Does Your Organization Have a Service Recovery Plan?

Well, does it? What is your remediation plan when your service doesn’t meet your clients’ expectations? The point at which things go wrong—and you begin to respond—is the moment at which your service is judged.

For Christmas, I wanted to get my girlfriend the iPhone4s. She was due for an upgrade; I ordered the phone and had it shipped to my address (as opposed to hers) so that I could set it up for her. When the phone never arrived (but my credit card had been charged almost $500), I called and was told that “After reviewing the order, ATT concluded that the address change indicated a security risk and requested from FedEx that the phone be returned to ATT immediately.” No phone, but also no refund on my card. A few weeks go by and I call to see (1) if my money will be refunded and (2) if I can order a new phone. I get transferred around six times before a customer service representative tells me that he has no idea what to do in this situation. Out of desperation, my girlfriend walks into an ATT store to get to the bottom of this and is told that no one there can help her and that she will need to call the customer service department (the same department that told me they had no idea what to do in this situation). Aren’t you feeling frustrated just reading this? Imagine going through it.

After I calmed down from the initial outrage and complete disregard for customer service, I began looking at this experience as a case study in service recovery processes. There were many things that ATT did incorrectly throughout the process--from failing to review orders before they are approved and shipped to charging customer accounts before the orders are reviewed and approved. However, three of their many service errors were highlighted because they had no service recovery plan in place. Specifically, this means:

1. There was no one contact person who had the power to assess and fix the situation. And, if this person existed somewhere, they had not made this information easily accessible to the customer.

2. They separated their physical customer service representatives from their virtual representatives (accessed by email and phone)--and gave neither group any customer service power. The sets of customer service representatives had different capabilities, but neither was empowered to make things right for the customer.

3. They put more money into sales than into customer service (and, thus, put more importance on the bottom line than on customer retention). Ever walk into an ATT store to buy a phone? Those salespeople are slick, informed, and can have you out of that store with a new phone in less than 15 minutes. However, resolving an issue with ATT is a much more arduous process—nowhere near as seamless as the purchasing experience.

Is your customer service team united and empowered? Is as much money spent on service training as on sales training? These are interesting questions to think about as you evaluate your service recovery plan and processes.

(By the way, I’m still out almost $500 bucks and my girlfriend doesn’t have her Christmas present. After seven years with ATT, she is cancelling her account. )

What do you think?

  • What elements do you think an effective service recovery plan should contain?
  • Have you had an experience with a company that has a streamlined service recovery plan in place?  If so, please share!


Post your response—and check back for a reply!

Topics: business, communication, recovery plan, service