Telephone Doctor: Service recoveryNancy Friedmandamage control, empowerment, humor
The art of damage control
We all know about customer service. Those of us who are in this
industry are normally the ones who genuinely want to help the
customer. It's sort of a high for us when things go right. But what
happens when it all goes wrong? How do you recover?
Service recovery is simply the art of damage control, and every
industry has damage control. Think about Hollywood. Poor Tom
Cruise. He said something bad about Brooke Shields and everyone was
out to get him. His PR team went into damage control big time. And
what happens when things go wrong in government? Big-time damage
control shifts into gear, as it must when customer service goes
What can we do over and above in order to gain this customer
back and have him swearing by us, not at us?
That's the number one step of service recovery. Each and every
employee needs some form of empowerment. They need to know how far
they can go to help the customer. Remember our Telephone Doctor
rule - it should never take two people to give good customer
service. Anytime you escalate a call to a supervisor, you are
losing ground. Each employee a customer speaks with to get a
problem resolved is a step behind the eight ball.
This will only work when you have a rational customer and
normally, when it gets to service recovery, rationality is lost.
However, what we do know is that most customers respond in kind to
One of the worst things you can say to a customer is, "I know
how you feel." There is simply no way in this world anyone can know
how someone else feels. This particular statement will get you in a
lot of hot water. Lose it fast. (And sometimes they even say, "I
know exactly how you feel." That's so bad, I won't even get into
it.) You can say, "I can only imagine how you feel." But it's best
you don't ever try to walk in the customer's shoes. It won't be a
good fit, I promise you.
Service recovery is when you've helped the customer and can
really tell that he's satisfied and back in the groove with your
company again. That's true service recovery - when he goes from
screaming at you to loving you. It can be done.
You need a whole lot of empathy or sympathy. You need to listen.
You need to care. These are the tools for service recovery. You
need to go that one step beyond. You need to do something they're
totally not expecting - something that bowls them over. Each
industry has its own bowl-over, and sometimes it means taking a
loss. But if you're really looking to save that customer, you must
be willing to take that loss, because in the long run, he'll be so
happy and smitten with your company that he'll be singing your
praises to all his friends.
Good customer service is expected. That's nothing new or
special. You're supposed to give good customer service. What's the
big deal? Unfortunately, there are times when it all hits the fan
and that one customer is just really fired up, mad, bad, screaming
and totally out of it. That's when your service recovery needs to
kick into gear.
Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer
Service Training in St. Louis. For more information, call (314)
291-1012 or visit www.telephonedoctor.com.