



About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
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