A, B, C, Ds of effective service recovery
A, B, C, Ds of effective service recovery
14 MARCH 2014 6:34 AM

There are four simple steps to effectively recover from a customer-service failure.

I’ve been involved in customer service nearly all my life. My first foray into this area occurred when I was in elementary school. I was an old fashioned “paperboy.” You see, I provided a very valuable service to the residents in my neighborhood: I brought the daily news to their door.
In a sense, I was the 1970s version of the “newsfeed” or Twitter. On the rare occasion when one of my customers called my home (on a land line that was called a “party line,” a story for another day) to report their newspaper was wet from the elements or the front page was torn during the landing from my perfect toss to their front porch, I had to deploy service recovery tactics if I was to have any hope of a gratuity at the end of the month.
These skills served me well at the front desk in the many hotels at which I worked during my 29-year hotel career as well as when I was leading the guest assistance department of a major hotel branding company. And these skills continue to serve me well today.
While we never want our customers to experience a service failure, we don’t live in a perfect world. Things happen. Items out of our control can occur and can have a negative impact on our customers’ experiences. We certainly can’t control everything that happens during our customers’ service delivery experiences, but we can control how we respond to any failures or shortcomings that happen.
Recovery—or how we respond to customer complaints—is often the key to keeping or losing a customer for life. Interestingly enough, I’ve found successful service recovery follows four simple steps. To that end, I provide you my A,B,C,Ds of service recovery.
A - Apologize early and often. When the customer reports a problem to you, the first thing you should say in response is “I’m so sorry.” Ironically, when speaking with customer service personnel, I often hear, “Why should I apologize if it wasn’t my fault this happened to them?” I cringe at this type of thinking. It doesn’t matter who or what is at fault, the first and most important thing you can do is to express a sincere apology. It’s disarming, it’s calming and it’s polite. Apologize. It will help set the stage for recovery.
B - Be present. When a customer brings a service failure to your attention, pay attention. This is not the time to be multi-tasking or thinking about what you’re going to do after your shift is over. Listen. Pay attention. Paraphrase back to the customer what you’ve heard to check for understanding. This will help you identify the real issue and work to develop the appropriate fix.
C - Close the loop. This is an often-overlooked component in the service recovery process. Contact the customer after the agreed upon recovery actions have taken place and ask this simple question: “Does this meet with your satisfaction and is there anything else I can do for you today?” The key here is that effective service recovery is based upon the customer being satisfied with the results, not your satisfaction with having taken the actions. Close the loop and make sure they are happy with what you’ve done.
D - Do more than is expected. When I worked in a hotel, we had what we referred to as the “apology amenity closet.” This area had a few amenities the staff was at liberty to send to customers who experienced a problem. They weren’t big and expensive items—popcorn, cans of soda, candy, etc. Our team was trained to Apologize, Be present, Close the loop, and then Do more than expected by sending an “apology gift” to the guest to once again say “I’m sorry for what happened.” Think of it as the flowers a boyfriend sends to his girlfriend when he is in the dog house. That little something extra that says “I value you.”
And there you have it: Not rocket science, not brain surgery, just simple yet powerful steps to not only recover a customer service failure, but to turn that customer frown upside down. Until next time remember, take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.
Jim Hartigan, chief business development officer and partner, joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.
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