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We have been recently asked by one of our clients to go out to one of their customers to provide technical support for a touchscreen issue. We're a courier company transporting their equipment from place to place, we're not a tech company, but we nevertheless accepted to send a driver with some IT background to try to fix the issue with the assistance of their technical support help line. Our guy did everything he could and followed the instructions given by their technical support teams, but at the end couldn't fix the problem.

Few hours later, the management of my company receives an email blaming us for not solving the problem by saying the we have been "unsupportive of a touchscreen issue". I am not happy with this comment as we just followed their instructions and that their own technical team didn't know either how to resolve the issue.

I am tempted to reply to them politely to make them understand that their own tech people couldn't find a solution either on their own equipment. But is it a good idea to reply to accusations from a client? Is is better to just ignore and pretend nothing happened?

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    If you ignore they will abuse you again. I suggest one of your 'higher ups' takes it up (personally, by phone, not in an email) with one of their 'higher ups'. – Jan Doggen Jan 9 '15 at 8:27
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    And you made two mistakes in the first place to provide that assistance: 1) it's an issue between the client and their customer, don't play the intermediary, 2) tech support is not your business – Jan Doggen Jan 9 '15 at 8:30
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    Also: were you paid extra for the extra time your guys spent not-solving the issue? If so then it may be that the client has a good point. – A E Jan 9 '15 at 15:31
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    @AE: I'd say that it was rude because it is belittling the support that was given. As I understand it the OP's company went out of their way to help their client so to then be called "unsupportive" seems rude or perhaps ungracious. And just to add to the cultural note I am in the UK. Obviously rudeness can be a subjective note but I thought I'd add in a counter to your opinion. And of course saying they couldn't solve the issue is fine but you can be supportive without actually solving the issue in my mind. – Chris Jan 9 '15 at 16:00
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    @stevedarry also send this story to the Clients from Hell blog. – Mindwin Jan 9 '15 at 17:10
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After trying to remedy the problem, you can no longer ignore the issue. You have started taking responsibility where it wasn't your place, and now they think you're actually responsible.

You need to inform them that it is in fact NOT your responsibility, and that you simply tried to assist them as a nice gesture.

You might also add that you don't appreciate their tone given your good intentions, but I'm not in a place to tell you what kind of effect that might have. You'll have to make that decision on your own.

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    In addition, you could cite your contract (assuming there is one) which should explicitly state what you are and are not responsible for. – David K Jan 9 '15 at 14:57
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I would not ignore and pretend nothing happened. Then you give them an actual reason to be dissatisfied with your service; as of now you've gone above and beyond to help them, ignoring them would be rude even if they are being unreasonable. Computer and technical problems can be really frustrating and this customer is just taking it out on you unfairly.

I would politely say something to the effect that you apologize that your service was not adequate for their needs and you did your best, however, your services are not specific to the needs they are trying to address, and then offer to follow up with their technical support team.

Provide the contact info of their technical support team and also offer to contact the technical support team yourself and relay their issue and difficulties. Then call their tech support, ask someone to contact the customer, (or email so you can show that you followed through in case of future issues with this customer); then send follow up/call customer and confirm that you relayed the message and who you spoke to.

Even if you may want to reply with the same attitude they're giving you, difficult people usually calm down when someone seems to be paying attention to them and with customers like that, killing them with kindness really is the way to go. Responding in any other way will just fire them up even more. By replying politely, and including the fact that although you are willing to do everything within your power to help but are not the appropriate party to turn to for help with this particular issue, you are also covering yourself in case this person really flies off the handle and tries to sue someone.

And you give yourself closure, no more wondering what to do, you offered to do the only thing you can, reach out to someone who can actually solve the problem...now the ball is in everyone else's court (minus the phone call to the customer's tech support on their behalf).

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You can't afford to ignore - otherwise, that client will badmouth you and yours unchallenged throughout their organization. If your client badmouthing you and yours is an infection, you have to kill the infection before it spreads.

I'd write back: "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you. We regret that, despite our best efforts and working closely with your in-house technical team, we were unable to resolve this issue. We suggest that your in-house technical team take another look at this issue, as none of our other customers have experienced it, if us disclosing this fact helps any. All the best" cc: the appropriate managers at the company, if you know them.

Your client is acting like a two-year old who is throwing a temper tantrum but you always knew that some of your clients would be like that when you took on the job in the first place, right? Look at it on the bright side: the client expressed their frustration in a way that would make it awkward for them to ask/pester you and yours again for help on this touch screen issue. This means you won't have to be running up your labor and management costs trying to deal an issue that is theirs.

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    I'd reiterate that they are just a delivery service, not an extension of their technology infrastructure support teams... – C Bauer Jan 9 '15 at 13:20
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    "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you." makes it sound like it's the asker's responsibility to help in the first place, in my opinion. This should probably be avoided, don't you think? – Alec Jan 9 '15 at 13:33
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    The client used the word 'unsupportive' in an email: is that truly "acting like a two-year old who is throwing a temper tantrum" or "badmouthing"? – A E Jan 9 '15 at 15:30
  • I agree that its not really throwing a temper tantrum. To me, it sounds like an accusation that the OP does not follow through on their duties and "do their job", which is a view that can easily result in the loss of the client. I do agree that, if ignored, this could lead to "badmouthing" - I think so far everyone agrees that some kind of response is necessary. – DoubleDouble Jan 9 '15 at 16:27
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    @A.E It IS a temper tantrum. I've seen enough people throw temper tantrums that I recognize one when I see it. When people throw temper tantrums, they say all sorts of nonsense. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 9 '15 at 19:40

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