Leaders, Can You Ace This Customer Service Recovery Moment?

Leaders and teams strive for excellence in customer service to deliver a super customer experience. There is truly no best — only continuous improvement.

So I often ask my clients who lead customer experience functions — can you and your teams ace customer service recovery? It’s in that difficult moment that the customers see your company values, intentions, and character. It is the critical time to show customers you care about them and achieve success with and through them.

Leaders, Can You & Your Teams Ace This Customer Service Recovery Moment? Image by:torbakhopper

Image by Torbakhopper via Creative Commons License.

One Moment Where Many Stumble Needlessly

High level leaders, mid-level managers, and customer facing reps all falter needlessly in customer service recovery when they confuse reassuring the customer with defending their organization.

At the moment customers are telling you how your organization has failed them, any statement you make praising your usual quality of service puts customers in the shadow of your insecurity. This is not the time to talk about how great you normally deliver. You didn’t.

  1. Admit the fault straight out and you give the customer admission to a new celebration of trust. “We fell short and we can do much better for you.” This clearly shows the customers you care about them. You will falter with: “We usually give higher quality service”. The customers think: So what? Your response is self-centered. It asks the customers to listen to your organizational analysis instead of shining the light on their importance.
  2. Do not highlight the wonderful abilities of reps who delivered bad service. Leaders, managers, and supervisors experience emotional discomfort when customers criticize their reps’ behaviors. As a result, they stumble in customer service recovery as they outline the outstanding abilities of the reps. This does not reassure a customer. It questions the customer’s perception and judgment! It also sheds doubt on your judgment and standard of care.

    I have witnessed so many leaders, on the fast track of excellent service recovery, make a detour at the last minute with praise of the agent’s ability. During service recovery, stay focused on the customer — not your reps, nor your organization, nor yourself. If you want to highlight the outstanding abilities of team members, tell the team members during coaching not the customers during service recovery.

  3. Highlight your standard of excellence and show it to them. When your organization has failed customers, apologize and reinforce that the care they received is nowhere near good enough. Then show them the high standards in action. This is distinctly different than explaining how you normally do better. The first delivers the goods now; the second waffles in the past.

During service recovery, any focus you place on your organization’s past or usual behavior reinforces the bad image that the service failure created. It will always seem defensive regardless of the tone of voice. It highlights your insecurity and unwillingness to see the truth of the moment.

See the customers’ current emotional and service needs and deliver. You re-secure the trust and leave proof and a lasting memory of your standard of customer care. Actions make caring words come to life.

Action: Run some role plays in your organization once a week and you will build the psychological conditioning to handle every these situations in the moment with ease and excellence. I am hear to help you as I have done with so many.

What customer service recovery blunders have you experienced when you were the customer? Please add your stories to our learning.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Post: A Winning Response to Complaints About Your Teammates

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

13 Responses to “Leaders, Can You Ace This Customer Service Recovery Moment?”

  1. Khalid says:

    Compassion is the key!

    Put yourself in the shoes of the customer before commencing a fix


    • Kate Nasser says:

      You said it Khalid. Compassion, empathy, listening, and honest ownership of the mistake.

      I have had people say to me, this is just common sense.

      Unfortunately, it isn’t common practice.

      Many thanks for your comment!

  2. Great Points Kate, being willing to keep the eye on the customer. Isn’t that the point before the service gaffe occurred?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Yep Michele. And you would think that once a business makes a gaffe, they would repair it quickly and honestly. Alas it’s not always true.

      Thanks for your input here!

  3. Susan Joy RN says:

    Well said Kate! I have learned the same over my many years in healthcare. I also frequently see colleagues try to deflect a customer’s disatisfaction by blaming another person or another department. In trying to make excuses, it sends the message that you are more interested in assigning blame than fixing the problem. It is far more rewarding to acknowledge the error, genuinely validate the customer’s feelings, and creatively work to correct the situation.

    Keep on with the great work you do Kate! I’m always learning with you!
    Susan Joy

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Susan. And an even bigger thank you for your insight on healthcare. I see so much defensiveness and non-listening at the front desk of medical offices and wonder “why”? It doesn’t cost anything to listen and be kind.

      Warmest regards and thanks

  4. Nancy Barlow says:

    Thanks Kate, it seems self evident, and yet is a regular occurrence. My daughter had an experience in our local department store, where there is notification that store assistants may search your handbag, buggy etc, and are supposed to ask you to open your own bags, and move any items that you may have.
    My daughter had her toddler in a buggy, and was leaving the store. A store assistant asked to search her bags, and also the buggy. Before my daughter could move her toddler, the assistant went to move her out of the way. My daughter was horrified and asked her to stop.
    My daughter made a complaint at the time and was fobbed off. I called the store and the manager did all of the things outlined in your article – praised his staff person, told me all of her sterling qualities, reinforced store policy and how it usually worked. He even went on to say my daughter was a regular and valued customer, and he was sure she had misinterpreted the situation! Kind of hard to do when the store assistant has their hands on your child!
    All of this made us feel like he wasn’t listening and didn’t want to hear anything that didn’t fit with his rosy view of the world. End result was we stopped patronizing the store as a family, and advised others to be wary about store staff and the search policy.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Wow Nancy – what an incredible story and two horrifying experiences for your daughter. First to have someone pawing her child and secondly to have the leadership of the store defend it. I feel for your daughter and hope she never experiences something like this again.

      Maybe you would give the manager there a copy of this blog post 🙂

      I am grateful that you shared your story and hope you will share your perspective here again at Smart SenseAbilities(tm).

      Warmest regards,

  5. Shep Hyken says:

    Hi Kate – As usual, you gave us more great info. Apologize, accept responsibility without excuses, point out why the customer chose to do business with you in the first place. That seems like a great set up to not just solving the problem, but restoring the customer’s confidence.

  6. Jeff Toister says:

    I’ve experienced too many service blunders to count, even from companies that are usually top-notch, but you are right that service recovery makes all of the difference.

    I recently had to speak to no less than seven people to get a simple billing mistake corrected. The first six all tried to tell me they were right without listening, and that included supervisors! I finally spoke to a manager in the right department who actually listened, didn’t get defensive, and finally understood. She expressed empathy, told me they needed to do better, and fixed the problem. I was so ready to walk after dealing with the first six people, but that one manager’s recovery efforts kept me as a customer. (One big problem in 12 years, I’ll give ’em another chance.)

  7. Spot on, Kate. It’s far too easy to be defensive during service recovery. Service recovery is definitely the time to “be the customer” and be in their shoes. Seth Godin just posted about making a return and how some companies shame the customer during the process. Another missed opportunity for service recovery. In fact, in the examples above, the “recovery” never happens. Thanks for the great points.

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