5 Expert Tips for Customer Service Recovery

October 17, 2016
5 Expert Tips for Customer Service Recovery | upset customer

No matter how great a customer experience your organization provides, you will always have a need for service recovery.

Part of creating great customer experiences is not just designing fantastic, memorable experiences but planning and preparing for the service issues that inevitably occur.

No matter how good the product or service, no matter how effective the systems and procedures, every organization eventually drops the ball with a customer.

And even when they do everything perfectly from their perspective, they can still disappoint customers who had differing expectations.

No matter how good your customer experience, you will always need customer service.

Service Recovery Is Important

Being good at service recovery is as important to an organization as being good at service delivery.

Many organizations do the easy things well; great organizations do the hard things well.

And one of the hardest things in business is successfully turning around a disappointed customer.

Yet despite it’s difficulty, the importance of service recovery should never be forgotten. One study found that 63% of consumers said they would be willing to go back to a company after a negative experience if they received a follow up apology/correction from a supervisor/head office.

And when you also take into account the lifetime value of a customer, you can see just how crucial it is to use service recovery to retain your customers.

5 Expert Tips for Service Recovery

As a customer service speaker and author, I am often asked about how to turn around a difficult service situation or soothe an upset customer.

Fortunately, service recovery doesn’t have to be difficult (well, not all of the time). By mastering specific fundamental principles, you can turn around the majority of customer service situations.

The tips below can help you successfully resolve many customer service issues and, in some cases, create a bond with your customer that is even stronger than before.

#1: Use Communication Channels Effectively

Each communication channel carries its own set of pros and cons. The more difficult the situation, the more “human” feel and immediacy you want the channel to have.

To begin, always respect the channel the customer has chosen. Make your first response via that channel and, if appropriate, manage the situation via that channel.

However, not every channel is suited to every situation. If you feel another channel would be more beneficial, and you have tried to accommodate the customer’s choice, politely ask the customer to meet you where you can do them the most good.

#2: Ask Questions

Even when you have the right people on board, the natural tendency when confronted with a customer issue is to react, often without understanding.

Great service recovery begins with listening and understanding.

Questions are the secret sauce of service recovery. Ask questions that not only help drill down to the heart of the issue but that reveal the customer’s true concerns.

Questions not only help you clarify what the true issues are but also signal to the customer that you are engaged and care about what they have to say.

#3: Listen for the Message within the Message

Listening in a customer service situation can be difficult. Customers can be rude, aggressive, or just mind-bogglingly wrong. It is natural in these circumstances for the brain to shut down, for us to be thinking about how the person is acting and not what they are saying.

Understand the difference between hearing and listening. Listen for the message within the message.

Often what customers complain about is not what they are most upset about.

#4: Focus on What You Can Do

Most customer-facing professionals begin with what they can’t do and why they can’t do it.

This approach is destined to leave the customer feeling trapped and unappreciated.

Instead, spend your time with the customer focused on what you can do.

When you aren’t able to accommodate a customer’s specific request or desire, quickly pivot to what you are able to provide.

It’s not always a perfect solution, but using effective language and focusing on positive alternatives is your best shot at recovering when you are unable to provide what the customer wants.

#5: Close the Loop

Whenever you receive feedback or handle a customer service issue, you want to close the loop.

All too often organizations assume an issue is resolved because they fixed it or because the customer never called back. Huge mistake.

Closing the loop usually means two actions have been taken. First, you have circled back with the customer to make sure the issue is fully resolved and, when possible, even “forward resolved” any obvious potential future issues.

Second, you want to close the loop internally, meaning to share the customer’s feedback or issue with the team members responsible for the experience.

Once an issue is resolved; a post-game analysis can prevent it from occurring again in the future – for that customer or others.

The above five tips will help you in resolving many service issues and getting your team to approach customers with open ears and an open mind.

However, navigating the tricky waters of service recovery requires both a deep toolkit of customer service tips and techniques and a customer-centric culture.

Because if you put the customer at the heart of everything you do, you’ll have fewer customer service issues from which to recover.

3 thoughts on “5 Expert Tips for Customer Service Recovery”

  1. Hi, Adam. I think you’ve raised good points out here.

    Customer recovery IS a serious matter and businesses should devise the best way to deal with each customer who airs their frustrations across different channels and expects to get a resolution.

    It’s very important that your team knows how to listen and identify visual or verbal queues shown by a customer. Also, it pays to be objective and focus on how to resolve the problem rather than to take the customer’s frustration personally. Complaints are not entirely bad for your business, it’s the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your product or services, identify areas of improvement, and decide to do better.

      1. I agree. If you’re not born with a positive mindset, training should do the trick.

        Training frontliners on objectivity and positivity is a must-have for businesses, no matter the size. When sales and customer service people manage to view unfavorable events with a hint of positivity, we realize how each complaint and each frustrated customer might serve as an opportunity to become better at what we do.

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