How to support customers when the service is buggy


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“Please also include a section that deals with situations where the product (software) quality is not good because of which the customers always get stuck because of bugs on the platform and write in frustrated.”

A student left this review on my Udemy course, Your Customer Service Toolbox: Best Practices for Beginners.

Great call out. I hear this. This resonates.

It’s rough to be in a position where you genuinely want to solve a customer problem and you can’t.

Though I do realize that the use of the word “rough” is an understatement when a customer is screaming at you.

  • I’m guessing you too have been there, on the front lines, trying to reassure a frustrated customer that this problem will get fixed…eventually.
  • Or that time you have a stellar workaround to get the job done, and compassionately walk the customer through it, even if the bug has existed for weeks without any hope of repair.
  • When you report a bug to your manager, who reports it to the engineering team who says “it’s not priority” and will get to it next month.

My customer service friend, I am proud of you. You are the best advocate of the customer!

Your attention to detail, empathy, patience, ability to tune into hiccups in the customer experience and speak up about them tell me that you are an advocate in support of your customer. You have a strong desire to solve problems and make things easy to accomplish. Your heart is in the right place. As my friend and CX thought leader and founder of CXAccelerator Nate Brown says, you are a Friction Fighter. Does that give you the warm fuzzies or what?

All that is great, right, but when you’re sitting at your desk getting berated by a customer about the same bug for the 200th time, you may not feel those warm fuzzies. You’re likely to want to throw your computer out the window. Or, is that just me?

When things break, as they often do, look at them as opportunities for awesome: ways to improve and do better for our company and our customers. What can we learn from every situation?

Inspired by my student’s feedback, I wrote this article to dive into 4 common buggy situations that totally suck & how you can still support the customer.

4 common buggy situations that totally suck & how to still support the customer

When the whole enchilada flops off the plate

I remember being on the front lines during complete service outages that result in overflowing call, email and chat queues full of angry customers. You’re aware that something broke because your manager told you. You are aware that the customer queue is about to hit the fan. Luckily, your team actively tries to figure out a fix but you still have to support your customers in the meantime.

How to support your customer in this situation:

  • Remain calm: the rock for your customer in this situation is YOU.
  • Apologize: Take ownership and show empathy with a genuine apology. “You shouldn’t have to experience this. We’re really sorry it happened.” Jeff Toister has this great article about how to craft a heartfelt apology.
  • Communicate clearly: What can you say about what/why this happened? When will it be fixed? When will they know it’s fixed? What can they do in the meantime? How will they be compensated? Get real and provide information then stay true to your word. This information usually comes from the management team and can be shared with the customer but you can also develop it.

When you can only see the tip of the iceberg

One customer reports a bug. You have a whole queue of callers but only one person talks about this bug. Does it warrant extra time? I take a moment to try and replicate it using the steps the customer took. Sure enough, it’s broken. Before the queue goes bonkers with other frustrated callers, I’m able to report this to my manager and work toward a solution as it is likely to impact a large customer base.

How to support your customer in this situation: 

  • Test it out: Even if one customer has this issue, try and replicate it by following the same steps your customer took. Document what happens.
  • Report it: Follow your company’s standard process to report bugs. Make sure you are providing the exact steps you took, the error, screenshots or recordings, any financial ramifications and how many people you think this could be impacting.
  • Create a plan: If this can’t be fixed quickly, create a communication plan of how you will support your customers if/when they call in. How and when will it be resolved? What can they do in the meantime? Is there a popup in the control panel to let them know a workaround? An email or text notification?

When you’re face first in a bucket bobbing for apples

The customer reports an issue but can’t describe what happened. You have no idea what is actually broken. You can’t replicate the issue. You keep trying to reach for different ideas of, “Now wait, try this instead and see if it works” or “let’s have you reboot” for the 10th time. While you’re doing your best to support the customer with empathy and kindness, it’s messy, annoying and takes up a lot of time to narrow down what’s going on.

How to support your customer in this situation:

  • Try a screenshare: If the customer is open to it and you have the software to do so, hop on a screen share with the customer. Have them show you the steps they are taking rather than telling you what’s going on. Get creative with how you seek to understand the customer’s situation!
  • Do the task for them: If it’s something that you can do on your end, do it. Then, report the bug and share with your team in case someone else has the same issue.
  • Follow up: Maybe giving it a few hours can help resolve the tech hiccups. Personally follow up with the customer at a later time to see if they have re-tried and if it is now working for them. Show you care and stay true to your word.

When you’re throwing paper airplanes into the wind

You know, that one thing that’s always broken. It sits there throwing paper airplanes into a swift breeze knowing it won’t ever get where you want it to go. It’s the bug where those that can fix it deem it’s not priority, so it continues to be an issue. It’s embarrassing to tell a customer that “yes, we know it’s broken but…” and you provide them with a workaround that not only takes more of their time but more of your time.

How to support your customer in this situation:

  • Ask for a documented workaround: Develop yourself or ask management to provide you with a workaround – something in a knowledge base or linked in the control panel – for everyone to access. Then, if customers call, you can send them a link directly to the article and walk them through it step by step.
  • Ask for a compensation cushion: If this is a known issue and a fix is not priority, but customers are still frustrated by it, ask your manager for ideas of how to compensate the customer to ensure they remain your customer. You can also factor in the amount of compensation given over a period of time toward making this a priority!
  • Communicate: Your customer doesn’t care that something is broken. They just want to perform their task or use the product and move on. If you can do the task for them, do it. If you can’t, tell them what you can do to make things right in these circumstances. Focus on the positives of what you can do. Don’t throw your company under the bus – there are reasons this isn’t a priority – and communicating clearly with your customer on what you can do is going to make an impact.

Ultimately, bugs in the system are annoying. They impact the customer experience and flood your customer support queues. They are also opportunities for learning and improving. What can you take away from this?

To get more customer service insights under your tool belt, be sure to sign up for my course here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jenny Dempsey
Jenny is Consumer Experience Manager for Apeel Sciences and FruitStand with more than 15 years of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on


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