Monthly Archives: November 2019

Getting out of a skid

Service Recovery

Service Recovery

One frosty morning a few weeks ago I was driving to an early morning meeting. I’d negotiated the local country lanes without incident, but just after joining the main road my car went sliding into a skid. Thankfully nothing was coming in the opposite direction and I recovered the situation and regained control.

In this instance no harm was done, but I certainly wouldn’t like a recurrence and I will be more mindful of the conditions on that stretch of road in future.

In business, as with driving, there are times when the unexpected catches us out. Even the best run businesses have problems, and when these affect customers it’s the recovery of the situation that gets remembered.

It’s somewhat counter intuitive, but customers will often have a better perception of  their experience when they’ve had an issue that’s been taken care of swiftly and professionally, than if they didn’t encounter any problems and their experience was just as expected.

I’ve written on complaint handling many times before, (see but here are 5 key considerations to aid your service recovery so your customers’ perception of their experience is even higher.

1. Report near misses

Rather than waiting for things to go wrong, create a culture where it’s accepted that mishaps happen from time to time, and encourage your team to come forward with details of near misses. If they fear a reprimand or criticism they’ll never come clean if they were close to causing an issue.

Whether it was an error on their part or not, the focus should be on learning from the situation, and identifying what needs to happen or be in place to avoid such a situation arising again. Is it a call for better systems, equipment, time, training?

Follow up promptly, or your team members will get the impression it’s not that important.

2. Ownership

A customer doesn’t care whose fault it is, all they are interested in is getting the problem resolved. Empower your team members to take whatever action is in the customer’s best interest. This may involve seeking information, support or action from a colleague, but the important point here is that they take ownership and see the problem through to its resolution.

This is made easier when you have systems and processes in place for service recovery, and when everyone in the team has the same understanding of these.

3. Support

With the best will in the world, you can’t anticipate every conceivable issue. Allow your team members to practise, get feedback and coaching on how they handle service recovery, and learn from everybody else’s experiences.

Listen out for hesitation; when you hear a team member saying  “I can’t…” that might be an indication they are fearful of making a mistake. Talk this through with them to identify any obstacles.

Build confidence; often people know what they should be doing, but just lack that certainty and confidence to do this really well, so give time and an opportunity for them to practise in a safe environment.

4. Prevention is better than cure

Of course, in a perfect world you’d prevent such things happening, and never have to take any steps towards service recovery! Rather than it falling on you to spot potential problems and their solutions, involve your team in ‘hazard spotting’ and in looking for solutions to common issues. Often they’ll foresee issues you’ve never considered and before they’ve become a problem.

Even if you can’t avoid a potential issue altogether, your goal is to minimise the negative impact on the customer experience, so look for ways to do this!

5. Process

The great thing about hearing about a service issue is that you have an opportunity to put things right. But, it’s also important to learn from it, so you prevent a recurrence (even if the issue was purely a misunderstanding on the customer’s part – what led to their understanding or perception, and how do you avoid that perception in future).

Have a process in place – not just for dealing with such issues – but also for reporting or feeding back on them, and following-up to prevent re-occurrence. Ensure every team member understands the process and recognises the importance of it, so they are able to get out of the ‘skid’ if it happens.

If you only do one thing

Look back over the past couple of weeks, and review any issues that have affected customers and discuss with your team how well they handled the service recovery, and what they’ve learnt from it.

Is Anyone Listening to Customer Feedback

customer feedback

How to handle customer feedback and avoid adverse reviews.

Are you listening to customer feedback? Last week someone posted on LinkedIn a cringe-worthy letter she’s been sent by the CEO of an airline following her complaint at having to wait 11 months for a refund, with no apology, no empathy and no acknowledgement. Although not quite in the same league as the “United Airlines breaks guitars” video (19 million views on YouTube!) it was still pretty damning feedback which simply got compounded by the crass response from the CEO.

