Written by Ian Landsman in

Why A Customer’s Poor Planning IS Your Emergency

“A lack of planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

Heard this before? Maybe in different words. “Poor planning.” “Bad planning.” “No planning.”

It’s a quote attributed to Bob Carter, paleontologist, geologist and marine biologist, and it has been echoed in many, many conversations, personal, political, business-driven and otherwise.

Because, sure, when someone doesn’t do what is necessary to prepare, why should you bother pulling them out of their self-dug hole, right?

Well… when it comes to delightful customer service, that’s a poor attitude to have if you intend to retain any of your clients.

Sometimes, their poor planning IS your problem, and it’s up to you to provide the solution.

Let’s walk through some examples to see why.

Your Customer Bought Something Without Understanding It, And Now They’re Disappointed.

They pulled the trigger too quickly, not doing enough research to understand truly what they were purchasing, how it works or how it helps their business. Your tool does A, B and C very well, but really, they were looking for D.

They’re mad, and probably upset with you and your product – focusing on that more than the fact they maybe made a poor decision or overlooked a key detail.

This is a problem you need to take an active roll in fixing. Maybe you do offer what they need, but they just don’t have the subscription they need to get it. Or, maybe you have a partner who can offer that added service, integration or customization to help close whatever gap exists.

You can help to make sure your brand and product does not leave a bad taste in their mouth, even if, ultimately, you help them decide a different product or service is better suited for them. By assisting them through their frustrations, you can make the experience working with you more positive, which will be helpful for your business down the road. Even if they’re not working with you, you just might have advocates who will refer you to others.

Your Customer Did Not Take Advantage of Upgrades, So Now There Are Technical Issues.

You warned them multiple times, in multiple ways, that you were going to stop providing support for outdated versions, or stop releasing patches to fix bugs. Your product has moved forward. Did they miss the boat on upgrading? Or, did they not prepare their own internal systems to accept your automated upgrades?

“But we emailed them, and we sent them a direct mail piece, and we put it on Facebook, and we released a blog post. We covered every base.”

If your client didn’t understand or act on what you were communicating, that remains your communication problem. It is now time to help them out. Help them get up to speed so they have minimal downtime and minimal wasted resources. By doing so, you can make sure this interruption is merely a hiccup in service, and not an opening for your customer to go without your services for a few days and take the opportunity to check your competitors out.

Your Customer Isn’t Reading Your Instructions, So Everything Is Broken.

We’ve all been there. You have provided all of the necessary documentation on how your service works and what it’s capable of doing. You’ve written blog post after blog post after blog post about your latest features, your greatest-yet-least-used features waiting to be discovered, and tips and tricks to make your service go the extra mile in helping your customer.

And you’ve confirmed that your customer knows these instructions exist!

But… try as you might, those instructions just aren’t getting read.

So, things aren’t working. Tasks are misfiring. Issues are going unreported. Inquiries are being missed. Everything has gone off the rails.

Every good client relationship requires finding the method of communication that works best for that client. This may mean having a variety of training materials to suit different personality styles – text, images, videos, or even hands-on training. Communicate with them the way they communicate best. You’ll have a lot more engagement with them, when you can align your communication methods. You’ll also have a happier customer who’s no longer stressed about having broken systems or wasting money.

Your Customer Didn’t Anticipate the Costs of Extra Features or Users.

Budgets are buzz kills. Blown budgets are the worst.

Your client might not have planned for his or her own team to expand, or for as many users to sign on to your service as has been the case. Those user costs multiply quickly.

Your client didn’t realize extra features cost extra, or that repeated and overwhelming usage of a particular feature (sending too many emails, anyone?) goes out of the scope of the established budget.

Your client’s budget is always going to be a critical part in maintaining a good customer relationship. That’s why how you manage a customer complaint about pricing can make or break a situation.

Want to retain your customers? You have to help tackle their budget problems. If their plans have changed and they’re shifting funds? See how you can be flexible, as well.

Plans Change - The Quality of Your Customer Service Shouldn’t

Whether there were old plans and now there are new plans, or there were never any plans at all, at the end of the day, your customers need to feel that you have their back. You have their best interests in mind. If something comes up on their end, you’re ready to help figure it out. When they pivot, you’re ready to move right with them. How they engage with your products or service may change – and it may be a headache for you – but when you work with them, your ability to problem-solve for them is tremendously valuable to them.

Want engaged, thankful customers? Make them feel like their emergencies are your emergencies. That’s how they’ll know you share the same goals, too.

Presented by HelpSpot

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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