If it’s broken, tell them.

It isn’t unheard of for customer service representatives (myself included) to take a look at an issue and notice something is broken or not know the answer. If the product or service that a representative supports is complicated, not knowing something or something being broken is essentially inevitable. It’s okay not to know, but it isn’t okay not to be honest.

If you have learned that the customer has discovered a bug, that’s fine – just tell them that and let them know that you’re working on getting it resolved for them. Chances are, there are bugs in your product or ways to break it and that customers will find these eventually, so if a customer does discover one, apologize for the inconvenience, let someone know that can fix it, and communicate with the customer about how long it will take and what you can do to help them (maybe there is a workaround or something that can be done on your end). Most customers will appreciate you being up front with them and will thank you for communicating so well.

If you come across a weird problem that you can’t find the answer to and your colleague can’t find the answer to or something like that, then just be honest. Say something like “I looked into this and asked a colleague of mine as well, but we can’t find out what is wrong with your account just yet. I am going to ask one of our engineers and then give you a call back as soon as I hear from them. Thank you so much for your patience.” Again, you’re being up front with the customer and the customer will appreciate this.

There are of course customers that won’t appreciate your honesty and would prefer to be lied to. Nothing works for everyone, but for most companies and most customers, being upfront is the way to be. Very few customers expect absolute perfection and letting them know that you aren’t perfect is just fine (as long as you are going to do something about it).

3 Responses to “If it’s broken, tell them.”

  1. Bill Hogg said:

    Dec 30, 08 at 10:06 am

    I agree, honesty is the best policy, since it is foundational to building trust. Another way to further build this trust and confidence is to commit to a specific time frame for an action to be completed.

    In this case, giving a specific commitment for the return call versus “as soon as I hear back from them”. Even if it is “we are still working on a solution”, the fact that you provided a specific time frame gives them a feeling of control over the situation and builds trust.

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jan 01, 09 at 12:04 am


    Exactly. Being transparent and specific are essential to building trust and developing a positive relationship with your customers. Thanks for your comment!

  3. David V. Greis said:

    Jan 07, 09 at 1:36 pm

    The facts are that almost 90% of customers who leave a business will never communicate the reason for leaving. Because of this deficiencies are never revealed and more customers leave as a result.

    The very best thing any customer can do is voice their displeasure when something goes wrong and nicely let the company know why you are displeased. Do it in a nice way and chances are changes will be made. All companies wish to make their customers happy so they will remain customers. So the next time something goes wrong, spend a few minutes and let someone know. But do it nicely.