Seven Steps to Service Recovery

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

Almost anyone who’s been in a customer service position has had to talk to an irate caller or been in an unpleasant situation. Even though it may not be our fault, we still need to know how to recover the situation. Here are seven steps to service recovery that will help make your day a better one!

  1. It is your responsibility: If you have answered the phone on behalf of the client, you have indeed accepted 100% responsibility. At least that’s what the caller believes. So get off the “it’s not my fault” syndrome and get on with the “what can I do for you?” position.
  2. “I’m sorry” does work: Every once in a while, I hear from a CSR who tells me they don’t feel they should say “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t their fault. Well, as stated above, in the caller’s mind, it is your fault. Saying you’re sorry won’t fix the problem, but it definitely does help to quickly defuse it. Try it; you’ll see.
  3. Empathize immediately: When someone is angry or frustrated, the one thing they need is someone who agrees with them, or at least makes them feel like they’re being understood. Be careful, though: “I know how you feel” is not a good thing to say unless you have been through exactly what they have experienced. Instead try, “That’s got to be so frustrating” or “What an unfortunate situation.”
  4. Immediate action is necessary: Don’t make a client wait for good service. Take their calls right away; return calls as soon as possible. Send out materials the same day, if possible. That’s recovery. Remember the Telephone Doctor’s motto: “It should never take two people to give good customer service.”
  5. Ask what would make them happy: In a few rare cases, the client can be very difficult. If you have tried what you considered “everything,” simply ask the client: “What can I do to make you happy, Mr. Jones?” In most cases, it may be something you’re able to do. You just may not have thought of it. So go ahead and ask them.
  6. Understand the true meaning of service recovery: Service recovery is not just fixing the problem. It’s making sure it won’t happen again. It’s listening to the client and taking the extra steps needed . It’s going above and beyond.
  7. Follow Up: After you feel the problem has been fixed, follow up. Once you’ve made the client happy, make an additional phone call a day or so later. Be sure to ask them: “Have we fixed everything for you?” “What else can we do for you?” Be sure they’re satisfied. When you hear “Thanks, you’ve done a great job; I appreciate it,” you’ll know you’ve achieved service recovery!

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor®, a training company specializing in customer service and telephone skills. She is a frequent keynote speaker at association conference and is the author of four best selling books. Call 314-291-1012 for more information.

[From the Summer 2003 issue of AnswerStat magazine]