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The Power of Service Recovery

A recent visit to my doctor’s office initially left me frustrated and vowing to look for a different service provider.

I arrived at the doctor’s office just before my scheduled 1:30 pm appointment. I checked in at the front office and completed the necessary paperwork. Not long after that, I was called in to have my vitals checked and then sent to the waiting room.

It was going to be a fairly quick visit, I thought. I was wrong.

I had to wait for almost an hour to be seen. What made the experience worse was that there was no acknowledgement of the long wait, the consultation felt rushed, and there was no follow-up, as promised.

After a couple days of not hearing back, I sent a complaint through my patient portal expressing my disappointment about my experience. Later that day, I received a call from the doctor, who was very apologetic, to go over my lab results. He promised to call me again in a few days to check on me. And he did.

When he kept to his promise, I backed off the idea to change providers and decided to give them another chance. What changed? His commitment to calling me back as promised, asking how I was feeling, and empathizing with me. That is the power of service recovery.

Even the best businesses and service providers will occasionally make mistakes, encounter unforeseen problems, or encounter unhappy customers. Service recovery involves the process of addressing and resolving a customer's complaint or concern in a way that satisfies them and ultimately preserves the customer's loyalty to the business or service provider.

In their Harvard Business Review article, “How customer service can turn angry customers into loyal ones,” authors Wayne Huang, John Mitchell, Carmel Dibner, Andrea Ruttenberg, and Audrey Tripp make the argument that there are some simple best practices to turn aggrieved customers into loyal advocates. This includes responding quickly so that they feel someone is watching out for them, or a simple acknowledgement to buy time to diagnose the customer’s issue.

Whether it is a product or service failure, long wait times, or a technical issue, bad service is bound to happen. And while organizations may not always be able to resolve some of these service failures, all customers want is a little empathy or simple acknowledgement of what has happened.

Ring Central defines service recovery as righting your wrongs. It’s the process of recovering from a poor customer service experience and regaining customer loyalty. The key is to react as fast as possible and rectify your errors when you spot them.

Here are some practical ways to engage in service recovery:

Provide ways for customers to self-diagnose

Offering self-service options are great ways to make your customers feel empowered.

Be proactive

If you notice an issue, be quick to reach out to customers, and let them know what you discovered and what you will do to correct it. Read customer reviews and feedback, and act on them. This lets customers know you are on top of your game, and they will reward you with their loyalty.

Empower contact center representatives with the ability to resolve issues

Reps should not always have to ask a manager for permission to grant every minor exception. Set a baseline for what they can do on their own, and when they need to go to a manager. This minimizes interruptions to customer interactions, reduces handle time, and makes them feel empowered.

Make first-call resolution a mantra to live by

FCR sounds great as a metric, but take it a step further. Commit to it and make everyone responsible for it. 

Learn from mistakes

See every service failure as a learning opportunity. Learn from the experience and use it as a benchmark to improve service delivery.

Regardless of how bad a service experience is, customers understand that to err is human and they are willing to forgive when service providers take ownership for making things right. By implementing these service recovery strategies, service providers are actively taking steps to ensure customers are satisfied, even when something goes wrong.

Join the discussion. What service recovery strategies do you use in your organization, and how have they helped you win customer trust and loyalty?