It’s easy to get defensive or take things personally when hearing negative feedback from customers. But without it how do you identify what’s working and what’s not in your customer eyes? Customer feedback can give you actionable insights that help you make educated business decisions, rather than taking a shot in the dark. Value this honest feedback from customers.

The bad news is most customers won’t give you a second chance if their first experience is bad. That’s why it is paramount to gather customer feedback at the first available opportunity, so you have a chance to put things right before it’s too late.

Too many businesses rely on customers completing feedback forms or questionnaires. The trouble with these is that firstly, people have better things to do than fill out a survey, and if they’re going to say anything they’re far more likely to post a comment on social media, telling the whole world rather than just you.

Secondly, if someone has taken the trouble to give feedback it’s usually too late to rectify things if there was anything they didn’t like. And there are bound to be occasions when you don’t understand what they’re referring to, and by now it’s difficult to ask questions to unravel the issue.

First-hand feedback

Getting feedback directly from your customers gives you an opportunity to capitalise on positive feedback and minimise the impact of any negatives. It gives you the chance to ask questions to really understand the specifics.

When a customer has had a good experience, sharing this with you at the time helps reinforce those positives, whilst if it’s negative you have an opportunity to put things right.

Give your team the confidence to ask well-structured questions to get feedback on specifics; there’s a big difference between bland statements such as “I hope everything was OK” rather than asking about specifics such as “What did you think of the…..?

Talk to your customers

Being visible in your business, and making contact with your customers builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.

The same goes for your team too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bear in mind, your customers will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your team, and vice versa.

Welcome complaints

When there is something wrong, if you get to hear about this early on, it puts you in a position to empathise, apologise and do something about it whilst there’s still time to remedy the situation.

If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers or has led to a negative a perception, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.

It’s easy for team members to shy away from listening to complaints. Instead, train them to be observant and look for clues that things are not as they should be – a customer’s body language, facial expressions, the tone of their voice or hesitation, or their behaviours, such as leaving half their meal untouched, cancelling their order, asking for the bill earlier than expected.

Empower your team and give them the confidence to do whatever is in the customer’s best interest, without having to get approval from a manager, so any issues can be resolved swiftly and professionally with minimum fuss.

Online reviews

Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Google, or Facebook, there’s no getting away from the fact that online reviews – and the responses to them – are shared publicly and may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers.

Encourage positive reviews: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is organically, by offering such a positive experience that customers feel compelled to tell others. People are more likely to write reviews when expectations are surpassed, and this is often found in the small details and the special care of customers.

When you know the customer has had a positive experience, don’t be pushy, but sometimes just giving them a little nudge to post a review can make all the difference “I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. It would mean a lot to us if you helped spread the word by posting a review on TripAdvisor.” Or for your team members to have cards they can write their name on and hand to customers, making the review process a little more personal.

Accept that you will get (hopefully only occasional) negative reviews. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into defensive mode; research indicates that when customers see a business respond positively and professionally to a negative review, they are more than twice as likely to buy from that business than if they had not responded. It shows your customers that you care, and are willing to learn and adapt if relevant to meet their needs.

If the review is asking for a response or needs more discussion before it can be resolved, take the discussion off line by asking reviewers to phone/email you directly.

If you get drawn into a debate or argument, just think how many of your potential (or existing) customers could see that response. By the same token, if you feel justified or compelled to make a refund, you’re in danger of setting a precedent if you make this public online.


Make it easy

Have systems in placed to make it easy to gather and review feedback. Take note of the language your customers use to describe what they like. Capitalise on this information and use it in your marketing.

Capture the good and the bad.

Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.


If you only do one thing:

Have a process, system or forum for your team to share and review customer feedback so it can be acted upon quickly to learn from it and build on it to make continuous improvements.

p.s. if you need more ideas to get your team on board and give them the skills in  asking for feedback see 38 Training Exercise & Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service for ways to hone these skills


Customer Experience Goals

Customer experience goalsBegin with the end in mind ~ Your Customer Experience Goals

I love listening to books; I used to hate reading, so discovering Audible has introduced me to some brilliant books, which I’d probably never head read. I’m currently listening to Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. This is one book I have read before, and refer to his habits often.

