Service Recovery

Remember a few years ago when Southwest Airlines was blasted in worldwide media for allowing passengers to sit on the runway for 8 hours? You don’t? Don’t feel bad—many folks don’t remember this. And this is a comment on how effectively Southwest recovered from this service snafu. In fact, many people now identify Southwest as the leading service provider in the airline industry. So, how did they do it and how can you?

Fact: Everyone makes mistakes. It is going to happen, no matter how much time and how many resources you dedicate to superior service practices. The question is how can you make a Southwest-like recovery? Below are a few steps that should guide your service recovery strategy:

Acknowledge that a mistake was made and approach the situation as a challenge (i.e., I can save this client/consumer relationship).

Listen to your client’s complaint so that you fully understand the problem and its implications for the client.

Identify the source of the mistake. What was the cause of the problem? Was it a technical issue? A miscommunication? An inability to clearly define and/or meet expectations?

Meet internally with employees involved in the service glitch to figure out a comprehensive service recovery strategy.

Meet with the clients to present the recovery plan. Be sure that the plan includes some “easy wins” for your company (short-term, easily attainable goals that will serve to restore confidence in the relationship).

During service recovery, you need to put your best foot forward. In fact, I believe that organizations must be twice as good at service recovery as they are at service delivery. Need motivation? Remember that every business is driven by confidence in the relationship…and that it is easier to recover from a service mistake to retain a client than it is to attract a new client.

I want to hear from you! Respond to one, all or none of the questions below. I just want to hear your thoughts!

  • Do you agree with me? Do you think a service recovery process should follow the steps outlined above? Do you think there are additional steps that should be added? Or changed?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: organizations must be twice as good at service recovery as they are at service delivery.
  • Do you have an example of a company that has performed a service recovery exceptionally well? Or that has completely botched a service recovery effort?