Great customer service is the cornerstone of any successful business.
Knowing who the customers are, what they want, and making an effort to exceed customer expectations – is the key to business success.
Unless an organization understands this very basic principle, it will have a difficult time achieving desired results.
What is service recovery?
Service Recovery is a theory that suggests that a customer who has a bad experience – and receives a prompt, effective response to their issues – will be a more loyal customer, than a customer who had no bad experience at all.
The reason for this is, a bad experience provides an organization the opportunity to demonstrate how valuable the customer is.
Most organizations have some sort of customer service.
However, poor customer service is common in many organizations. It stems from poor training, ineffective performance management, and having the wrong people in critical positions.
We all have stories to tell about a bad customer service experience.
In fact bad service is so common place that we often accept it and try to find places to do business with that are the best of the worst.
All organizations, no matter how well trained their employees are, or how technical their systems are, have times when something goes wrong.
It is at these times when an organization can take a negative experience and turn it into a great experience.
This is why it is critical to have a good Service Recovery process in place.
Successful organizations train employees on what to do in these situations and when there is a service breakdown, employees are empowered to respond quickly to make good on the situation with the customer.
As an example, some companies give their employees a certain dollar amount that they can use to fix a problem for a customer, no questions asked.
You see this a lot in the hospitality industry.
The finer hotels have customer service representatives at the counter who are empowered to handle small customer issues. The Ritz Carlton is a classic example of this.
Service Recovery Example
A personal example of service recovery for me was with a dry cleaners close to our home.
The counter staff were friendly and the cleaning was fine. We went years without incident and then one time I took a table cloth there to be cleaned.
It wasn’t a very expensive table cloth but I sent it to the cleaners because I was afraid of shrinking it. Well guess what?
When I got it back from the cleaners it had shrunk.
My husband mentioned it the next time he went to the cleaners and they immediately asked what we paid for the table cloth and reimbursed him, no questions asked. Now that is service recovery!
We were pretty impressed with this since we didn’t really expect him to believe us much less respond.
Then a few years later we moved about seven miles away to a new neighborhood with three dry cleaners within a mile from our house.
We told the cleaners we had moved and would probably find a dry cleaners closer to our house and he offered to give us a 20% discount if we would make the drive.
We agreed and make the drive every couple of weeks not only because of the discount but because we now know he values us as customers and he will take care of us if an issue does arise. He has gained our trust and our loyalty. This is critical to thriving organizations!
5 Tips For Successful Service Recovery
1. Hire Selectively
Some people are more gifted at communicating and working with people than others. Hire selectively.
Learn what type of social style you need and use tools to screen job applicants to ensure you are hiring the right personalities for the jobs.
Remember, skills can be taught, personality can not.
2. Create A Complaint Process
Despite all of your efforts to create a perfect experience for customers – there will be times when it fails.
Create a process for dealing with complaints. Find your best employee communicators and let them respond.
Track your complaint data and glean wisdom from what you learn. Create an improvement plan and make changes to your policies and procedures to incorporate the identified improvements.
3. Invest In Training
Training is critical and key to the success of a service recovery program.
Invest the time and resources to train employees. Create customer service standards and use your orientation process to help new employees understand service expectations.
Administer ongoing customer service training that reinforces your expectation for customer interactions.
Lead by example and make sure you demonstrate the behaviors that you hope to see from employees.
4. Expect Abuse
As with any thing else that is intended to do good and help people, there will be people who figure the system out and try to work it.
This is unfortunate but a reality that you simply need to accept.
I worked for a man who would try to find things to complain about when he traveled so he would get free hotel nights.
It worked, the hotel often gave him what he wanted but their reward was his repeat business.
5. Some People Will Never Be Happy
It is a sad truth but some people will never be satisfied – no matter what you do.
This is often driven from issues well beyond your service breakdown.
For instance, I worked in the Emergency Room of a Pediatric Hospital. There were times when parents would get so upset, we had to have specially trained people who would help calm them.
Most times simply getting the person to talk revealed many issues that were at the core of their complaints – which had nothing to do with the service we provided.
Customers are the revenue engine in every organization and need to be recognized as such. Businesses who embrace this and respond to customer issues will always be more successful than those that do not.
Do you have a service recovery process?