Service Recovery.
By John Tschohl
Sunday, 28th May 2006
If you worship at the altar of policies and procedures - you'll never have satisfied customers.

Companies are spending a fortune on marketing and advertising, but few if any really know what the impact of that fortune is. Are those messages reaching the right people? Are they effective? Are they bringing people—and their money—through the company's doors?

"Advertising will get a customer through the door to your business once, but it is service that will keep them coming back," says John Tschohl, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and author of several books on customer service, including his most recent, Loyal for Life. "Advertising is aimed at the masses; customer service is aimed at the individual. Service recovery creates word-of-mouth advertising that is 100 times cheaper and more powerful than traditional advertising."

What is service recovery? "It ‘s solving a customer's problem or complaint and sending him out the door feeling like he has just done business with the greatest company on earth," Tschohl says. " It's taking an unhappy customer from hell to heaven in 60 seconds or less."

To be effective, Tschohl says, service recovery must occur on the front lines. Employees must be trained and empowered to solve customer's problems and to do so quickly and to the customer's satisfaction.

Service recovery, according to Tschohl, is based on these four steps:

  • Act quickly. "This means within seconds," Tschohl says. "Don't say you'll get back to the customer tomorrow. Do whatever needs to be done—and do it now. The cost of handling a complaint escalates as it moves up the corporate ladder. And the longer it takes for a complaint to be resolved, the angrier the customer gets."
  • Take responsibility. "Too many employees want to blame someone else for mistakes," Tschohl says. "The customer doesn't care who made the mistake; he wants the employee standing in front of him to take care of it. You must own the problem. Apologize on behalf of your organization, and then take whatever steps are necessary to solve the problem. "
  • Be empowered. "Empowerment is the backbone of service recovery," Tschohl says. "Service recovery requires empowerment at all levels of the organization. Unfortunately, most employees are petrified at the thought of making an empowered decision. They're afraid they'll be reprimanded, have to pay for what they gave the customer,  or be fired for making a mistake in serving the customer. As a result, they worship at the altar of procedures and policies. Then they can simply say, ‘I'm sorry; we have a policy,' which only makes an angry customer angrier. If there is any policy regarding service recovery, it should be one that requires employees to do whatever it takes to take care of the customer to the customer's satisfaction."
  • Compensate the customer. "Service recovery doesn't end when you solve the customer's problem," Tschohl says. "Give her something of value that excites her. Every company has products or services that have value in the eyes of the customer that don't cost the company a lot of money. Identify five or ten products or services your organization has that you could give away when your organization makes a mistake. Vail Resorts has a system in place that provides free drinks when the ski lift shuts down for a few minutes and free lift tickets when it's down for more than 15 minutes." A restaurant, Tschohl adds, can waive the cost of a meal or offer a free dessert. A software company can provide a free upgrade. A computer company can give the customer a free one-year extended warrantee.
"When you solve a customer's problem and give her something of value, you will have a customer who will be loyal for life," he says. "In fact, studies show that she then will be more loyal your company than if she hadn't experienced a problem with you. Superior service, supported by service recovery, will generate positive word-of-mouth advertising, increase your customer loyalty, bring in new customers—and send your sales and profits soaring."

If you want to have satisfied customers, you cannot worship at the altar of policies and procedures. "When a customer has a problem, you must act quickly, take responsibility, be empowered, and compensate the customer," Tschohl says. "Do that and you will have a customer who will be loyal for life."

A copy of Tshcohl's Tips for Providing Quality Service Recovery is available by logging onto www.customer-service.com/Loyal-For-Life-c55.aspx

John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service, including Loyal for Life; e-Service; Ca$hing In: Make More Money, Get a Promotion, Love Your Job; Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service; and The Customer is Boss. John also has developed more than 26 customer-service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world. His bimonthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge.

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