Offering to follow up with (additional) answers.

No one is expected to know everything. If you expect every one of your employees to know the answers to every question that could possibly be asked, you will be in for disappointment. At most companies, there is simply too much to know and a nearly limitless number of questions that potential and existing customers can ask.

Even with that fact of life and of customer service in mind, the answer of “I don’t know” is completely unacceptable. Any employee who says “I don’t know” and leaves it at that is actually an employee who does not care. Especially with technology and the Internet, looking up answers to problems and questions is even easier than before. It isn’t difficult to IM, call, or find a supervisor or another employee. It also isn’t difficult to Google a problem and figure out what it might be. It isn’t at all difficult to send the customer in the right direction with a few web links.

The point is that customers don’t want to be left at “I don’t know.” They want to hear “I don’t know that off hand, but I will be more than happy to find out for you.” As a service provider, you can offer to get back to the customer with the answer or ask them if they’d like to wait. Some customers will want to wait, others will want an email or a call back.

Do whichever they ask and do your best regardless of which way they prefer. Ask who you need to and look up what you have to look up. The goal is to find an answer for the customer that is both useful and accurate. If it isn’t useful or if it isn’t accurate, it doesn’t do the customer much good. If there is no direct answer that you can find, offer up alternative solutions (“X might not be possible, but Y is certainly possible”). Whatever you do, never leave the customer at “I don’t know.” “I can find out” is much better for you and the customer.