Service Recovery - Loyal for Life.
By John Tschohl
Sunday, 2nd October 2005
Everyone screws up at sometime during the week. Every company blows it some time during the week. I don't care how committed or good at customer service we are, things sometimes go wrong. How we handle these problems and mistakes is what service recovery is all about. How do you take an unhappy customer from hell to heaven in 60 seconds or less?

Loyal for Life customers are built by employees who when they encounter a problem make an empowered decision to handle the problem on the spot within seconds, apologize, solve the problem and compensate the customer. To just say your sorry is NOT service recovery. What is worse is rarely will an employee even apologize or take responsibility for the
problem. The need to save face or their lack of self worth is so great it is difficult to get employees to consistently give the customer good customer service.

Every employee should be taught service recovery. Loyal for Life should be given to each person with customer contact. It teaches them skills of empowerment, service recovery and helps create a mind set that the customer comes first.

As I do my service strategy seminars across the world I find that many executives have problems coming up with powerful service recovery procedures that FORCE employees to give away something of value when things go wrong.

I believe that each of us have products and services that have value in the customers' eyes. It is better to use these products. If you are a florist you can send the customer a dozen roses. However, if you are a dentist, sending the dozen roses will probably cost you about $30. The cost to the florist is much less.

If a couple with a 7 PM dinner reservation will not be seated until 7:30 the hostess should say, Mr. Green, I apologize but we are not going to be able to seat you until 7:30 PM, can we buy you a round of drinks while you wait? You will normally say sure. Then your might say to yourself, Wow. This is cool. Hope this happens again. The cost to the restaurant is $2 but they have an overly happy customer who they just took from hell to heaven in 60 seconds or less for an out of pocket costs of $2, which has a perceived value of maybe $10.

What products or services do you have, that you and your employees can use, products or services that do not cost you much but have a high perceived value? This is not a time to be cheap. For the restaurant to say I will buy only one of you a free drink is cheap and not service recovery.

This year, for her 35th wedding anniversary, my sister Betty went to Murray's, a very well known steak restaurant in Minneapolis. A couple of weeks later I had dinner with her and her husband, they told me how bad the food and service had been at Murray's. I asked if they let the owner know. She said no. I talked her into calling the owner and letting him know what happened.

The owner appreciated her call and said he would look into it and send her something. Three weeks later he sent a gift certificate for $50. Their anniversary dinner was over $150. The $50 was nice, but it should really have been $75-100 and sent in the mail the same day with a short letter saying how sorry they were and asking them to come back and try their
restaurant again.

The $50 will FORCE them to come back. I say this because most of us are too cheap to pass up $50, so they will use it. Now if Murray's screws up again they will never be back and Murray's will get more negative word of mouth advertising. How can they expect their employees to master Service Recovery when their owner takes 3 weeks to take action? Speed
is necessary for Loyal for Life to work.

I suggest you start by mastering Service Recovery yourself. Identify 5 or 6 things that have value in the eyes of your customer. Write them down. Maybe have certificates preprinted with the service or product you are going to give away. Do not be cheap. Use products and services that do not cost you a lot of money, but have perceived value to customer, and then when things go wrong give them away.

Most employees are reluctant to do this because they have never been trained on service recovery, they feel the customer is lying, they don't feel empowered, they feel your business will go broke if they give something away or they are concerned about losing face.

Tips for providing quality service recovery:

  • Act Quickly
  • Take Responsibility
  • Be Empowered
  • Compensate
"The service recovery and quality in service is the cornerstone that has launched our theatre company to the leadership position that we have. Our growth rate is based on reaching bigger markets with the same great service."
Miguel Mier Esparza, Director General de Operaciones Cinepolis, Mexico (World's 7th largest movie theatre chain)

Service Quality Institute: http://www.customer-service.com

Tschohl Seminars:http://www.JohnTschohl.com

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