Service Recovery: It’s Not Just a Fruit Basket Band-Aid!

I am so fed up with companies who do not train their staff to provide solutions when the customer has a problem. As a training consultant, I am on the road about 26 weeks a year, so I see a lot of service providers: airports, hotels, taxis, restaurants, train stations, etc. I was in a Florida hotel recently and saw a perfect example of service recovery failure. I was sitting in the lobby and I observed a guest who was absolutely livid because the AC was not working in his room (it felt like it was 110 degrees in the shade) and he had been told that it would be 20 minutes before a service engineer could come to his room; he had an important business call in 15 minutes and he wanted to take that call privately. The front desk agent did tell him that the hotel was 100% occupied and she couldn't move him to another room; she then proceeded to apologize (several times). He asked her if "apologize" was the only thing she could do, and amazingly, she apologized again! He walked away and was even more furious from this interaction than when the conversation began. As he stalked away, I heard the front desk agent ask her colleague, "Do you think we should send him a fruit basket?"

NEWS FLASH: The fruit basket will not solve the guest's problem! Not to mention the fact that the fruit and cheese will now be sweating and smelling up the room, because the AC isn't working! At Ignite, we train staff on service recovery by using a very simple four-step model called the L.A.S.T. technique, which provides a framework for your service staff to have assertive conversations with difficult and angry customers or clients. Here is the technique:

(Step 1) Listen: this is the chance for the customer to vent and for you to really pay attention to his concerns. You must listen to understand, before asking any probing questions. Make eye contact with the customer and utilize body language that says you are in the moment with him (something that our front desk agent failed to do).

(Step 2) Apologize: this is certainly an action that our front desk agent took; however she didn't follow up with any action steps to solve the guest's problem. You want to be sincere and deal with the customer's feelings and empathize with his situation. Express that you're sorry that the problem occurred and recognize the customer's disappointment.

(Step 3) Solve: you now must ask some clarifying/probing questions, and confidently tell the customer what you CAN do for him. Be assertive, offer alternatives and act on the agreed-upon solution. The front desk agent did none of this - she missed the solution entirely!

(Step 4) Thank: thank the customer for bringing any problem to your attention, and also thank him for his patience and understanding, if the solution is not immediate. Most importantly, thank the customer for working with you to solve the problem.

This is a conversational model that really works and does turn difficult situations around; it is a win-win for the customer and the service provider as it focuses the conversation on solutions that fix the problem.

Have you recently been on the receiving end of effective (or ineffective) service recovery? Send your stories along; I would love to hear them. Who knows, I may even use your example in one of my upcoming training sessions!

If you are interested in learning about service recovery, including how the front desk agent could have applied the LAST technique in the scenario above, check out our White Paper, "Service Recovery: It's Not Just a Fruit Basket Band-Aid. Its just a download away...

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Ignite Wednesday, September 1, 2010 @ 9:48 AM   0 Comments


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Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals. To learn more please contact us.