Service Recovery – The Art of Damage Control


By Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor

We all know about customer service. Those of us who are in this industry normally are the ones who genuinely want to help the customer. It’s sort of a "HIGH" for us when things go right. But what happens when it all goes wrong. Downhill? Beyond the normal give good customer service? How do you recover?

Service recovery is simply the art of damage control. And every industry has damage control Think about Hollywood. Poor Tom Cruise. He said something bad about Brittany Spears and everyone was out to get him. The PR team went into damage control big time.

And what about when things happen in government? Big time damage control shifts into gear.

And so it must when customer service goes wrong. Think ‘damage control.’ What can we do over and above in order to gain this customer back? To have them swearing by us and not at us?

Empowerment. That’s the number one step of service recovery. Each and every employee needs some form of empowerment. They need to know how far they can go to help the customer. Remember our Telephone Doctor rule: It should never take 2 people to give good customer service.

Anytime you escalate a call to a supervisor you are losing ground. The more employees a customer speaks with to get a problem resolved is a step behind the 8 ball.

Humor: This will only work when you have a rational customer. And normally when it gets to service recovery, the rationale is lost. However, what we do know is most customers respond in kind to gentle humor.

One of the worse things you can say to a customer is, "I know how you feel." There is simply no way in this world anyone can know how someone else feels. That particular statement will get you in a lot of hot water. Lose it fast. (And sometimes they even say, "I know EXACTLY how you feel." That’s so bad, I won’t even get into it.) You can say, "I can only imagine how you feel." But best you don’t ever walk in the customer’s shoes. It won’t be a good fit, I promise you.

Service recovery is when you’ve helped the customer and you can really tell that they’re satisfied; that they’re back in the groove with your company again. That’s true service recovery. When they go from screaming to loving you. And it can be done.

You need a whole lot of empathy or sympathy. You need to listen. You need to care. These are the tools for service recovery. You need to go that ‘one step beyond.’ You need to do something they’re totally not expecting. Something that bowls them over. Each industry has their own bowl over. And sometimes it means taking a loss. But if you’re really looking to SAVE that customer, you’re willing to take that loss. Because in the long run, they’ll be so happy and so smitten with your company, they’ll be singing your praises to all their friends.

Service recovery is SPECIAL. You see, good customer service is expected. That’s nothing new or special. You’re supposed to give good customer service. What’s the big deal? But often times it all hits the fan and that one customer is just really fired up. Mad, bad, screaming, totally out of it. That’s when your service recovery needs to kick into gear.

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