If you’re familiar with the “Habits” you’ll know that the second habit is “to begin with the end in mind”.

Last week I talked about managing expectations, where one of the tips was to identify  the experience you want your customers to have, and the emotions you’d like them to feel. This is an example of beginning with the end in mind.

Whenever I’m working with my clients on improving their customer experience or creating a customer focused culture I find this is the best place to start. I like them to imagine either the conversation customers will be having in the car on their way home, or what they’d like their customers to feel, say, or do as a result of their visit or experience with you.


Emotions Matter

What emotions do you want to create for your customers? What would you like them to feel before (bear in mind a customer’s experience is influenced way before they ever set foot in your venue or business), during and after their visit?

Do you want them to feel confident in their decision, feel excited about their visit, feel special as they arrive, feel relaxed as a result of their visit? What would you like them to say about their experience? What memories do you want them to take away?  What do you want to be remembered for?

So, for example, if your venue is primarily for leisure you might want your customers to feel relaxed, energised, or calm. If it’s all about adventure you might want them to be feeling exhilarated, ready for anything, or on a high.  If your customers come to you to be pampered and spoilt you may want them to leave feeling a million dollars, feeling special, or confident.

You might not want them to be saying something on the lines of “Wasn’t that fantastic / great value / fun/”, or “We must tell John and Sarah about this place”, “We’ll definitely go back there again next week / month /year”.

What you want them to do might be to pick up the phone and book to come again, you might want them to pass on your details to their friends and you might want them to be posting a rave review on TripAdvisor. (Or of course all three!)

So how does this help you?

Once you know what you want the end result to be it’s considerably easier to plan the experience you deliver for your customers – all working towards that end goal.

You can create the activities, experiences and emotions that prompt them to feel, talk and act in this way.


Know what good looks like

Once you’re clear on the experience you want your customers have and the emotions you’d like them to feel (and the more precise you are the better), the easier it is to design each touch point of the customer journey to achieve this.

What do you and your team need to do, what behaviours would you expect to see or hear to achieve this? Ensure you have clearly defined expectations and standards. If you can’t describe or demonstrate what good looks like, how will your team know when they’re doing it right?

And once you’ve determined what it is you want your customers to be feeling, saying and doing as a result of their stay with/ visit to you, share this with your team.  Once they understand this you’ll not only all be working towards the same goal, but they’ll start to come up with their own ideas and spot opportunities to leave your customers feeling, saying and doing all the things you’d love them to.


Take Action

If you only do one thing – Ask everyone in your team to sum up in one word how they’d like customers to feel as a result of visiting your venue or doing business with you. Hep them keep these in mind to help them achieve your customer experience goals.



If you’d like some help determining your customer experience goals and  ‘What Good Looks Like’ for your customer experience, book a 30 minute call with me here, where we can get crystal clear on your end goal and your priority actions to achieve this.


Managing Expectations

Managing expectations isn’t always easy. So what can you do to manage your customers’ expectations?

managing expectations

Have you ever had that experience on your birthday or Christmas when you’re all excited about opening a beautifully presented gift, only to find what’s inside is a real disappointment?

Or you’ve waited patiently for the delivery of that new shirt you’ve ordered, but when you open it up it’s nothing like described on their website; the colour looks different, the fabric feels cheap and it’s a poor fit.

One of the quickest ways to lose trust is when you or your marketing has promised one thing, but what your customers get is different (even if only from their perspective).

And, of course, it’s no wonder people leave unhappy if we’ve failed to meet their expectations.


Understand their expectation

We can help to manage customers’ expectations, but we need to define these first. Start by thinking about who your customers are in general, and what’s important to them. What are their expectations of your target audience, and are you able to meet these? Identify the experience you want your customers to have, and the emotions you’d like them to feel.


