The importance of service recoveryOne of the problems with having scripts for employees to follow is that they won’t know what to do when things go off script (as they often do). Will they know what to do if the situation gets confusing and things aren’t going according to the script? Is there a good service recovery plan in place to empower employees to make things right?

Whether you’re a sales person following up on a catered event, a waiter following up on a meal, or a nurse following up on a patient – be careful what you ask for! Many organizations have scripted “standard operating procedure” responses for employees following up services such as “How was your meal?” or “How was the event?” The problem is, you’re not prepared for any response except, “Great!”

Recently, I needed to pick up diet soda, portabella mushrooms, a red pepper, and some bread. There are three grocery stores equidistant from my house, and I chose the one that is a little cleaner and has a better produce selection. The store was clean, the produce selection excellent, and the staff was friendly. All in all it was a good experience.

As I was checking out, the cashier asked, “Did you find everything okay?” and I mentioned that actually they were out of diet cola and I had had to get caffeine-free diet cola. His response was a very polite, “Oh,” and then he asked if I’d like to donate to the March of Dimes. I hesitated, thinking this was an odd response to my complaint, and even the cashier got a little embarrassed and said, “Yeah, we don’t have your diet soda and now we’re asking you to spend even more money.”

So where did they fail?

Every time I visit this specific grocery store, the cashier asks if I’ve found everything okay. And I always answer, “Yes,” and I feel pretty good that they’ve asked me and I think This company values customer satisfaction so much that they ask every single customer if their needs have been met. That’s great!

But what happens when the customer answers something other than “Yes”? What if they answer NO, as I had? There’s nothing in place for the cashier to do or say to manage my expectations. I would have had a completely different experience if instead of, “oh,” the cashier had responded, “The diet soda is out? I’m sorry. Would you mind waiting a minute so that I can get someone to check in the back for you?” If I had received that response, I would be telling people about how amazing my portabella mushroom, red pepper, and mozzarella cheese sandwiches (with diet soda) were, instead of about how this grocery store would like you to be satisfied, but doesn’t do anything about it when you don’t “find everything okay.”

Empower Employees To Use Service Recovery

This grocery store has taken a great first step to customer satisfaction simply by asking or scripting the question as part of the checkout process. Customers don’t like to complain. In fact, research has shown that close to 94% of your dissatisfied customers will leave without letting you know why. But! They’ll definitely tell their story to their friends and family. If you don’t know why customers are dissatisfied, you can’t fix the problem. This grocery store has started on the right path by simply asking each customer if they are satisfied. But they’ve failed miserably in the next step – service recovery.

They haven’t empowered their front-line employees with knowledge and steps to take if the customer answers NO.

The customer was first feeling frustrated, and now they are angry because an employee knows they’re dissatisfied but has done nothing to resolve the issue. (Don’t ask if you’re not going to do anything about it!)

When we empower front-line employees by giving them a service recovery plan to help them deal with dissatisfied customers, they can quickly and easily convert a frustrated customer (“There was no diet soda.”) into a pleasantly surprised customer (“I can’t believe they went to the back to get it for me.”). It’s a simple story and a simple concept, but really, that’s how you increase customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, that’s how you create loyalty.