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Eliminate the barriers to customer service recovery.
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Mark Complete

Service Recovery

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Wouldn’t it be great if all of our customers were 100% satisfied all of the time? Sure, that’s a nice thought and a great goal to strive for, it’s just not very realistic. There are internal and external factors beyond an organization’s control, including human error, that cause less than satisfying customer experiences. Viewing these experiences as an opportunity to learn and improve can reduce the number of complaints an organization will receive in the future. To do so, establish a process that empowers the team to handle customer complaints in a way that not only resolves the issue, but also retains customers.

Fix it the First Time

One bad experience is all it takes for some customers to churn. According to the 2017 Customer Service Barometer, 33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service, and more than half have scrapped a planned purchase or transaction because of bad service. What’s worse, is that many customers will never complain, they just won’t come back. For the customers who do complain, getting help to actually resolve the issue often requires tremendous effort.

To a customer, there’s nothing worse than contacting customer service to settle an issue and being passed from representative to representative without getting closer to a resolution and feeling like their time is being wasted. Rather than having their problems solved, many customers encounter irritating obstacles, further harming the relationship between the customer and the organization. Harvard Business Review data reveals what obstacles consumers report when attempting to have their problem resolved:

  • 62% report having to repeatedly contact the company to resolve an issue
  • 59% report expending moderate-to-high effort to resolve an issue
  • 59% report being transferred
  • 57% report having to switch from the web to the phone
  • 56% report having to re-explain an issue

Other common customer experience complaints that decrease customer loyalty include:

  • Long hold/wait times
  • The organization takes too long to respond or doesn’t respond at all
  • Lack of staff knowledge and training to resolve the issue
  • No access to a human being

Knowing these common customer service barriers, make a point to coach employees to avoid causing these obstacles. Using AIDET® to instill confidence and calm customer anxieties is one technique that can be implemented, as well as training employees to ‘handover’ customer information during transfers can greatly reduce frustration. Most importantly, empower employees to solve customer complaints. Give individuals on the front lines the authority to do what it takes to make customers happy, so their issues are solved the first time. Employees closest to the customers are most in tune with customer pain points and how to solve them. Harvest this information for continuous customer service recovery and improvement.

What Are Customers Looking For?

An honest, transparent response. Customers want to be heard, to understand what happened, why it happened, and to know that they won’t have that experience again. Customer service recovery is not about who is right or wrong, it is about restoring the trust and confidence the customer has in the organization.

It’s natural to feel defensive when a customer is complaining about the organization you represent. However, the complaint isn’t personal and mostly the customer wants to feel listened to. Before responding to feedback in an emotional manner, listen, empathize, and ask questions to get as much clarity as possible about the situation. After the customer is finished talking, they will be more open and less upset. This is the proper time to sincerely apologize and take ownership of the issue.

Research by The Nottingham School of Economics found that unhappy customers are more willing to forgive an organization that offers an apology rather than compensation. During the study, 45% of customers withdrew their negative evaluation of an organization in light of an apology, whereas only 23% of customers withdrew their negative evaluation in return for compensation.

Don’t offer customers a prescribed solution to their problems. Customers are looking for a personalized solution, or a change in the process. It’s recommended to provide the customer with options for an appropriate solution and let them decide which they like best. Some customers will tell you exactly what they want, and if it’s possible the employee should have the authority to give it to them.

Always thank your customers for their feedback, whether it is positive or negative. If you do change processes based on a customer’s feedback, let them know. Send them a hand-written thank you note and invite them back to witness the change. All customers deserve a response to their feedback, even if it seems insignificant, it’s important to that individual. Never ignore a customer.

6 Steps to Outstanding Service Recovery

Listen and Empathize

  • Let the customer get it all out. This can even be calming for an irate individual.
  • Don’t take it personal

Probe and Clarify for Understanding

  • Ask probing questions to get to the root of the problem:
    • Could you tell me more about…?
    • Why do you think this happened?
    • Can you be more specific?
    • What happened next?
    • Can you give me an example?
  • Repeat back information to clarify that you understand the situation

Apologize and Take Responsibility

  • Don’t place blame on someone else
  • Sincerely apologize and take ownership of the situation

Agree on a Solution

  • Offer options for the customer to choose from
  • Adopt a “whatever it takes” mindset to satisfy the customer with little effort on their part

Thank the Customer

  • Thank them at the time of the complaint
  • Send a follow-up thank you card, and let them know how their feedback was used if possible

Use Feedback for Training and Improvements

  • Keep track of customer complaints and use this information to remove barriers and improve the customer experience
  • Train employees on common complaints and the appropriate solutions
  • Give front-line employees the authority to handle complaints fully the first time
  • Harvest ideas for process improvements from front-line employees to reduce complaints

Analyze Your Complaints

Keep track of the complaints you receive and respond to. Every 6 months revisit that list and make note of the complaints that arise the most. Ask your team and yourself if there is a barrier in the process or if there is a change that can be made to decrease the most common complaints.

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