I've run my e-mail marketing business, VerticalResponse, for the past 12 plus years and boy, I've had my share of crappy situations. When bad stuff happens, you feel really terrible. But the fact is, your customers don't care. All they care about is the crappy situation they're in, because of something you did or didn't do.

So how do you make the best of it?

A Real Life Example

I visit a particular San Francisco restaurant at least twice a month on the weekend for brunch. The food is very good and that's what I go for, not the service. I'm a pretty observant person and the same thing happens every weekend: At exactly 9 a.m. a line starts to form, the waitstaff gets crazed and they become unbearable. They don't smile, they get short and in some cases even nasty with customers. Sound familiar?

So you get busy, or your website goes down or your POS doesn't work, you and your employees need to carry on and make the best of it. Getting frazzled and rude only exacerbates the issue.

You get my point. You've got to make the best out of a crappy situation.

Long wait time? A sincere apology like, "Sorry for the wait, but when you get it, it's going to be great, we promise!" This goes for a restaurant, a software company's hold message or any business.

A smile goes a long way. Whether it's a store where you're slammed or you're on the phone with a customer, you'd be surprised at what a smile can do. Smiling actually does come through a phone line; no lie. Place a sticky note on your phone with the word "SMILE" on it.

A discount helps. If your customer had a bad experience, an apology, a smile and even a small unexpected discount can keep them coming back. Just this morning at my local coffee shop, I ordered a sausage breakfast sandwich. I was standing around waiting for it, and it was taking longer than usual.

There was a sandwich on the counter ready and waiting that read, "Ham" on the outside. I politely asked the waitperson if there was a sausage one being made and he said, "No." Then he said, "I bet they accidentally made you ham. Here, you can have this one on the house and I'll make you a sausage one now." Awesome way to handle it. I was in a hurry so I ended up just taking the ham sandwich and no harm done. I'll be back because they handled it well.

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