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10 Ingredients for an Effective Service Recovery Process

talkingHow many times have you had an issue in a restaurant with service, a cold meal, or incorrect charge? When that happens to me, I’m frequently offered a free dessert. I’ve often wondered why after failing to deliver an acceptable dinner experience, a restaurant management’s response is “give them a free dessert”.

Really? Is that the best service recovery strategy they could come up with? A $100 meal is a disaster and in return, I get an $8 free dessert. Hardly seems equitable to me.

While you may not be in the restaurant business, does your service recovery more than make up for what went wrong? What do your customers think of your response to your problem with their purchase? Do you track their post-incident purchases to determine if they are remaining loyal to your brand?

As the adage goes, it takes a lot more money to acquire a customer then to retain one – so why hesitate when it comes to service recovery? Did you know that when a company recovers quickly and effectively from an error, customer loyalty can increase so long as the same mistake isn’t repeated?

Here are some ingredients of an effective service recovery plan:

Be proactive

Have the systems in place to ensure you know before your customer does that something went wrong. Examples of this include stock outs, delivery delays, unexpected charges, billing mistakes, etc.

Accept the mistake even if it is that of the customer

The customer is always right, even if they’re wrong. Worry about getting to the root cause later. Solve the problem then figure out what went wrong.

Solve the issue now

Whatever the issue is, it’s important to get it solved now. Give authority to your sales team, your customer care team, your billing team, or whomever is in touch with the customer to satisfactorily solve the customer’s problem, immediately

Track the problems

If it happened to one customer, it may be happening to others – some of whom may not report it. Collect data on your errors so you can summarize them quickly and provide this data to the appropriate department so they can make improvements to their processes. Only then can you avoid making the same mistake repeatedly.

Determine root cause

As mentioned earlier, the time to do root cause analysis is after you’ve resolved the customer issue. Using the data, you’ve acquired in item 4, find the root cause of the issue, and fix it – permanently not with a band aid.

Invest in your recovery process

Let the punishment fit the crime so to speak. If you’ve messed up a $500 order, then shipping a corrected order overnight at your expense is a small price to pay for your mistake.

Invest in your employees

Provide behavioral training on how to handle dissatisfied customers. Often, we train skills – when we need to be training behaviors. Employees who immediately express empathy to the customer and clearly take control of the situation will capture the confidence of your customer despite the error.

Accept the fact that some customers will abuse the system no matter how effective it is

At some point you may decide to not do business with a particular customer. These types of customers are typically a small percentage of your customer population so don’t legislate for the minority.

Give visibility to the issues

Leaders may be reluctant to share errors made by their departments with other leaders even though solving the problem frequently requires the help of those other departments. Creating a culture of accountability instead of blame can help overcome this hesitancy and produce a more collaborative working environment.

Publish your recovery process

Your recovery process shouldn’t be hidden deep in a training manual for employees. Write it down. Gain consensus from all departments. Share it with your customers. Engage your employees. Share it broadly so everyone knows what it is, how and when to use it and who is accountable for ensuring satisfied customers.

Having a strong service recovery process is imperative for every business. It will support your brand promise and provide better experiences for your customers. It may be a delicious dessert but if it leaves the customer hungry for more – it isn’t an effective service recovery process.