Training both leaders and front line team members on service recovery is one of my favorite things to do, mainly because I witness so many “AHA!” moments. I’ll admit that it can be very frustrating though, particularly getting past the “coupon mentality.” Training has to be part of a broader service recovery strategy. As part of our culture assessment activity, we look at what an organization has in place for service recovery strategy. I’m sad to say that many are still using a box of free gifts as their entire service recovery plan. Excessive wait time – here’s your free coffee. Rude staff member – discount cafeteria coupon. Parking hassle – free carwash. The list goes on. This is not service recovery, but rather a consolation prize.
A solid service recovery strategy includes (but isn’t limited to) training that gives people the tools to manage or prevent a situation from escalating. My belief is that staff want to do the right thing, but often don’t have the skills to say and do what is needed.
The four-pronged approach includes: Anticipate, Acknowledge, Apologize and Amend. The coupon approach skips right to the amend step because it’s easy and tangible. What will make the biggest difference is when you can help team members to anticipate potential issues and prevent them before they happen. The second step, which is often shortsighted is the acknowledgement step. In this step, it is important to teach people to be on the lookout for potential escalation and deal with it before it becomes a complaint. One example I like to use in our training is to show a photo of a clearly angry woman. I ask the participants to imagine that they notice this woman is in their waiting room. I then ask them, “Are you more likely to approach her, or avoid her?” The answer is always avoidance. That, right there, is the missed opportunity. Until your associates have the confidence and skill set to approach someone who is obviously unhappy, you won’t be able to prevent escalation. Spend time training and supporting skill development.
It may be time to assess your service recovery approach. Do you have a solid strategy or a coupon box?