Customer Service Recovery Affects Future Sales

Customer Service Recovery, that chance to correct a mistake and make things right with your customer, can build stronger bonds and affects future sales.  Most would agree that getting things right the first time for customers is always the best. Yet, mistakes do happen.  How you recover for the customer can build stronger bonds with them and affect their future buying decisions!

Are you skeptical?  A VP of Operations in a large corporation told me that the organization selects vendors based on how well they recover from mistakes.  They call the vendor’s references and keep digging until they find this information.

His point about customer service recovery:

“Mistakes will happen.  It’s inevitable.  I need to know if they hold themselves accountable, step up to the plate, apologize, and quickly correct the mistakes or assist us in correcting the mistakes. For us to trust a vendor, we must be able to rely on them in good times and bad!”

Customer Service Recovery Affects Sales Image by: QueenofSubtle

A recent experience with a limo driver that I have used for two years reminded me of this.  He was to pick me up last Thursday morning and take me to the airport.  My email to him requested that he pick me up at 9:50 am.  9:50 came and went and so did 9:55. I called and asked him where he was.  He replied, I am picking you up at 10:50 today.  I thought, “Oh NO! Could I have typed it wrong?”   I didn’t have time to wait for him to come so I drove to the airport.  Later that day, he sent me an email admitting that he blew it.  He apologized fully for the mistake and indicated how this would be avoided in the future.

Why do customers and leaders use customer service recovery as a basis for future buying decisions?

  1. No matter how often you claim you are reliable and accountable, the proof is in the moment of truth.
  2. When you do customer service recovery well, you show the customer just how much you care about them and their business.
  3. If you improve your service from what you have learned, you show your company to be a vibrant learning organization that may well last the test of time and global changes. This is worth trusting and leaders buy from these types of organizations.

Is it possible to lose business over your mistakes even with good customer service recovery? Yes if the impact of the mistake is so grave that the bond of trust is irretrievably broken. Yet there are many situations where this is not the case. Instead what causes the customer to leave is poor service recovery: no accountability, no apology, no correction.

How well do you and your organization do customer service recovery? If you are the leader, dig for this information! Your potential customers are.

What obstacles to delivering great service recovery does your organization face?

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, delivers transformational workshops, keynotes, webinars, and training DVDs on Delivering the Ultimate Customer Experience. This is her 21st year in business and she continues to deliver new insights each year. See this site for course outlines

15 Responses to “Customer Service Recovery Affects Future Sales”

  1. Jay Baron says:

    You can have accountability, integrity and reliability as watch words within your company, but unless you really embrace these values they really are nothing more than just words. Being presented with a problem to solve, especially in light of a mistake, gives you a great opportunity to put this into practice. If done right, you can delight your customer and turn them into an advocate.

    The secret is ownership. When something comes across your desk, it’s yours to deal with. Take it fully beginning to end if you can. Keep in mind that while a mistake may not be your fault directly, you do still need to own up to it on behalf of the company. Be genuine about that. Don’t trip over yourself doing it, but don’t issue a canned un-caring response either. Just respond the way you’d expect if you were in their position. You can also promise, often right in the same breath, that you’re about to do what it takes to make things right.

    Making good on that promise is the next big step. You need to see things through. If any contact happens behind the scenes with another department, keep tabs on progress and continue checking in with the customer along the way instead of expecting someone else to pick it up. They’ll appreciate knowing that you’re in charge of the situation. You’ve taken ownership from beginning to end.

    A big win here is that a properly resolved situation gives you a happy customer who doesn’t need to be placated with free product or discounted services to make up for things. Not only will they continue doing business with you; they may begin doing even more now that you’ve made that connection and they trust in you. The situation that brought them to you was really just an opportunity to show off your customer service and remind them how good you really are.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I echo your thoughts on “ownership” Jay. And yes, it goes along way for repeat business, new business, referrals, and $$!

      Thanks for your contribution.

  2. "ResponseTek" says:

    Fantastic! Very concise & to the point… a pleasure to read and love the personal example. Adds to the realness of the post.

