Service recovery is an essential element of a great patient experience improvement plan. Of course you want to get service right the first time, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. When you have a service failure, it’s the apology that holds more weight than a gift card or coupon. If your associates can’t make a sincere and timely apology on behalf of the organization, you’re at a real disadvantage. But they need to know how to do it.
A few weeks ago we were doing service recovery training with front line staff. As part of the training, we give examples of common service failures and ask participants to craft a verbal response. I overheard a conversation that validated the need to practice apologies. It went like this:
Jane: This happens all the time.
Sue: I know. I see it all the time too.
Jane: So what do you say to the patients when this happens?
Sue: Nothing. I don’t know what to say.
Jane: I know what you mean. It’s awkward so I don’t say anything either.
The truth is that many of your team members are at a loss for words when a patient or family member is upset. In fact, many associates say that they consciously avoid approaching anyone who looks angry or upset. That is precisely why they need to practice responses in their own words. Apologies can be awkward, so by practicing, you can begin to normalize your planned response.
The best service recovery is a four-pronged approach.
- Anticipate – recognize that you will probably encounter service failures at some point. Be prepared to respond.
- Acknowledge – listen attentively without interruption. Give non-verbal acknowledgement cues.
- Apologize – be sincere and take ownership on behalf of the organization.
- Amend – Make amends by correcting the issue whenever possible. Find out what it is that would make things right for them.
Remember, telling someone to apologize and helping them to practice in their own words are two very different things. Help them build confidence with practice.