Clients are different; they have different needs and expectations. And we meet their expectations through the products and services we offer. Their values are less shifting, but their expectations are the ones that can cause issues for us.
They are created by: promises made by marketing and sales people, by reputation, by critics or praises done by other customers, by the amount of money spent, by previous experiences (even if they are with the competitor). However, the service is delivered by the entire organization. The moment the promises that are initially made are not met, the client is dissatisfied.
Organizations that take responsibility for the failure of respecting promises, act immediately and do Service Recovery.
The final purpose of this intervention is that of creating a greater level of loyalty among our clients, an even greater one than prior to the failure. It is an opportunity to serve the client and show how much we cherish them. If we don’t act fast, our clients will leave disappointed, with low expectations, and they may never come back.
Service Recovery vs Complaint Management
From personal experience, I know that many clients don’t write a formal complaint when they are dissatisfied with a service. They ask for their rights, hope to receive them, but more often than not, the fight is too exhausting and they decide to simply change the supplier. If the negative experience makes for an interesting story, they tell it to their friends and scarcely to the supplier. Jeff Jarvis says, in his book – “What would Google do”, that in the new era of social media, clients prefer to offer their negative reviews and feedback on their personal Facebook pages, on blogs or online communities they are part of, scarcely using the supplier’s feedback forms. Moreover, according to a statistic of the White House Office of Customer Affairs, for each complaint received, there are 26 other customers who chose not to file one.
The companies that don’t have a Service Recovery strategy focus on solving complaints as they know best. Their purpose in this endeavour is to get rid of the unhappy client. Sometimes they achieve it, even if it takes them 30 days, according to procedure.
In these organizations, complaint management is the immediate reaction to a problem that came up, its final goal being that of minimizing organizational loss and calming the negative state of mind of the client.
The paradox is, in this case, that even though they have people who specialize in solving complaints, their number does not decrease, because those people have it as a goal to solve the clients’ complaints, not to lower their number.
On the other hand, model companies in terms of Customer Service apply strategies of Service Recovery. When they make a mistake or have a dissatisfied client, they employer that discovered the issue has three goals:
- To solve the dissatisfaction as soon as possible, if possible;
- To transform the negative experience into a positive opportunity, of service excellence;
- To obtain a level of loyalty much higher than the one the client had before the complaint appeared.
The paradox of this strategy is that an unhappy client becomes a loyal one.
Surely there are procedures behind both strategies. But the organizational culture that contains a Service Recovery strategy is at an extreme opposite from the organizational culture that knows how to solve complaints.
The main risk that organizations in the latter category face is regarding complaints as personal errors of employees and when they are punished accordingly; a perfect strategy, to encourage hiding mistakes.
On the other hand, organizations from the first category, that solve and create superior experiences, use them to learn more about their clients, considering each case as an opportunity to show the client how valuable he is. The lessons learned from each situation are spread throughout the entire organization in such a way that every employee gains more experience in Service Recovery.
What can we learn from companies that do Service Recovery
- Top managers offer decision power to the Front Line. The client is no longer required to wait 30 days, because the man in front of him has immediate decision power;
- In educational programmes, people are instructed to apply Service Recovery. The practice different strategies, much like a SWAT intervention team: they analyse the past, anticipate certain situations, they prepare, they act immediately;
- Anticipation: they don’t wait for the problems to come to the client, but ask them constantly about what can be done better;
- They develop an organization that doesn’t just sell products and services, but that creates value for the client.