Keep your customer loyal by applying best practice in customer service recovery when things go wrong
I am often accused by my friends and family to be a super-critical consumer – which I suspect many of my peers in customer experience can relate to. In fact, many make it quite clear that they find my critical assessments of service levels, at the very least, irritating! In line with general complacency and “talking with their feet”, with some friends I have learned that raising ANY issue whilst in their company, is alienating. Fortunately I do have some die-hard service warriors who don’t get frazzled in a restaurant when I comment on something.
Those close to me know for instance, my “fussiness” with coffee. I absolutely love good coffee, and I am quite willing to pay a premium. For me, drinking coffee IS an experience! My day can be totally made or ruined by coffee… seriously! But what I often amazes me, is how feedback is managed. I have experienced the entire range of emotional responses when I comment on coffee. These include shock, disappointment, looking deflated, fear, anger, disgust, worry, concern, the range is extensive – trust me! Also, the typical responses include replacing the coffee, offering something else, making me pay for unacceptable coffee or not, compensating in some other way… this list is also extensive.
But, I have to confess, as a customer experience professional, I feel so moved and inspired when I am on the receiving end of professional service recovery! And this is what inspired my story as a customer.
Recently I had three separate incidences where my medical aid processed my claims (upfront payments) BUT instead paid the providers directly. I duly advised the medical aid and was especially disappointed by the third incident! By then I had notified the fund, and also completed an online survey (standard after engaging with the customer service center), where I expressed my disappointment at the service pointing out the process does not seem to be doing what it’s supposed to do. As in most cases, I had received NO feedback on the low recommendation rate or my comments in the open-ended section. At the last incident, I decided to keep on forwarding the same complaint over and over, until I get a response (which took almost three weeks and quite a few mails). But, wait for it…. What I received was an A-grade service recovery experience!
I am sharing this story to acknowledge that when a representative of an organisation (frontline staff member or manager) follows the tried-and-tested principles of service recovery, you just cannot go wrong – even with very “challenging” and vocal customers such as myself!
And it went something like this….
1. Apology: I received a call, where my immediate anger and frustration was duly pacified by the heartfelt apology (tick).
2. Acknowledgement: For taking so long to respond, for failing me at various times and creating inconvenience, for not doing the right thing (tick – they acknowledge all the disappointments!).
3. Empathy: By doing that, I felt heard straight away. The entire conversation was done with great empathy for my experience and the expressed desire to prevent a repeat of my experience, was truly an excellent strategy to defuse me. What can you say when someone says “I am so sorry for your experience, we failed you on this. Please give us another chance…. I want to fix this… AND this is how I propose I do it”. I was never made to feel unreasonable, even with my complete and detailed recall of all the mistakes and efforts made, I felt heard and understood. (tick)
4. Solution: Even though I was given a direct email (not general claims address) to submit future claims, which I did not expect, nor require, I appreciated the initiative to offer a token to address to issue. It was an appropriate solution to avoid my future negative experience.
5. Action: The promise to follow up with an email with the details of my ‘special email for claims” was received within minutes of the call (Tick, tick!!)
Being on the receiving end of excellent service recovery was absolutely awesome! And as a truly difficult customer, I can honestly say that applying the best practice in customer service recovery works! See, I am even writing about it!
Kudus to Clare Govender, Coach: Client Services Profmed! I admire your professionalism and your ability to keep the faith in what we do… You represented the essence of what we teach… you just perfected it!
Partner with us at The Consumer Psychology Lab to harness your front liners’ ability to deal with hard customer conversations. Managing service recovery well can save costs, retain customers and grow your business.
We are a boutique customer experience consultancy with the dream of creating magical experiences for consumers by truly understanding what customers need. To achieve that, we support our clients to adopt a more outside-in approach to their customer interaction. Equally important, we support our clients to empower their employees with skills that enable them to deliver their desired experiences. www.consumerlab.co.za