Just last month, a hardcore gamer named Dave contacted a company via email because he hadn’t received the gamecontroller he’d ordered over a month before.  His inquiry and complaint about not receiving updates were both polite and valid, and yet the representative who responded was vague, curt, unhelpful and increasingly inappropriate in a chain of emails that ultimately landed him unemployed.  You can – and shouldtake a look at the thread here.

It’s not only embarrassing to customer service and customer support teams everywhere, it’s downright laughable.

So what can we learn from customer service representative Paul’s blunder?

EVERY Customer Matters – especially the unhappy ones

You’re going to come across a few customers who rip you a new one, talk down to you or take out their frustration over bad marriages and unruly children on you.  Take a deep breath and remember not to attack the customer.  Y’know, at least not in real life.  (The sport of Fantasy Customer Support Emailing can be quite therapeutic!)

It’s always good to start a response with an apology for the customer’s frustration a la “We appreciate you taking the time to write to us about your concerns and we’re very sorry for any inconvenience you may have experienced.”  You’ve got to acknowledge the reason the customer is upset or it will only increase their aggravation with you, and ultimately, your company.  Butter ’em up with kindness and common courtesy first, then explain what you can do to help.

Remember King Midas

In the story above, a very Tarzan-like Paul simply replied to the inquisitive customer’s email with a date—no explanation of what the date meant, no greeting (how about “Good morning,” or “Dear Dave?”) and no acknowledgement of the fact that the customer had been waiting to no avail for two months.  Not cool.

Always remember the Golden Rule (the golden arches can wait).  If your response is not written in a way that you’d address your grandma, start over.  This means full sentences and explanations of how you, the customer support representative, can assist, fix a problem or assuage some angst.

Watch what you say and how you say it

In this day and age, everything ends up on the Internet or You Tube – you all saw the FedEx worker tossing the flat-screen TV over the fence, right? – so you’ve got to be careful or you’ll lose the respect of customers, and possibly even the clientele themselves.   When Dave sent the offending email string over to Penny Arcade, thousands of pairs of eyes read it.

Popular sites like Yelp allow people the luxury to review you and your service with blatant honesty.  And trust me, bad reviews of your company are not good P.R. as Paul seems to think.  Instead, they tend to stick out like sore thumbs.

So, to sum it all up, be polite, even to the most unruly of customers, answer questions with more than a grunt, and never represent your company in a negative way – unless you want to get fired.