TODAY I visited my local bagel shop. Let’s call it “Smart Guys”.

It is so close to my house that I could easily walk there. I used to frequent the place until they were frequently out of the bagels I wanted.

I did not do statistical analysis on how often they did not have what I wanted; I just got tired of the “Sorry, we’re out” and stopped going.

Today, my boys wanted bagels. So I tried again.

Guess what? They were out of one of the two types of bagel I wanted.

I mentioned this to the assistant manager. He was a pleasant fellow and explained how that sometimes happens.

No apology.

No “What can I do to make it right?”

No “We value your business.”

I was mellow. I was conversational. I did not get excited.

After all, I have lived a full life without their product for quite some time now. I can live long and prosper if I do not go back again.

In a better world, the assistant manager or the manager (lurking in the background doing important things) would have been engaged and maybe a little excited.

In this economy, it is tough getting customers in the door.

You want them to come back, not go away disappointed.

For them, it was business as usual.

Right the wrong

Customer service mistakes are made all the time. We make them in my office, despite our very best efforts.

What should do you when they occur?

1. Apologise

That should be self-evident but I rarely experience it.

If you are not genuinely sorry you disappointed a customer — for whatever reason — you need to find a different line of work.

2. Empathise

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

How would you feel if you wanted to give someone your hard-earned money but you didn’t get what you were willing to pay for?

You do not necessarily have to agree with the customer’s reasoning but you do need to understand why and how they feel.

3. Make it right

Think really, really hard about what you can do to prove you value the customer’s business.

Here is a kooky idea: Why not give customers a free bagel to make up for the fact they couldn’t buy the one they wanted?

The cost is miniscule but the impact is major.

Or how about a coupon for a free bagel on the next visit?

That is a nice way to get them to come back. Just make sure you are not out of bagels again.

4. Make it easy to complain

I could not find any customer feedback cards at Smart Guys but was able to track them down online. I e-mailed my feedback to see if, when and how they would respond.

The only thing worse than a complaint you get is a complaint you don’t get.

Like most things in life, service recovery is simple.

It means knowing what to do to prove you appreciate the customer — and then doing it.

It also means teaching everyone on your team these simple techniques and making sure they use them.