Incident Handling

When Things Go Wrong – Incident Handling

It is said that it take years to build a good reputation and only seconds to lose it, certainly when things go wrong, your reputation suffers, having an effective incident handling system goes a long way to alleviating the risk and avoiding an escalation to a complaint.

Things do go Wrong!

Even in the best run businesses, things can still go wrong. Many businesses rely on many third parties covering software, delivery, warehousing and more, any one can lead to problems. As far as your customer is concerned, even if it is out of your control, such as a bad delivery, it is still seen as a failure of your company and reflects on you. The onus is on you as the supplier, not your sub-contractors to resolve the issue.

Do a Risk Assessment

Having said that things will happen, you still need to make every effort to avoid incidents, and to learn from the ones that do occur. By carrying out a Risk Assessment on your processes, it will help identify likely failure points. Once identified, you can score them based on their likelihood and their seriousness for example. Take the necessary steps to reduce the risk, if elimination is not possible, draw up a resolution procedure.

Turning a Negative into a Positive

Fortunately, the majority of customers are understanding, they know the world isn’t perfect so will give you some leeway. Interestingly, research has shown that good proactive handling of things that go wrong, enhances your reputation. Providing you resolve the issue in the leeway period, your reputation will in most cases, survive and you may gain positive feedback and recommendations.

Effective Incident Handling

A good starting point, is to imagine yourself as one of your customers, think how you would like to be treated.

Here are some points to consider;

  • Have clear contact information, preferably a telephone number
  • Monitor email, social media and contact form input
  • Always get back to customers as soon as possible, introduce yourself and offer to take full ownership
  • Give your name and contact details
  • Record as much information as you can
  • If you cannot resolve the issue and need to transfer it to someone else in your organisation, brief them as thoroughly as you can. Customers loathe having to repeat details again and again
  • Provide regular progress updates, even if there isn’t any
  • Make a goodwill gesture (In kind rather than cash is likely to be cheaper)
  • Follow up after resolution, it shows you care, even if you have passed the issue elsewhere

Here are some to avoid

  • Don’t make it hard for people to contact you
  • Avoid lengthy telephone waiting time, at busy times offer to call back
  • Have all information to hand so customers do not have to repeat it
  • Ask customers to quote an incident number, they will rarely know it. It is easier if you use their name and postcode instead
  • Don’t interrupt, listen and allow someone who is upset to get it off their chest!
  • Never abandon a report of an incident because it seems to have gone quiet, it may be festering and could explode!
  • Keep notes of scraps of paper, they are bound to get mislaid, use a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) tool.


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