The Secrets to “Service Recovery” That Will Get Customers Talking

Have you ever had an experience as a customer that was incredibly disappointing, but yet you left the business in a better mood than when you arrived? In fact, you left and quickly began telling the world about it.

In my experience this doesn’t happen often, but when it does it usually makes for a good story to share. It’s the result of what’s known as the service recovery paradox.

This paradox suggests that with an effective service recovery process, a service (or product) failure may result in higher satisfaction and increased loyalty from the customer than if the failure had never happened at all.

My wife, Linda, and I experienced the service recovery paradox early last fall.

We had a little something to celebrate, so we picked a new local restaurant to go to. It was a spin-off venture of another local chain that has a long history of success, so we assumed it would be good.

And we were right, all our food was very appetizing and tasty. That is, until I grabbed three french fries, popped them in my mouth and realized that a long, black strand of hair was wound around them.

I spit them out, along with the hair, and took the entire basket up to the lead cook. He immediately apologized and without hesitation offered a refund of our entire bill, along with a new basket of fries.

Hey, that was good by me! At that point I was pretty happy. Not wowed, but satisfied.

What really sold Linda and me on the place, though, was when the manager came to our table to learn more about what had happened. She was calm, friendly, asked good questions, showed sincere interest and listened closely. Her concerns for us and for fixing the root problem were obvious.

In thinking more about our experience as we finished eating, it appeared to me that there were three keys to their successful service recovery:

  • Clearly, the manager and lead cook were trained ahead of time and understood the concept and importance of service recovery.
  • Both were empowered to act immediately to resolve our concerns. The cook took the lead right away to replace our food and pay the bill.
  • The manager engaged us in an extended, sincere conversation to learn about the problem and to understand our expectations.

By the time we left, we felt we’d made a new friend (in the manager) and we were ready to brag to the world about “this great new restaurant” we’d discovered.

That’s the beauty of service recovery. When executed properly, it will have customers telling the world about you and about their great experience! Maybe more importantly, the idea can be applied to personal relationships too.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” Bill Gates (Amercian billionaire and philanthropist)

Questions: How do you handle dissatisfied “customers”, either personally, or in your role as an employee or business owner? Are you trained, empowered, and ready to recover?