• Laura Bennett

Turn Those Upset Customers Around: Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

How do Marriott employees handle angry customers?  They call it LEARN, at Starbucks it’s called LATTE (of course) … both offer excellent examples of how to respond when there is a need for effective and immediate customer service.

In the article below Micah Solomon calls it “customer service recovery’.  Whatever term is used, it’s more important than ever to resolve a customer issue before it hits social media and you have to work much harder to erase a bad image.

Turn Those Upset Customers Around:

Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

Every business needs a framework for customer service recovery–a sequence of best practices–for those times when the situation hits the fan and the customer hits the roof.




Before I get to my recommended customer service recovery framework, let’s talk about why you need one.

First, because even in the best of times, it’s hard for most of us to improvise entirely from scratch, without a framework to guide us and to fall back upon.

Second, because a situation that calls for service recovery is far from the best of times. When things haven’t gone smoothly, and a customer is upset, you’re likely feeling embarrassed or defensive, or put-upon, or angry (or all of these, at once). With so much emotion flying around, it’s hard for even the most seasoned and equanimous customer service professionals among us to do their best.

Third, because some of our human instincts are flat-out wrong, and need to be moderated or even turned around by what has, over time, proven to work in these situations; for example, getting past the tendency of professionals, including customer service professionals, to want to decide for themselves what an appropriate solution entails, rather than taking the time to get there together with the customer.

Every great business has a framework for customer service recovery. At Starbucks (where they have an acronym for most everything, to help employees mentally walk through the steps when struggling with a situation), it’s LATTE:

Listen to the customer

Acknowledge the problem/situation

Take action and solve the problem

Thank the customer

Explain what you did

At Marriott, it’s LEARN:

Listen

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Notify

At the triple Five Star Broadmoor resort in Colorado, it’s HEART:

Hear

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Take Action

Follow up (Yeah, maybe this means it should be HEARTF, but that’s a lot less effective as a mnemonic.)

Any one of these time-tested sequences will stand you in good stead.  And, as you’ve probably noticed, they’re all pretty similar.

However, if you’re not already hooked on a competing system, let me brazenly offer you my own five-step AWARE™ service recovery framework, devised and refined during my time working with great companies as a customer service consultant, listening to the concerns of thousands of customers, and observing the best practices used by hundreds of customer service professionals in such situations.

If you’d like printable version of this, email me at micah@micahsolomon.com and I’m happy to hook you up. (This is an update of prior versions I’ve published in these pages and elsewhere.)

Micah’s AWARE System for Customer Service Recovery

Acknowledge

Widen

Agree

Resolve

Evaluate

Acknowledge

• Immediately stop whatever you’re doing.

• Acknowledge the situation and apologize sincerely. Even if you have no reason to think you’re at fault, you can—and should—start off by immediately apologizing for the confusion or the situation. Convey that you recognize and regret what your customer has been through.

Note: If this situation calls for a larger apology (by which I mean that the customer feels it calls for such an apology, whether or not you think it does), make it a real apology, not a fake “I’m sorry if you feel that way.” The key to an effective apology, to getting back on the right foot with your customer, is to convey from the very outset that you are going to take the customer’s side and share the customer’s viewpoint.

• Don’t interrupt with questions or explanations.

• Learn more about the situation by probing for what the customer is specifically upset about; encourage and assist the customer in explaining what’s gone wrong from the customer’s point of

• Widen your viewpoint to be open to the “other side” or a different/unexpected side of the situation: a viewpoint that is not only different than yours, but may be one that you had never thought of in this context before.

• Include your customer in the process of developing a solution that works for them (and is something that is possible for you).

Note: You may, in the course of this widening step, discover that the customer is entirely mistaken in their assumptions about the cause of the situation, but under no circumstances—other than safety- or health-related misunderstandings—should you baldly say that the customer is wrong.

Agree

• Assure your customer that you take their concerns seriously, and that you will personally and immediately take definitive action.

• Spell out the agreed-on solution to your customer, as you understand it.

• Commit to exactly what you will do to resolve the issue, and by when.

Repair

• Take care of the issue as promised.

• Follow up with anyone you assigned it to.

• Follow up with the customer to ensure all is well.

Evaluate

• Document the error in two separate places, both of them important:

a) the customer’s profile

b) your company’s QC (quality control) system.

• Examine the error with an eye toward identifying systemic issues and choke points (for example, repeated complaints of long lines on Tuesdays).

• Strive to learn from the error and, where appropriate, to make it a part of staff training and systems.

Reprinted in its entirety with permission from Micah Solomon.

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