Question: How do you “take ownership” of customer issues?

Answers from frontline reps —


In my experience, taking ownership involves several different elements. The first element is to empathize with the member’s situation. Showing empathy can be a great ice breaker, which allows the conversation to flow from a business conversation to more of a personal one. In my opinion, once you have built a personal connection with a member they become more open to your suggestion and can lead to an easier resolution.

Secondly, do not pass the buck. Oftentimes when we are dealing with frustrated members, it becomes easy to pass the problem off or advise the member that there is nothing we can do. Taking ownership in these scenarios require a willingness to see the problem through to the end. This can be done by brainstorming with the member to come up with a solution, and reaching out to your peers and different departments to find alternate solutions to the member’s problem. By being resourceful and willing to go the extra mile, it gives the member confidence that you have done everything in your power to try and solve their problem.

Lastly, I would say tell the member what we can do for them. After empathizing with the member, being resourceful and gathering other ways to assist, tell the member exactly what you can do for them rather than focusing on what you can’t do. If you can come up with several different possible solutions to a member’s problem, there is a good chance that they will be accepting of at least one of them.

By incorporating these elements into your conversations, taking ownership will become seamless and less daunting.

— Jerrard Gates, Navy Federal Credit Union


Customers can quickly become frustrated when they can’t get an answer to their questions. It is easy to escalate a situation by advising the customer that it was another area or department that did not follow through. But instead of playing the blame game, advise the customer that you can help with a simple phrase such as, “I would be happy to help you with that.”

You may not have a direct impact on the solution of the problem, but you are the first step in assuring the customer that it will be handled. That simple phrase tells the customer that you are going to take responsibility for handling the issue.

There will be times that you won’t be able to resolve the issue during the first interaction, but you can still take ownership of the problem. To do this, assure the customer that even though you don’t have an answer right now, you or someone else will contact them as soon as possible with the needed information. Once your interaction with the customer is complete, your interaction is not over, you must follow through with your promise. If you let the request fall through the cracks, you become part of a now bigger problem instead of taking responsibility for the customer’s issue.

— Rachel Dillon, Assurant Specialty Property


I think that what this means is that we need to realize that we are responsible for how we portray ourselves to a customer. We have the power to have them see not only ourselves, but also our co-workers and company in either a positive or negative way. We all hope that it is in a positive way, but this isn’t always the way it is.

We need to make sure that we have the mindset of being accountable for our work. Once we have this as our mindset, it will show in our behavior and our actions. It will also show in our language and the way we talk to customers in general. We won’t come off as just trying to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

I have seen and heard when customer service people are upset with a customer for whatever reason, and it shows in how they treat the customer. This also shows up in your voice if dealing with a customer strictly over the phone. You can be frustrated all you want, but wait until you are off the call to vent. When you make faces or hand gestures or are shaking your head no, no, no, it shows up in your voice. Remember the old saying that people can hear your smile? They can, and they can also hear the irritation in your voice, even if you think they can’t. A person should also stop and think about how they are reacting to a caller looks to others. It looks very unprofessional as well as childish, that’s how.

I know it sounds corny to some people, but a great rule of thumb is to always treat your customers like you want to be treated when you are the customer. Would you want someone that you are dealing with to be huffing and puffing and sighing when all you want is assistance?

— Jo Sprowl, SKF USA, Inc.

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