Service recovery is what takes place when a customer gets annoyed at your services. It is putting a smile on the customer's face after you have created a mess. Or after your employee has made a mistake. As a consumer of any type of service, one always expects to get whatever service they purchased to be delivered as promised. So when something happens to the contrary, it is annoying, inconveniencing, and even costly, to say the least.
Take an example; after a long 14-hour-flight from another continent, you arrive at the hotel you had booked. You have arrived just slightly past the stipulated check-in time, so you expect to access your room immediately, to have some well-deserved rest. But to your surprise, you cannot access your room. Why? Your room is not ready. You have to wait. Apparently the good hotel did not manage to clean up the room after the previous guests left. The previous guests had requested for a slight extension of their check out time.
So you are asked to wait at the hotel lobby. One and a half hours later, you finally get ushered into your room. But before that, the Front office Manager offers a half-hearted apology but seems to suggest it was the fault of the previous guests who overstayed in the room, thereby causing the delay. You get upset. But do you have a right to be? Absolutely! My question is, will you return to that hotel or even recommend it to family and friends? Probably not.
This kinds of situations happen all the time, every day everywhere, and can happen to any business. The tragedy is, as this happens, the business owners or directors are left wondering why their business is losing or not getting any repeat-business at all. Some will continue to wonder what is happening to their business. Others will fire the managers and hire new ones. A few will put more money into advertising, to bring in more and new customers, who will likely get the same form of treatment and never come back! This cycle will never stop until the business owner or top managers take a hard look at the reasons causing their customers to run away.
What Is The Point?
The point is; No matter how big, small, old or new a business is, it is almost certain that at one point or another, someone within the organization will make a mistake. That is expected and accepted normal. However, how the mistakes are dealt with, will make the big difference, separating those organizations that fail or succeed in retaining the customers. To keep your customers loyal and keep them coming back as they tell others about your services, you must do more.
John Tschol, is considered the ultimate Guru of customer service by many, says that after an unpleasant episode or encounter with a customer, you have just about 60 seconds to turn-back the clock and win back the clients' trust. According to Mr Tschol, there are 4 simple techniques that every company can apply to achieve service recovery. For us, being in the travel service industry, we have applied these, with a success rate of almost 99%.
Here are the 4 techniques ways you can in the area of service recover.
1.Taking Quick Action When A Mistake Occurs
The person at the point of contact with the customer must be able to act fast enough to salvage the situation. Moving problems up the chain of command does not help the client; neither does it help the situation. It certainly does not help the business. This is beside the fact that involving more persons means more time is taken thereby aggravating the customer even further. For example, in the hotel situation if the client has to wait for the Front Office Manager to explain his or her problem, you are taking the failing path. The front office manager may, after listening to the customers, see that it is beyond his authority and decide to escalate the problem to the hotel General manager. What this does it to increase your client’s level of anger and frustration. Simply put, the first person must be able to start and finish the process.
2. Owning Up ...... Fully
To the customer, it does not matter whose fault it is, that they are tired and sitting at the lobby, smelling like a pig after hours on the flight. All they can remember is making the booking from the website, the process of which incidentally asked them to indicate their expected arrival time, and then finally asking for their credit card details. They followed your instructions to the letter. Their experience is now being been messed up by the hotel.
But it could be a restaurant, a tour operator, a travel agency or airline. It does not matter. For them, it is the organization that has screwed up. So the first-contact person must own the mistake and apologize from the bottom of the organization's heart. Placing the blame on another employee who forgot to hand-over properly, or the previous clients who delayed their check out will not work for the customer or for you. The customer does not know these individuals and cares less about the details. In fact, you should be thanking the client for giving you the chance to see your mistakes, rectify them and hopefully learn from the mistakes.
3. Empowering Front Line Employees
Employees are not making empowered decisions because they’re afraid they’re going to be reprimanded, fired, or have to pay for the cost whatever they offer the customer. That is why they will try to call in their superior, and aggravate your already angry customer. Empowerment is the backbone of service recovery, and organizations that truly want to serve the customers and retain their business must not only allow; but insist, that employees bend and even break the rules in order to keep those customers happy for them to keep coming back.
4. Compensating The Customer Appropriately
Any the mistake committed by your organization will almost certainly has a consequence on your customer. It may cost them time, inconvenience or simply just ruin their travel experience. Whatever the case, find something of value from within your business and give this to the customer. It may be something that does not cost the business a lot of money, but it must be something of value to the customer. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure their get back to trusting your company and back to feeling valued in dealing with a great company like yours. An airline can upgrade a passenger, a restaurant can offer a free dinner on a later date, a hotel can offer a free spa treatment etc.
Service recovery is so important for growth and profitability of any type of business, not only travel service business. The kind of free word-of-mouth advertising that comes from happy customers who tell their co-workers, friends and families about your organization's exceptional services cannot be bought with any amount of money you may have allocated for your advertising budget.
Just remember to remind everybody that the magic in service recovery occurs when a front-line employee, the person who makes the first contact with the problem situation, solves a customer's problem and does so in 60 seconds or less. Further, acting quickly, taking responsibility, making an empowered decision, and compensating the customer will result in customer loyalty that will increase your sales and profits and help to ensure your success in an increasingly competitive world.