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How to win your customers back after you've screwed them over

People would rather have a root canal than have to deal with a customer who has been screwed over.

It's always amazed me that organizations don't have a strategy in place to recover from a customer screw-up.

It's not like screw-ups won't happen; unfortunately they happen with regularity and for a variety of reasons.

And they are certainly not viewed as a source of opportunity; the intent is to get it over with as soon as possible. Endure the pain and move on without looking back.

We spend literally all of our time trying to prevent screw-ups. New fulfillment systems are implemented,employee training programs are created; anything to deliver service flawlessly and prevent bad stuff happening.

Nothing wrong with this except it denies the reality of screw-ups happening; virtually no time is dedicated to building a recovery capability.

Ironically we EXPECT things to go as promised when we transact with an organization and give them a "C" on their service report card when they do.

Successful recovery has two significant benefits.

One, customer loyalty actually increases compared to the OOPS! never having occurred at all!

Customers are impressed with what you did to make things better and tend not to be bent out of shape about the mistake made in the first place. They go WOW! give you an "A", tell others about their experience; their loyalty deepens.

Two, effective recovery creates a competitive advantage for the organization because others don't see the need and continue to pour all of their resources into service breakdown prevention (and continue to get "C's").

Focus on these things to turn a screw-up into a competitive opportunity...

1. It is critical to build a Service Recovery Strategy to give recovery activity a strategic context in the organization.

2. Hire people who love chaos and who welcome diving into a mess and sorting it out. They need a high pain tolerance and they need to be amazing problem solvers.

3. Give power and authority to the "owner" of the screw up (who has the ranting customer in their face) to do whatever it takes to resolve it. Ignore job descriptions 

4. Fix it fast. You have literally 24 hours to recover and reap the rewards of enhanced customer loyalty. After that, you've blown it and all you get is misery and a brand rap as they everyone about your crummy service.

5. Surprise them with what they don't expect. Know the customer you've screwed over and personalize the experience for them rather than use a boilerplate solution applied to everyone. If you knew I loved Pinot Noir you could use this knowledge in how you recovered with ME.

6. Take responsibility for the OOPS! whether or not you were directly at fault. Lose your ego. Don't quote policy. Don't make it out that it was the customer's fault (happens all the time). Customers want you to show some empathy then launch into solution mode.

7. Recognize "recovery addicts" ; those individuals who exhibit greatness in mending broken promises  and who are natural loyalty builders.

Measure how effective you are at making up with a customer after a fight.

Get their feedback immediately after the scuffle.

Improve as you move on.

About Author

Roy Osing (@royosing) is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Deadn’t want merely to be the best of the best….

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