How to resolve issues caused by customers

When you raise the standards of customer service in your organisation, customer expectations also rise. This is in the context that your customers will expect your service or product to be provided at least at the same level as their most recent experience.

Fluctuating service levels equals poor service. Your performance will always be judged by your customer’s most recent experience versus the expectation they have of your service or product. It is not possible to deliver great service if your organisation is not set up to provide great service every time.

Gary Ryan, Organisations That Matter, Yes For SuccessIn order to provide consistent service experiences for your customers you need to balance the passion of your staff with the systems and processes that you have in place to support your staff.

Service recovery is what you do to correct a mistake and/or when your customers perceives that you have made a mistake (up to 33% of customer complaints are caused by the customer!). If you don’t have a service recovery system then your staff will either do nothing to resolve the error or they will make it up on the spot. The latter approach may resolve the problem but the next time the same customer experiences a service problem a different staff member may not do anything to resolve the problem. The result – fluctuating service levels!

The flip side of this example is to have a system that is so rigid that your staff have to follow a procedure even when they recognise it isn’t appropriate for the situation. When your meal arrives late at a restaurant you want an apology and a ‘fair’ offer to repair the poor service you have just experienced. You don’t want a pen (yes this is what happens when management misunderstands the principles of service recovery; a pen is offered as a fair ‘fix’ when a meal arrives late!).

Your systems and processes need to support your staff. Your staff should have a range of options at their disposal so that they can determine the fairest choices to offer their customers. By ‘choices’ I mean that from a service recovery perspective a customer should be given the power to select the fairest option from their perspective to resolve the problem. When you have a system like this in operation your staff can use their passion for service excellence to select (from their secret menu that is known to the staff) three options that are suitable for the situation. If the customer doesn’t like any of the options then your staff member can add items to the list of choices. The customer remains in control of the selection of what is fair within well thought out parameters set by the organisation. A system such as this supports the passion of your staff in creating great customer experiences.

My point is that if you don’t have these types of systems in place then your staff are left to their own devices and your service is guaranteed to fluctuate. Why? You will always have some issues that your customers have created. Remember, one third of customer complaints are caused by your customer. When you have a service recovery system that is designed to support your staff and you understand that customers get things wrong too, then you and your staff won’t freak out when a customer makes a mistake. Instead your staff will help them to resolve their issue in a way that both corrects the issue and allows your customers to save face in the process.

Likewise when your staff make a mistake they won’t freak out either. Instead, they will use the system that is set up to support them to resolve the issue in a fair way that improves your customer’s experience. An interesting anecdote is that resolving customer issues/complaints actually increases customer loyalty. Who wouldn’t want that outcome!

Quote from a research participant

It really annoys me when I know that the level of service that I receive is 100% dependent upon the person who serves me. Jill is great, but the rest of them just don’t stack up to her standards. As soon as I get another realistic choice, I’m going to try another company.

How do you balance human passion with systems and processes?

Gary Ryan has led multiple award winning teams for service excellence and was awarded the honorary title of Senior Assessor for the Customer Service Institute of Australia in 2006.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

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