Shit Happens. Now what?

My email went down this week. Grr.. arrgh. Not good. EMAIL is not just back, not just how you send your newsletters. EMAIL means business.


I’ve always liked my web host well enough. Hardly any technical problems, they’ve helped with some WordPress issues beyond their scope and have good uptime or whatever it’s called. They have staff right here in the U.S. via a toll number that is plain spoken, skips the technical jumbo and listens to your requests. If you have already tried steps 1-8 and no success, they will go off the script. Usually.

Shit happens.

So the email isn’t working, happens.

A login to my hosts website revealed nothing, no warning or “we are working on it.” A (toll) call to the support line revealed nothing during the LONG hold time about a “known outage.” There wasn’t a system in place to deal with the problem, no follow ups afterwards.

When I called I was surprised by the customer disservice. For the first time, the technical unsupport person did not go off the script, instead making me wait and explain before finally admitting that there was a known issue effecting some customers.

No warnings, no updates, no ETA. Do not pass go, straight to fail.

Admitting mistakes is tricky, not just legally but from a service standpoint too. It will depend on the customer on what approach is best, but hiding your head in the sand or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

Example Bad: If you’re Groupon, you “explain” yourself.. and get railed for your crappy non-apology. *facepalm* Then listen to the feedback, pull your ads and apologize for real.

Example Good: If you’re Eidia Lush shoes and you mess up someone’s order, you respond to someone’s social complaint with a real apology. You turn a problem into an opportunity, winning a loyal customer, advocate, influencer (Mmm.. buzzwords, tasty) in the bargain.

Small Business Takeaway

Don’t fear mistakes. Work out a plan ahead to prevent them and when mistakes do happen, empower employees to improvise, adapt, overcome. You will screw up. There will be technical difficulties. It is what you do – or DON’T do – next that counts.

Examples, anecdotes, advice for handling mistakes? Do tell.

Photo credit: one of my fave DIY Despair posters I’ve seen on the Interwebs.

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7 thoughts on “Shit Happens. Now what?

    1. Why Marcus, why? Why do business owners panic over problems, get defensive and knee-jerky when someone questions something, calls out a mistake. This reminds me of that horrible fake video blogger AT&T rolled out a few years ago, to talk about the crappiness of their iPhone service. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just that AT&T used a fake. It was that they barely acknowledged a problem so as not to open themselves to lawsuits I guess; then w/out admitting a problem or mistake, hard to offer solutions on how you will fix it; and lastly, they never apologized. Ugh.

      Positive Disney story from years ago: I saw someone drop a snack, either by accident or collision with another guest or employee. No big thing, happens. A WDW staffer immediately replaced the item, even though the guest had no problem and was almost done eating the snack. But WDW was determined to let nothing get in the way of making sure that guest had a positive, memorable experience. I remember it 10 years later. 🙂

  1. Davina, it must be in the air my router died last week and I spent most of Friday getting back online. After living for many years in the ‘developing’ world I have come to the realization that when system fails in Europe, it’s the same. No back-up plan, no follow-up. You are left on your own to mitigate damage.

    Just like PR professionals work on crisis management plans, SMBs need to find out what their mission critical components are. Our internet, our phone line, our client database and our work, we need a solution if all this burns down, or just dies.

    Thanks for reminding us, SHIT happens but that doesn’t mean we should just sit around and wait for it to happen.

    P.s I now have a second brand new router sitting in its box next to my new one for the ‘next’ time.
    John Falchetto recently posted..JohnFalchetto- RT @jonathanfields- So why not use fear as a compass asks @petershallard – http-bitly-efxDOG

    1. Thanks for stopping by John. It’s insurance. You hope you never need, but when you do.. damn are you glad you have it. See also, my Time Machine and external hard drives. Backup, backup, backup: two is one, one is none.

      You can’t sit around waiting for shit to happen, you need to know those workarounds for when it does. So Twitter is down. If you put all your eggs in that basket and can’t reach your audience, big mistake. That’s why you need to be social beyond the networks, be prepared to jump to LI or FB. Try our own blog or forums or gasp: old fashioned email. If it’s working. 😉 Or maybe reach out and touch someone, make an impression with a personal phone call. Make the most of the mistake, the problem.. turn it into an opportunity. FWIW.

  2. Yay, linky love! Thank you!

    Top advice: be human. That means being able to go off the script when you need to, instead of saying crap like, “We understand your frustration,” blah blah. Well, if you understand my frustration, why aren’t you doing something about it?! That’s how companies keep me as a customer. When things go well, that’s great. It’s how companies respond when things don’t go so well that tells you what they really think of you.

    My $0.02. FWIW (see, I learn from you every day, Davina!).
    Shonali Burke recently posted..Seven Steps To A Better Facebook Business Page

    1. Old customer service story: not about how FedEx lost some important package, but the efforts they made to keep the shipper and would-be receiver in the loop. The “we’ve checked here and here” with specifics message, and even if no new news, still calling the customers to say “still looking.” It was the feedback, the effort.. the “we VALUE your business” proof. That’s what won over the customers, even with the mistake.

      Agree w/ you Shonali. That can only happen if you can the script; let employees act like humans, not robots; give them the training and freedom to make decisions; and really empower them to do something about mistakes.

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