Clarifying expectations

Unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment and withdrawals of trust.  Managing expectations of individual customers starts with clarifying those expectations with the customer. Many expectations are implicit, make the expectations clear and explicit in the first place.  This can take a real investment of time and effort up front, but saves great amounts of time and effort in the long run.  When expectations aren’t clear at the outset even simple misunderstandings become a problem, turning into disappointment or even anger.


Implicit promises

Be honest with customers; yes, your marketing needs to sell your venue or business, but be clear about what you don’t or can’t deliver, too.

Are there any facilities, products or services that comparable venues or businesses offer and therefore customers might expect, but that you don’t provide? If you are upfront about these in the first instance your customers are less likely to feel let down. Capitalise on what you do offer instead.

A picture paints a thousand words, so is all your imagery representative of what a customer will see when they arrive. If all your images are of your suites and deluxe rooms, but what they booked is the equivalent of a study bedroom in an annex, is it any wonder they end up disappointed?


We’ve run out of chicken

Imagine how you’d feel if you’d travelled for something specific, only to find it’s not available?

Do you remember the KFC incident earlier this year? There may be occasions when circumstances are totally out of our control. Hopefully not quite as extreme as KFC running out of chicken! But we can still learn from how KFC’s responded to this, with a cheeky full-page apology.

If there’s anything which would normally be available, particularly if it’s one of your signature products but due to seasonal factors, breakdown, or the weather, is temporarily unavailable, inform customers in advance of their visit.

When you know you’re going to be exceptionally busy, and there’s a risk of long waits or products being in short supply, let your customers know upfront by whatever means you can. If people have a booking, let them know by email or text, if not, the very least is to let people know via your website.


Just to let you know…

Consider the circumstances which can impact your customers’ experience, even if they’re out of your control. For example, roadworks en route to your venue, or other events happening in your area which might impact customers. Even though this might be nothing to do with you, your customers will always appreciate being kept in the know, so they can make allowances.


User error

Are there any aspects of your product or service which are impacted by ‘user error’?

For example: If you need customers the return choices or confirm numbers by a certain date so you can meet their deadlines or ensure they get what they asked for. Or if there are certain steps they need to follow for something to operate smoothly such as automated systems or electronic keys.

If so make it crystal clear (in a non-threatening way!) to customers why what you’ve asked of them is important – not as a convenience to you, but how it might impact on their experience.


Keeping commitments

There’s probably no larger withdrawal of trust than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not keep that promise.

Stick to agreed times for returning calls, meetings, deliveries. If you’ve agreed a time or deadline, stick to it.

If your team have to let customers know of delays, ensure they are realistic about time frames; always better to over-estimate a delay, than underestimate.


Admit mistakes

It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it. A sincere apology and having empathy with the customer when they feel they’ve been let down is the least you can do. Most customers accept that things can go wrong from time to time. But only if they’re kept informed.

If something they’ve asked for is no longer available; will it be available later or not at all. What’s the alternative? What can you offer that might be as good as or even better?

If there is a delay, does the customer wait, or do they do / have something that doesn’t involve waiting? That might depend on just how long they have to wait; is it expected to be a 2 minutes wait or half an hour? Being honest (and not making false promises and under estimating) allows the customer to make an informed decision.


Explanations, not excuses

Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about keeping the customer informed of the situation and giving them options…

However, there may be times when a little explanation helps diffuse the situation. If there’s been an accident, if it would be unsafe, if their preferred option is not up to standard and likely to disappoint. If it’s relevant to help them see why they’re not getting the experience they’d hoped tell them; if not, don’t!

Customers really aren’t interested in your staff shortages or that your suppliers have let you down or that the ‘x’ machine is broken.


Take action

Trust is the basis for building loyalty, and the quickest way to build this is to deliver what you’ve promised.

If you only do one thing – review your ‘promise’ to customers with your team and ask what do you say, do or show that could lead to customers having expectations beyond what you deliver. What else can you do towards managing expectations and maintain your customers’ trust?

p.s. If you’d like some help auditing your venue to check it meets your customers’ expectations here are 3 different audit checklists for hospitality and tourism businesses, to give you a head start.