Service Recovery: The Most Important Aspects of an Apology
Call me crazy, but I love to talk with companies about how to apologize well. For most companies and their customers, the period of time after a mistake has been made is uncomfortable at best and downright painful for many. So why do I have this unusual fixation with the atonement process when typically it is not a pleasurable encounter? Because, if not done well, the relationship with the customer is shortened and LTV (Life Time Value) drops. Systemic issues can have a dramatic impact to overall customer equity (the sum of customer LTVs) and create PR and social media nightmares.
But done really well, the right apology and recovery process opens doors to a richer, deeper relationship between a company and a customer. Similar to our personal lives, working through an issue creates great potential for learning and understanding that didn’t exist before the issue was uncovered and resolved. It is often through the product or service recovery process that companies discover what they need to do better and WHY.
Even the Finest of Apologies Won’t Fix a Repetitive Issue
Let’s dive into the logical/emotional equation of a great service recovery process. I recently spoke at a conference and was asked, “How does my company create an apology program that will fix a problem we keep making over and over again?” Hmmm. The most important attribute of any good apology is its sincerity. But of course, the logical components must also be solved:
Fix the problem.
Tell what you’ve done to ensure it won’t happen again (especially important for B2B businesses.)
No doubt, you can be truly sorry for an issue even if you can’t solve it, but if those customers are important to your business, you have to find a way to resolve the problem. Just saying “I’m sorry” chronically is a sure way to lose customers.
Healing the Emotional Wound is Where Relationships Are Strengthened
There are two sets of emotions involved in the service recovery process. The emotions the customer brings and the emotions of the employee handling the situation. The customer’s emotional needs include:
To be heard and understood.
To feel respected throughout the process.
A sincere apology. The kind of acknowledgement that lets the customer know the company understands the pain it caused.
To know they are valued as a customer.
Examples of what Hallmark writers create to help companies find just the right words to say what they really mean.
For most front-line employees, they learn handling their own emotions means they must first handle the customer’s. Just knowing the steps and phases the customer will go through let’s them better manage the emotions of the situation. It also gives the employee the great ability to go beyond just damage control, leaving the customer feeling understood, respected, acknowledged and wanted. If the employee can sincerely make the customer feel those things, everyone leaves the service recovery process feeling great. Those feelings build and strengthen relationships far beyond a single unpleasant encounter.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of an Apology
The right atonement and service recovery process can benefit your company in the short term by resolving the issue at hand and in the long term by establishing the basis for lasting relationships. Looking for more information? Check out my video blog “The Art of an Apology: Impacting Customer Experience.”