Organisations today are faced with several challenges: how to match what the competition is offering, how to manage the expectations of their customers and how to enable and empower their employees to make sound decisions and deliver consistent and uplifting service experiences.

The key ingredient is the promise.

Organisations should consider what they say and do when they make certain promises to attract potential or existing customers through their marketing campaigns. Guidelines, policies and procedures must be clearly defined and well-administered so that the service providers at the frontline are well-equipped and empowered to deliver on their organisation’s promises.

In short, organisations and service providers have to live up to customer expectations resulting from those promises or deal with service recovery.

Experts say that getting a new customer can be five times more costly than maintaining an existing one. So, it makes good business sense to invest not only in finding more customers but keeping existing customers happy as well.

Your customers are familiar with your products and services and trust you already. They value the relationship they have with you because they have done business with you.

Therefore, if your promises to them are compromised, it is imperative that your organisation work very hard to recover the service.

What is service recovery?

Service recovery is a positive approach to complaint handling. The heart of the service recovery framework is identifying and addressing the problem or concern early, crafting out a suitable solution or alternative recommendation empathetically and taking the necessary action promptly.

Here are areas to consider:

* Policies and guidelines

Organisations must acknowledge and understand what they list down as their marketing promises. What are the terms and conditions of such promises? Are the terms and conditions well-conveyed to the customers? How do leaders empower their service providers to make service experience decisions?

* Procedures or technology

This details the step-by-step approach by which the service provider executes the service delivery. Do service providers have a standardised procedure when they encounter a customer at any time? Do they have a checklist to ensure consistency?

* Reactive investigation

This involves looking at each complaint and resolving it to improve current service processes or systems, as well as considering comments and compliments to implement best practices and identify service role models.

Organisations need not wait for irate e-mail messages or complaint letters to start doing something about customer service levels. Leaders must impress upon service providers that they must be more vigilant for signs of displeasure or dissatisfaction in customers during every service encounter.

* Proactive investigation

This can be done through questionnaires, face-to-face interviews or focused group discussions. Organisations should find out about potential hazards through well-crafted questions that draw out vital information.

Some questions can address specific problems like the delays customers face when they call your organisation’s customer service hotline or the waiting time for a response from the service provider.

* Past service recovery experiences

The information from case studies will certainly be useful in training sessions to improve customer experieces. The details of the case studies — the problems, causes and solutions — will benefit all who are involved in the customer service chain. 

* Root cause analysis

Organisations can use a why-why analysis to investigate the root causes of each area of concern. This involves a more detailed study of the reasons for each problem, the possible solutions, as well as the constraints.

Through this exercise, organisations can better manage their customers’ expectations, reduce the cost of service recovery — that is, having to give discounts or incentives — and empower their service providers so that promises to customers are kept.