Word Of the Week #18: Recovery

April 20, 2009 by  

Recovery: the act of regaining or returning to the usual state.

Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you try, there are times when things just don’t go as planned?

Service recovery is all about how fast and how effective you are at correcting an “unplanned situation.” This usually entails calming down a customer, guest, client or member because of a complaint.

So how do you do that? First, you need to let them tell you what went wrong. Don’t interrupt them! By allowing them to completely “vent”, you are in the process of diffusing the situation. You never want to let a customer, guest, or member leave without resolving the issue or complaint. It will grow out of proportion!


Baby boomers were taught that children should be seen and not heard.They want to be heard! Listening to them validates their complaint. Research shows that 96% of all complainers will continue to do business with you if they feel that the issue was resolved. And they are the most loyal!

Complaints are good! Most people don’t complain. They just leave and never come back. And they tell everyone about their bad experience!

This week if you have a complaint or unhappy customer, guest, member or client, listen to them without getting defensive. Then come to a mutually agreed upon resolution. Notice their response and how it makes you feel.

Reader Responses

“I love getting your inspirational thoughts, keep’em coming and thanks for your guidance. I often say that an excellent recovery is actually better than a mediocre/so-so experience. I have a member still talking to his friends about a service recovery I initiated in the dining room following a seriously complaining member about a bad experience. How about that, getting a bang for the buck!  I am sharing your words with my staff,especially when I can add my two bits to it. For instance on recovery:it is often more effective when being given the opportunity to make a recovery than by just having an ok experience. Imagine a disappointed customer who is being dealt with appropriately with an awesome recovery!  Not only will he/she appreciate that someone cares (and listens)!, but by making a great recovery the impact turns into a razzle dazzle event, the member is so impressed with the successful recovery that he/she will tell his friends. It will be a WOW effect, and the story will go around the membership how well we handled a difficult situation (or a problem as some people may call it).  I love complaints for that same reason: I actually invite our members to give me the gift of a complaint! My president first questioned my sanity (when I announced my intentions to put this in writing in the monthly newsletter) but soon found out how incredible the outcome is when you make a fabulous recovery. You turn an “enemy” into an ambassador, it works, I practice it!” — Kurt J. Bishofberger

“Listening is a SKILL. Unfortunately, once a transaction is completed in business most employees are concerned about the NEXT customer and have forgotten about the man or woman who has just left. If something went wrong with that previous transaction, the employee does not want to deal with it. He or she has too many other things to take care of, so let someone else deal with it. IT’S NOT MY JOB is usually the response.  But it IS their job. It is so important to listen to what happened to that customer. Why he or she was not satisfied with the service they received. I was taught a long time ago in my retail/customer service lifetime that the customer wants to be heard. Once the employee gives his or her undivided attention for as long as it takes the customer to tell the story, that customer already feels better because someone in authority has actually taken the time to LISTEN. That is the first step.  The next step is to let the customer know what can be done to fix the problem. What I have done with customers in the past is to bring them to the person who can fix the problem. The reaction I have received from customers in these situations is, “Oh, you don’t have to come with me. But thank you very much for taking the time.”  Once the situation has been resolved, it is those customers who will not only return to the store but let others know what the employee did to fix the problem. This is one of the big reasons there are so many problems with retail companies today. Many of them hire young people at a low wage and don’t give them much training in dealing with customers. Not necessarily in problem solving, but interpersonal relations. Many of these young workers know that they are not being paid much, so their attitude is “I don’t care. I’m only working here to make enough money to buy Christmas gifts.” As you and I know first hand, Susan, it is relationships that make this life. If we can take just a little time to make our customers feel like they are the most important people in the store, the benefits to everyone around us are many – and not just monetarily.  Part of the problem, I believe, comes from an attitude that some jobs in our society, especially retail, are considered “dead-end” jobs. In this uncertain economic climate, any time a person can work to make money should be considered good and worthwhile. Unfortunately, that attitude is missing today. I think most young people feel if they have earned a four-year degree and/or master’s degree, they should be working a six figure job. They feel that by attending school for this many years has already earned them the right to this type of job, without really having paid any dues.  I know a guy in his early 50s who works as an assistant manager at a McDonald’s not far from where I work. He greets customers with a smile and is incredibly reliable, especially at holidays. He has been with this McDonald’s for at least 25 years, but he enjoys his work and has an understanding of the importance of taking care of customers. Whenever I have seen him, I always make sure that I compliment him on his great attitude and work ethic, and that he is an important role model for those workers around him at the McDonald’s. I don’t think he hears it enough.  Whether he will be able to move up or not at this store, I don’t know, but he goes to work every day with the attitude that his work and effort are worthwhile. And customers come back and ask for him.” — “Warrior” Joe Moran.