Customer Service Recovery

Precise and expeditious is what service recovery has to be. The action you take as a company to undo a service that collapsed due to a faulty product or service or an inadvertent human error, would be defined as customer service recovery. Customer satisfaction is at the base of this action and must be well planned, well thought out and seamlessly executed. It would be the difference between retaining your customer and losing him or her, probably forever and or spreading the damning evidence of the experience with others. Service failures trigger a barrage of customer complaints and that is what differentiates service recovery from a complaint. Pro-actively anticipating a problem before it becomes an active complaint is what service recovery should be about. It must be remembered that not all dissatisfied and irate customers would make the effort to complain. They would probably just deflect to your closest competitor and that is why pre-empting such service failures becomes so important. Resolving complaints and providing top class service recovery both are indispensable and could be considered as the prime strategies for customer retention.

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[img src=”” width=”” height=”” align=”right”][img src=”” width=”” height=”” align=”right”] It is not hard to understand that great service recovery will have far reaching positive effects on all aspects of customer satisfaction. Being able to get the customer from a highly negative emotional state to positive and happy frame of mind is surely something that the customer will remember and want to spread among his or her contacts. The customer’s loyalty and satisfaction levels would also reach a new high. This also makes for a positive contradiction or the coinage service recovery paradox. Simply put it means that effective and sterling service recovery could lead to customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty far superior than if a failure had never occurred!

As customers and consumers, we have all had our fair (or unfair) share of lousy customer service experience, irrespective of which particular industry we encountered. We are sure that if there was such an experience, you are more likely to remember the ones where the company went in to top gear and pressed their best efforts to turn the service around and show you that they value you as a customer and would not want you to leave them. The sincerity and honesty of the service recovery effort is what would have made this indelible mark.

As human beings, none of us like our mistakes being pointed out. However, it is important for a company to keep in mind that the complaint means that the customer is still interested in your product or service and must use the complaint as an opportunity to resolve the complaint way past expectations leading to long term allegiance to your company. Is it not worth the effort then?

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Just like customer service, recovery of faulty service also requires that your service representatives and all employees understand the criticality of this recovery. Provide consistent and effective training on the subject and ensure that your staff is empowered enough to execute the principals therein without being bound by too many rules and policies. They should have a superior understanding of how far they can go to achieve a complete and effective recovery. Service recovery is not just about offering a token or coupon or a gift to the angry customer. In fact, that is probably going to add to the trouble by being seen as superficial and feigned interest. Offering gifts can be but a part of the whole service recovery process but not the recovery. Examine closely and understand carefully if you really want to know what the real problem is. Sometimes a customer maybe angry with some other experience he or she had with you which was not raised but this new breakdown triggered an angry response, seemingly larger than the actual breakdown. So again, listen!

Service breakdown, the resultant complaint and the recovery together will help you as a company to re-evaluate all your processes and strategies and tweak the ones that led to the breakdown in service. You could discover some other processes that are on the verge of a breakdown. Putting effort in to service recovery makes sense for your business however you approach it. So looking back, we can actually list the steps for service recovery – Pre-empting customer expectations, reassuring them that you have understood how they feel, take ownership of the blunder and apologize, offer a number of possible solutions for them to choose and implement flawlessly the one they deem most appropriate. Simple measures leading to enhanced levels of customer satisfaction, happiness and loyalty.
As we have learnt, Perception is Reality and so at the stage where the customer is emotionally charged, arguing and explaining your point of view will only serve to further enrage him or her. All that is required from the service recovery team is to understand that the failure is on the part of the company and the customer has every right to be annoyed. We all learnt from our childhood that saying sorry meaningfully could get you out of sticky situations. It is the most effective way to break down walls and dilute negative emotions. Apologizing is just the first and most potent way of getting the other person to even begin to listen to what you have to say or offer. After showing genuine concern, the options that you offer the customer makes him or her feel more in control, they perceive themselves as decision makers. The choices the customer makes at this stage will be the best for him or as they know what they need better than what you would.

After the course of action has been decided, run with it, own it and implement it as seamlessly and flawlessly as possible. Give the customer the assurance that there would be no repeat of such a breakdown and tell them that you want them that he or she is important to your company and you want him or her to remain with you. Do not make the mistake of having a ‘standard service recovery kit’ – that’s just silly and tells the customer but that you as a company have no real interest in their problems with you.

Dealing with a large customer base, also means more windows for error raising the number of service recovery opportunities. Without a written record of all these activities it would be impossible to anticipate any future anomalies. It would hold you in good stead to keep a log of all complaints and service recoveries implemented with an accurate note of time, date, nature of complaint along with the complete contact details of the customer. This data would prove invaluable to prevent the repetition of errors and drastically reduce the scope for any fresh ones. Use the data to your advantage!

You want to be known as a great service provider and for that each member of your company must own the building and preserving of the company’s reputation. The most important tenets for keeping your customers happy are being open, listening and understanding their issues from their view point, owning the problem or service breakdown and come clean on any promise you make towards service recovery. When things go wrong, and they will despite your best efforts, you would already be a step ahead and will be prepared to better deal with the issues and will hit the ground running to resolve them. Resolving immediately and effectively, a failed service would serve as the brownie points you need and want from your customers to make want to stay with you and talk positively about you to others.

A customer complaint is not a problem but an opportunity to strengthen your core processes and build a robust set of business strategies allowing you to be the company that stands apart from the crowd and is also the competition’s worst nightmare. The most famous quote by Mahatma Gandhisums it up – “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

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