Between sports practice and homework, it was a typically busy weeknight. We were hungry, but tight on time, so my family and I popped into a tried and true restaurant for a quick dinner. It didn't take long to notice that the dinner wasn't going to be so fast. Tables that ordered well after us had their meals and yet there was no sign of our order. After a reasonable amount of time, we flagged down the waitress. "Yours is right up," she said, "we're just waiting on the fries."
Meanwhile, plates with fries piled high continued to be delivered to neighboring tables. We kept waiting, but our patience grew thin. With the waitress nowhere to be found, I got up and asked the bartender, but he just shrugged me off. Finally, the manager noticed our displeasure and we soon had our dinners - but only after an hour-long wait. It turns out the waitress forgot to put in our order not once, but twice - and then lied to hide her mistakes and never checked in with us. Short of a disingenuous "sorry," the restaurant didn't do anything to show that they truly were.
You likely have a similar story. It's experiences like this that serve as a reminder that service recovery is an essential part of every customer experience strategy. Sure, you design your optimal customer experience, train your employees, and put systems and processes in place to minimize risk and get the job done well. But sometimes, these systems, processes, or people fail. Customers can generally look past an occasional mistake, but only if your business responds swiftly and appropriately to turn the situation around. How you react when things go off the rails really leaves an impression, so have a plan!
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
It doesn't matter whose fault it is. The fact is your customers perceive a problem and their success as your long-term customer is contingent on you making it right. Empower your agents to accept responsibility for the issue and act quickly to resolve it.
While this is generally good practice, it is especially important when you are trying to make things right. No one wants to spend their valuable time on something because your company messed up. You must find a solution quickly. If a customer must contact your company multiple times, repeat their story, or quibble over company policy, among other things, you have not respected their time.
Sometimes, the solution may not be immediately implementable. In these cases, identify the optimal solution and determine a timeframe for implementation. Then think of alternative solutions. Could any of these reasonable short-term solutions? It may be wise to let the customer choose the short-term solution that best meets their needs. Whatever your path forward may be, be sure to set reasonable expectations with the customer - then exceed them.
You have one chance to correct the situation, so pay careful attention and do not let anything slip through the cracks. Pull in a manager or coworker for some additional help and accountability. Be sure to let your customer know what to expect and when, then be darn sure you hit those milestones. Your customer certainly does not want to feel forgotten about.
Check in with the customer at least once after the situation has been resolved to confirm that the issue, is in fact, resolved to their satisfaction. I am a fan of doing something extra for your customer as well. A small gift, a coupon, or a handwritten note are all powerful gestures that can leave a lasting impression.
It's inevitable that things will go off the rails at some point no matter how great your customer experience is. However, it doesn't have to mean an unsatisfied, or worse, a lost customer. With a solid service recovery plan through which your agents address issues sincerely and swiftly, you will still be able to leave a lasting, positive impression on your customers.
Erica Mancuso builds teams that deliver exceptional customer experiences. After 15 years of leading customer facing teams for entrepreneurial technology companies, Erica knows these experiences are the result of not only a solid product, but also great employees armed with the right tools and processes to get the job done well. Erica is Director of Client Care at Straightaway Health Careers. Connect with Erica on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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