Client Emergencies: Resolved or Rejected?

by Marcia Yudkin

Do your clients have emergencies? Jack Mitchell, author of the marvelous book Hug Your Customers, describes scores of urgent problems solved by staff of his clothing stores: a groom spilling coffee on his pants on the way to his wedding, switched luggage leaving someone without a suit to wear to a funeral and a woman desperate to buy men's underwear on a Sunday. (She'd packed her house for a move and her husband was furious that she'd forgotten to put aside clean briefs.)

I read about Mitchell's heroics while suffering through four days with muddy water or no water at our house. The well company came on a Friday, seemed to have fixed the problem, then 20 minutes after the crew left, the water turned to mud again. They didn't return my call till Monday morning.

"If this happens again, can you give me a cell phone or beeper number where I can reach you?" I asked the company owner.

His response, counseling patience, conveyed that to him, living without water was no big deal. And until competitors move in on his territory, perhaps he can remain top dog. When I questioned my Marketing Minute subscribers on whether or not this policy was wise, the response was unanimous: no.

No one defended the well company, so let me take my best guess why they behaved this way. "We can't be a slave to the business," they might be thinking. "It's OK to make customers wait till the next business day because it's never a life-and-death emergency."

Since I've heard the saying, "Your emergency is not ours,"I went looking on the web for companies that committed that philosophy to writing. And I found a few. One business using the maxim was a film processing company; another was a pottery kiln. A couple of instances concerned tech
support or computer repair, such as this message:



This Policy is Strictly Enforced and is Posted with The Better Business Bureau.

One document I found got sardonic:

Please coordinate your earthquakes, fires and floods with our office. Your emergency is not our priority.

I can think of only one case where I felt that refusing to take the client's "emergency" seriously was in the client's best interest. This client had a standing telephone coaching appointment one day a week, and occasionally she would call me in a panic over something that she absolutely had to talk over that day.

"Now is this truly an emergency?" I would ask.

She'd reflect and reply, "No, I guess not."

The effect of my not acting as if I were at her beck and call was that she calmed down, became more self-reliant and figured out solutions on her own.

I don't think this exception applies to the case of the well company, however!

Marcia Yudkin <[email protected]> is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity and 10 other books. She runs a private member site,, which supports business owners who are growing their businesses. Download her free report, "Charge More & Get It," at Or read what Marketing Minute subscribers said about emergencies:

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