Service Recovery. How’s Yours? Are Your Dissatisfied Customers Simply Walking Out Your Doors?

Last week, as a customer, I experienced two interesting examples of businesses having service malfunctions.

How each business handled the malfunctions was interesting.

In your business, how would you handle a malfunction that leaves your customer less than satisfied with your business?

You see, it is your business’s ability to provide excellence in its Service Recovery and the way your business seamlessly swings those necessary systems into action that defines your business as a business that cares unconditionally about your customers.

When you have excellence in your Service Recovery Systems, your customers may complain about the service defect that just happened, but they will be in awe at the way your business handles that defect through its service recovery processes.

The Restaurant.

Last week my wife and I were on a cruise, and one night we decided to dine in one of the “user pays” restaurants on board our ship.

This in itself is an interesting concept because with most meals being complimentary on-board a cruise ship you would expect that there would be an increase in attention to detail in a “pay as you go” restaurant.

So in this restaurant my wife and I both ordered the same meals for starters and for main course meals. [Which is not as odd as it sounds since we both choose to not eat certain foods for health reasons].

So, when our main meals arrive, I see that my wife’s cod appeared to be twice the thickness of mine.

Mine was cooked fine, but my wife’s fish had not been cooked through and was underdone in the middle. So she returned the dish.

I kept eating my dish, and in fact finished my dish in the time that it took the chef to cook my wife a replacement meal. During this time, our waiter asked my wife whether she would care for a second glass of wine.

At the end of the meal, when our bill arrived, there was no concession made for the service defect that had occurred. We signed for the bill and left.

On the way out one of the ship’s officers asked us about our meal and the second serving.

We told him of our disappointment in the lack of service recovery, and that we had indeed been billed for the second glass of wine [that my wife drank] as she waited for her fish dish to be replaced.

The ship’s officer said that he would attend to the bill.

The Gardeners.

I have an established garden at my home.

We have lived there for fifteen years and the garden was built during our first year.

It is now a very beautiful garden.

We’ve always paid professionals to look after our garden, because professionals do a better job of it than I ever would.

I know this because with the garden of the home next door to mine, the first owner there did all his own gardening, whereas the current owner there now has paid help. And you can see the difference with professional help.

But you don’t need to beat that opinion into my head with a baseball bat. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure that one out…

[By the way, it’s much like running a business. Professional help with the running of your business makes a lot more sense than doing a half-baked job of it on your own.]

So anyway, on one side of my back garden I have a very tall hedge of Leightons green. If you know this species, you know it makes a great traditional English-style hedge.

But it grows quickly.

Ours is now so tall that it needs scaffolding to trim the top.

Our regular gardeners have been doing our gardens for over a year now after the company purchased the garden maintenance from our previous gardeners. They do a really great job.

So here’s what happened. They hire in a couple of hedge trimming people to come and do our Leightons green. Out comes the scaffolding, but the motorised hedge trimming tools don’t want to start up for a couple of hours for some reason.

To cut a long story short, the end result is that our hedge top gets trimmed quite poorly and there are petrol stains from their motors left on our pavers.

I call our regular supervisor and let him know of our disappointment, which he then passes on to the owner of the company.

When the bill for our service arrived via email last week, I call the owner of the garden maintenance firm to question the fee, considering our dissatisfaction with the result that we had ended up with.

He apologises and says that the bill is incorrect and that we should never have received it. He apologises and says he will forward an amended invoice.

The amended invoice arrives via email and when I open the email the invoice is identical to the first.

Except for the fee.

And the new fee is $0.00

Well we never expected that!

The email with the invoice read simply:

“Hi David,

Please find attached the amended invoice for garden maintenance at your home on 5/10/17.

Due to the lack of service provided for this visit we have decided to remove all associated cost for the visit on 5/10/17. With this it is our hope that we have a long working relationship into the future.

If you have any further questions, please let me know.



Does Phil now have a customer for life?

You bet he does.

We never expected a zero fee for this service.

The original invoice was substantial, as was the challenge of the tall Leighton’s green hedge.

We expected to pay something, so this concession by Phil was very generous.

What does this all mean?

If you want to keep a customer, you need to exceed their expectations.

When things go wrong, you need to be able to swing your service recovery systems into action seamlessly.

We never expected a free meal that night on the ship.

What we did expect was some recognition of the fact that they had fallen short of what a customer would expect.

Memorable service recovery is just as important in your business as the processes of service in the first place.

Make sure that your business understands where service defects can arise, and that you have the necessary Service Recovery systems set up to WOW your customers when a defect needs rectifying.


My next public speaking presentation showing Dentists how to grow their Dental practices will be at a Symposium on growing your Dental Practice in 2018 in Sydney Australia on Saturday December 2 2017 with leading experts Kinnar Shah, Angus Pryor, Jayne Bandy and Toni Surace .

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