Developing a service recovery plan…being deliberate about the recovery is worthwhile in keeping your customers satisfied

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It is prudent to accept the reality that things can go wrong now again regardless of our best efforts. Having a plan in place insulates you from the resulting damage with its attendant consequences. According to recent research, 80 percent of customers will leave after more than one disappointing service experience. As it stands, we require a much greater effort to win back lost customers therefore it makes sense to do all in your power to keep you from losing them.

One customer express concern and soon many others are privy to vital information. The pain of losing to rivals in the premiership cost Solskjaer his job at Manchester United. Ugly noises beyond the boardroom played a key role in forcing this decision. Angry customers write reviews on third-party websites expressing negative sentiments that cannot be ignored. `I had a bad Uber Experience recently although I did not complain it sure was a recipe for expressing negative sentiments.

Dissatisfied customers will provide feedback on a feedback form when expectations are not met. You dial into a Call Centre and the conversation doesn’t go well, the feedback could be dire as the dissatisfied customer takes out on the frontline staff, the list is endless. Golden and Magee (2003) have laid out a template to help us recover systematically and learn from the process to improve iteratively. They recommend what they term the 10 Golden Rules for regaining customers after a service mishap. Very interesting nuggets which I have chosen to share with my readers this week.

  1. Expressing appreciation for feedback

Everyone likes to hear nice things so your customer is no exception to this rule. It pays to simply say thank you to your customer in appreciation of positive feedback. when customer lets you know that things are not right, they are helping you correct an anomaly which can be costly if not addressed. Take time to demonstrate to your customer that you appreciate that they took time out of their day to send you a message.

The fact is not all feedback you receive will be positive. In some cases, the feedback received will be negative and can be hard reading, especially if the message is angry and emotional. However, it pays to acknowledge the time taken by customers to point out a flaw to you. The customer gives you the feedback for some good reasons. Firstly, they have seen a problem they would like solved to avoid other customers facing the same challenge they quickly complain.  Secondly, they may have felt let down or frustrated by the experience and would like it rectified to avoid a recurrence.

  1. Show empathy

To empathize with your customer is to demonstrate that you have identified with your customer’s situation and feelings. To be good at empathizing with your customer as a `Customer Experience professional get to know the customer at an intimate level so that your response will align with the customer’s sentiments appropriately. What you are looking for is a good outcome. Everyone appreciates a happy ending to a story.

Expressing sentiments such as ‘it must have been very frustrating for you to have experienced a delay in service. For that I am sorry.’ This will certainly bring a smile to the customer’s face and make him/her feel appreciated. Empathy can be a useful approach to disarm an angry customer. Using a language, they can identify with will make them relax, knowing that you understand their situation can be very comforting. This local retailer in Tema takes time to explain why a product is not available when you have asked for it and assures you of its availability on your next visit. Very comforting.

  1. Apologize

According to recent research when an apology is perceived as genuine, customer satisfaction increases 10% to 15%. An apology must be given whether or not the company is responsible for a mishap. My experience today from State Transport Company was dire, to say the least. I had gone in to claim my ticket having booked electronically the night before. The ticket clerk asked for my name and I gave him my surname as Manuel. Then he barks at me that I should have mentioned my full name Kodwo Manuel and what he heard from me was MANUAL.

I had pronounced my name wrongly. Naturally, I wasn’t too pleased and realized he was ready for a showdown so I backed down and asked his name. He proudly mentioned his name to me and said go on report me (although for the sake of discretion I am not sharing it) and that surprised me. He had no plan to show remorse for mispronouncing my name. I wondered how it would have felt if he had just apologized and asked nicely that next time, please give your full name. It’s not hard to show courtesy and to make amends when things go wrong.

  1. Have a sense of urgency

It is proven through research that 95% of complaining customers will remain your customers if their problems are resolved immediately. This is compared to only 70% when there is a delay in the resolution. When customers are convinced that your priority is to respond to their challenges promptly you regain their Goodwill and your chances of retaining them are high. Even if you don’t have an immediate resolution, it is important to acknowledge them and offer what direction you are capable of.

Experts offer the following three steps: First, this can be as simple as saying (or writing) “I’m sorry to hear you had problems with, etc.” Repeating the problem back to the customer lets them know you are paying attention. , and can be a chance to clarify exactly what went wrong if their complaint was vague or confusing. Second offer suggestions to resolve their issue. You may signpost them if you don’t immediately have the means of addressing their challenge. Third, thank them for taking the time to give honest feedback and suggestions.

The first four resolution tips help you build rapport with your customer and build trust. The next steps will enable you to begin the process of solving the customer’s problems.

  1. Ask for necessary information

This is very instructive, notice that asking for information does not occur in step one. We only ask for the information after we have effectively built rapport with the customer. It is important that the customer feels at ease with the process and that your questioning to get to the bottom of things is not an inquisition. It also demonstrates your willingness to satisfy the customer’s needs with your best efforts.

  1. Assure the customer

Your goal at this stage is to minimize the customer’s anxiety. The customer may feel that you are unable to resolve the issue. Assure them that together with your team you will get to the root of the problem. ‘I understand exactly what happened and we’ll get this taken care of right away.’ According to Ron Zenke, author of Knock your Socks off Service Recovery, in a recent article, he asserts that ‘it doesn’t matter whether the problem was caused by the customer. The company, by a third party, or an act of nature; the customer wants to know what you are doing to resolve the issue and get things back on track. That need for reassurance is tantamount.’

  1. Tell the customer what you are going to do

The customer will expect to know what you are going to do about it to have confidence in the resolution of the issue. In an earlier article, I shared the story of how a boss of mine was offered compensation by replacing his meal when he complained about a bad taste. The Manager who took over the issue from one of his Waiters explained that this was unfortunate and apologized to my boss following which he offered a meal replacement ‘on the house’. Keep customers in the loop of what steps you are going to take to resolve the issue.

  1. Solve the problem as quickly as you can

Do not hesitate to it get to work immediately to resolve the issue. You have taken all the steps to reassure your customer ensure that the resolution demonstrates your willingness to seek a resolution.

  1. Have we resolved the problem to your satisfaction?

You must confirm the resolution with the customer. Your idea of the resolution may not necessarily resonate with what the customer is expecting. Ask the customer if the issue has been dealt with. If the answer is no then continue with the engagement until you are sure you have resolved the issue successfully or until you have offered a reasonable explanation of why you were unable to fully address it.

  1. Investigate the problem and work to cut it at its root

Note that resolving a customer issue is not the end of the world. Whatever the issue the likelihood of it recurring is high therefore your focus must always be to get to the root of the problem. Your posturing must be to adopt the preventive step of complaint management. Trackback to unearth what led to that problem in the first place to determine the root cause and work to eliminate the problem. If resolution rates of customer complaints show a low success at complaints resolution, then research the issue to understand the causes as opposed to the symptoms.

By responding to complaints with these ten golden rules you restore customer confidence very easily and quickly regain their goodwill after service mishaps. A well-designed and well-implemented service recovery plan will turn complaints into profits by retaining customers who are on the brink of defection. Use customer data strategically to make process improvements. Learn from the feedback and keep your complaining customers happy.


Recovering from bad experiences effectively: actively seek out points of failure and address them promptly The writer is a Change Management and Customer Experience Consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205,

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