10 Guidelines for Effective Complaint Resolution in Service Recovery

Defining Service Recovery

Service recovery is the ability to put things right for a customer in a meaningful way when that customer perceives something has gone wrong.  It means having a plan for putting things right again when you (inadvertently) break your service promise to a customer.

Tools to monitor service quality and enable effective service recovery
  • Flowcharting (organizational perspective) and
  • Blueprinting (customer perspective)
  • Control charts which display performance over time against specific quality criteria
  • The Fishbone Diagram, which is essentially a cause-and-effect analysis that helps to locate the root cause of problems.
  • The How-How Model which, in conjunction with the Fishbone Diagram, helps to elicit solutions by employing a reiterative use of “How?”.
Principles of Effective Service Recovery

These principles are considered at two levels: managerial and procedural.

At a managerial level this implies commitment, the inculcation of a complaints response culture, staff training and empowerment, and ownership of the complaint so that someone in the organization acts on behalf of the customer and follows through to see that there is a resolution to the complaint.

The 10 guidelines for effective complaint resolution

From a procedural perspective ten guidelines for effective complaint resolution can be offered:

  • Act fast to rectify the problem and restore the customer’s sense of satisfaction
  • Admit mistakes but don’t be defensive
  • Show that you understand the problem from the customer’s point of view
  • Don’t argue with customers
  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings
  • Give customers the benefit of the doubt
  • Clarify with customers the steps needed to solve the problem
  • Keep customers informed of what is being done to rectify the situation
  • Consider compensation
  • Persevere in regaining the customer’s goodwill
Concluding Notes

In this chapter we have focused on the issue of customer complaints and service recovery: the nature, significance and consequences of dissatisfied and complaining customers, means by which they can be treated with effectively, and benefits of doing so. Collecting and deploying customer feedback via complaints, suggestions (and even compliments), provides a means of increasing customer satisfaction and hence customer retention.

Furthermore, it is an opportunity to get into the hearts and minds of customers, to see how they perceive an organization, and to understand more of their attitudes and behavior. Effective service recovery involves two levels of commitment: from management, and from staff.

Management must frame appropriate policies, commit adequate resources and suitably empower employees in order to ensure consistent standards of service delivery and effective service recovery when things go awry; staff need to be equipped and prepared to deal with customers effectively by following the ten principles we provide.

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