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When things go wrong

Trouble shooting & problem solving

Mistakes, mix-ups, and miscommunications are going to happen. Often, how you handle a problem or an unhappy customer is the key to either righting the ship or making a bad situation worse.

Deal with it

Deal with problems head-on. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Don’t pretend the problems don’t exist.

When you are on the phone with an upset customer

Let the customer speak. Do not interrupt. Do not try to defend your position. (There may be a time to do so, but now is not it.) 

Try this

Apologize: “I am sorry this happened.” (Yes, even if it is not your fault.) “Thank you for bringing it to my attention.” 

Repeat the issue: “I understand you are regularly running out of napkins.” 

Validate: “I appreciate how frustrating this is for you.” 

Suggest resolution: “Perhaps we should drop off a case of back-up napkins to you. If you run short again, they will be available to you.” 

Act quickly: Deliver the napkins within 24 hours. 

When the dust settles

Follow up with the customer, preferably by phone, or at least by email. Sometimes it makes sense to wait a day, but no longer. Often by the next day, cooler heads prevail. From your customer’s perspective, yesterday’s lunch—which was missing desserts—may no longer feel so catastrophic. If the problem was on your end, share what steps you have taken to prevent a repeat occurrence. 

Try saying this—it works

“Thank you for being so gracious and understanding while we were getting the situation figured out.” (It is difficult to remain upset after such a disarming statement.) 

Or this

“[Company name], has been a good customer of ours for a long time. I have enjoyed working with you, [customer first name]. The last thing I would ever want to happen is to lose you as a customer over [a tray of sandwiches].”

Or this

“This can be handled a number of different ways—which do you prefer? We can either:

• Credit a portion of this order
• Issue a credit toward your next order
• Send a gift certificate to the restaurant
• Deliver a complimentary [_____] to your office 

Or this

“What is most important to us is that you come away feeling the problem has been addressed and resolved. We will do whatever is necessary so that you are comfortable continuing to do business with us. Do you have any thoughts as to what that should be?” 

And always end with this

“Are you satisfied with how this has been handled?” 


Michael Rosman has been in the catering and restaurant industry for over 30 years in the Boston area, where he built a $1.8 million per year corporate drop-off catering operation. He’s the founder of The Corporate Caterer, a resource membership website, lead generation and private coaching company. Whether you are just starting out, are a leader in your marketplace, or somewhere in between, has an incredible wealth of insight and resources to help you begin or grow this division of your business. To learn more, visit the or call Michael directly at 781.641.3303.

Michael Rosman

Michael Rosman

Owner/Founder, The Corporate Caterer, Boston, MA

Michael Rosman is the founder of, a consulting, coaching and lead generation company for businesses that aspire to take their corporate catering business to the next level or start a new division. He is also a Senior Consultant with He can be reached at [email protected].