In customer service surveys it's fairly common to find customers who need more attention from the company. If a customer expresses dissatisfaction during an interview, or indicates that they have an unsolved problem, we strongly recommend giving the customer the option to have a supervisor call the customer back and try to resolve the issue.
Not all customers will take this offer, but when they do there needs to be a service recovery process to make sure the customer is taken care of:
- Notification: As soon as the customer asks for the follow-up, someone at the company should be notified. There may be a dedicated service recovery group, or these may be assigned to a regular manager or supervisor, but there needs to be someone who has clear responsibility for investigating each case and reaching out to the customer. Most customers will expect to be contacted within a day or two, and the responsible supervisor should get the notification within a few hours.
- Follow-Up: Be flexible in how you are willing to resolve customers' problems, because the range of issues which turn up can include just about anything. The responsible supervisor should be empowered to go outside the company's normal policies and processes if necessary, because problems which land here may have been caused by those policies and processes. If the customer has a genuine issue, standing behind "this is our policy" is about the most infuriating thing the company can do.
- Accountability: Many employees find they have more enjoyable things to do than trying to placate upset customers. There needs to be a process to track when customers have been contacted, what resolution was offered, and what the ultimate outcome was. Otherwise, service recovery may take a back seat to other routine tasks and customers can slip through the cracks. If you can't reach someone on the first try, there should be a clear expectation of how many times to try to contact a customer before giving up.
- Approval: Every customer's case should be reviewed to make sure the follow-up was adequate. A random sample of customers should be contacted again to confirm that the resolution met their expectations. This serves as an important cross-check to make sure you really are delivering the service you think you are.
- Tracking: The issues which appear in the service recovery process often represent the worst service failures in an organization, so this can be a goldmine of information about how to improve overall service levels. Tracking the root cause of customer complaints shows you ways to both make your customers happier and often save money at the same time.
An effective service recovery process benefits both the customer and the company. This isn't something that will happen by itself, however. With the right process and accountability, you can be assured that customer complaints are not being ignored.