  3. I could not agree more. Here is a blog post I did regarding apologizing:
    In this social media world, poor service experiences can travel like wildfire. Also in this economy it is harder and harder for companies to earn new Customers, so it is imperative that you do everything to retain your existing valued Customers. It is imperative that companies recognize this and institute a process for this. A few years back I built a service recovery process with speech analytics. You would be amazed at the positive reaction when we contacted them, usually before they even knew there was a problem. That was a fun job!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Frank,
      Many thanks for your contribution on this and especially the insight on contacting customers even before they knew there was a problem! That is service and service recovery. A WOW for sure.

  4. Michelle Romanica says:

    You got it, Kate! Customers see your true colours, no matter how hard you may try to hide them, when things go wrong. That’s when they find out your modus operandi: Is it all about you or all about your customer?

    By simply asking ourselves who we would want to deal with when we have a problem, then check in with ourselves to see which modus operandi we are exhibiting to our customer, we’ll know whether our customer will want to continue doing business with us or not.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      It is the moment of truth Michelle. So surprising that many (from leadership to frontline) don’t apply that standard to customers even though they would when they are the customers!

      Thanks for your insight.

  5. Great post Kate. Len Berry of Texas A&M has done a lot of research on service recovery. And the result is that how you recover and how open you are about it makes all the difference. You might want to take a look at some of his findings in The Soul of Service

  6. Ty Sullivan says:

    Right on the money Kate! One thing we do well here is get right to the problem as soon as we hear about it. Being a restaurant group you have to move faster than the lightening that is about to strike. Between our info@ email, website, and Twitter it’s very easy to find us when there is an issue in one of our locations.
    I actually deal one on one with the guest when they have a complaint as is the personal touch really resonates and shows that the company cares. Which we do.
    As mentioned, in this “new world” where social media is now the new soapbox, it is imperative you deal with the issues ASAP. And if the complaint comes via TWITTER, make sure you are tending to it openly on TWITTER and not via DM unless absolutely necessary. Let the people see that you are on top of the situation and taking ownership. Hiding out hurts. Letting it all hang out helps.
    People just want to know they are being heard and that we are listening.

  7. Ty Sullivan says:

    Also, just wanted to add that due to our speedy recovery, we have salvaged and gained in clients via references from those we impressed. Just saying 🙂

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Love your insight Ty about dealing with people using the personal touch — in person or on Twitter. Speedy recovery, as you say, salvages and gains clients and references. Kudos to you and your entire team!

  8. Audrey says:

    Kate, you took the initiative and exercised patience. The Driver admitted his mistake but the “damage was already done”. However, he apologized and promised to avoid a recurrence in the future. Seeing that you drove yourself to airport… question….how did you feel prior to receiving his email? Would you consider changing him for someone else to take you to the airport in future? Was his service recovery good enough to continue this bond?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Audrey,
      Thanks for commenting on the post. So glad you share your insights on service recovery.

      You asked me how did I feel before I got the email from him, would I use him again etc… That particular day I was so pressed for time, I forced myself not to get into feelings about him so I could stay focused, drive, and make my flight.

      Admittedly, once I had time to “feel”, I was annoyed at the mistake. Yet I was very pleased at how much straightforward ownership he took of it. He didn’t say “Mistakes happen” or “Well at least you got there”. I have had other limo companies say those kinds of things to me and I left them immediately. They are telling me their service to me doesn’t really matter — it’s only the outcome that matters. That isn’t true.

      Even though mistakes happen — the person making the mistake should not say that to a customer. It sounds defensive and uncaring. This limo driver stepped right up to the plate and sincerely apologized. That counts!


  9. I’ve seen the response to a small complaint result in an overblown melee on the part of the company. And I’ve also seen heroic customer service recovery turned into a flawless ballet. Guess which company I’ll go back to!
    From the consumer point of view, it’s a litmus test as to whether the company really values its customers or its numbers alone.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Sara — I love your expression “flawless ballet”. Very strong image. So pleased that you offered an example and am grateful for your time and contribution. Hope you will comment on many of the customer service posts on this blog.

      I have a new post coming out tomorrow about customer loyalty.

      Warmest wishes,

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