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Problem Resolution Process

Need to know how to handle a customer service issue? Find out how to be respectful to all customers, the best way to resolve problems and more.


Good customer service begins with respect. DCCCD’s mission is “to equip students for successful living and responsible citizenship in a rapidly changing local, national and world community.” Whatever position you hold in DCCCD, you play an important role in fulfilling that mission. View every interaction with customers as a teaching/learning opportunity that will help equip them for successful living and responsible citizenship after they leave DCCCD. And remember, as a “teacher,” you must first give respect in order to get respect.

Some customers are easier to assist than others. Some may have made poor choices in the past that have contributed to their current problems. Others may have unrealistic expectations. Regardless of whether we agree with their choices or their point of view, we must treat customers with dignity and hear what they have to say.

Think of yourself as an advocate – by helping customers achieve their educational goals, you are making a positive difference in the world.


1.  Listen to the customer’s whole story. Do not interrupt or try to anticipate what will be said next. Give the customer your undivided attention.

2.  Empathize. Nod, show compassion and make eye contact.

3.  Acknowledge
the customer’s feelings. E.g., “I am so sorry ____ happened. You must feel very frustrated.” (Note that this is different from accepting blame for a situation.) When appropriate, apologize (for the inconvenience, error, misunderstanding, etc.).

4.  Respond

  • Restate the situation as you understand it and the requested resolution. This indicates to the customer that you have been listening. If the customer has not indicated what he/she wants, ask what resolution the customer desires. This will ensure that you have understood what the customer wants/needs. If a situation requires an investigation of the facts or that you research DCCCD policies and procedures before you can provide an answer, explain to the person that you will provide resolution options after you have completed your investigation/research. Try to provide a time line in which you think your investigation/research will be complete.
  • Take responsibility. Do not pass the customer off to someone else. If you are not able to assist the customer, transfer him/her to the appropriate department. Stay on the line until you have found the appropriate person to assist the customer. This ensures that the customer is not lost in the transfer or abandoned to voice mail.
  • If it is within your power to resolve the situation, outline possible solutions and get agreement on the preferred solution. Be positive. Avoid the blame game (do not blame the individual, the boss, another department or the THECB for the problem). Focus instead on finding an appropriate solution. In some instances you may be called upon to explain to a customer why you cannot do what he/she expects. When this happens, explain why the alternative you are offering is in his/her best interest.
  • Take action and follow through. After you have resolved the situation, determine if you’ve been successful:  Is the customer satisfied? Don’t assume. Ask. “Does ___________ meet your needs?” (If the customer is not satisfied, go back to step 1 and/or see if your supervisor has the authority to do what is requested.)
  • Finally, express appreciation for the customer bringing this to your attention and giving you the opportunity to resolve it.

5.  Notify. Is this something that can be avoided and/or averted in the future? Is there a process that needs to be improved? If yes, notify your supervisor and ask him/her to bring this situation to the attention of the process owner.

Don’t Take It Personally

When customers are angry or upset, they’ve had expectations that were not met, and consequently they may feel:

  • Disrespected
  • Frustrated (by a language barrier, for example)
  • Ignored
  • Powerless
  • Unimportant

Perhaps they were already angry about something else or are under severe stress. They might be very competitive and want to prove you wrong. Regardless of the underlying feeling or reason, say to yourself: This person is not angry at me; he/she is angry at the situation. I am a professional and this is my opportunity to turn an angry customer into a successful, satisfied customer.