Turn a Complaint into an Opportunity to Increase Customer Loyalty


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Service Recovery Converts Disappointed to Delighted

When you cannot deliver the service you promised to your customer, what do you do?

Let’s face it. We all have days when we disappoint customers for various reasons. It could be a team member calling in sick, the internet goes down, bad weather strikes, an unexpected traffic delay occurs, and so on. We may not always prevent such situations, but we can always do something about them!

At Uplifting Service (UP), we teach that service problems are an opportunity for superior service recovery. But if you only “fix” the problem, you lose the opportunity to recover and gain more loyalty. When you show care with empathy, and when you do something extra, you can earn greater appreciation from your customer and re-build trust. This means you recover the loyalty that was lost – and you can increase it significantly. Let me illustrate with a personal experience.

I was teaching the UP curriculum at a luxurious hotel, an exquisite villa resort with panoramic sea views. The check-in process was smooth. The hotel staff were incredibly friendly. The ambience invited me to simply relax and rejuvenate. I was a happy guest.

But the moment I stepped into my room, my happy mood started to collapse. “Eewh!” My toes scrunched feeling the dirt that was still on the floor. I opened the wardrobe to hang my suits. My jacket sleeve brushed against the inner panel and was coated a dusty brown. “Urgh!” I took out my computer and looked for the power socket to plug in. When I flipped open the panel covering the electrical sockets on the table, ink markings and strands of hair were glaring back at me. When I turned over the seat cushion, I found breadcrumbs and dried raisins staring back at me. “Gulp!”

Frozen in fear by what I had found so far, I tried to calm myself with a cup of coffee. As I timidly removed the French Press lid, scores of old, wet coffee grounds cried out to me as if saying, “I’m sorry we were left behind!”

I sat down and sighed, “Do I want to see the rest of this resort?”

So I called housekeeping, and within ten minutes two staff members appeared at my door.  They swept, dusted, washed and wiped every problem away. I felt relieved. A few minutes after they left, there was another knock on my door. It was the housekeeping supervisor.

He said, ‘Miss Low, I want to apologize because your room was not in the best condition when you arrived. Is everything okay now?” I assured him that the problems had been solved.

Then he asked question that surprised me. “Would you please take a moment to show me where these problems occurred?” He wanted to personally ensure that each problem had been properly fixed. Then he thanked me gratefully and left the room.

Ten minutes later, there was another knock on my door. This time it was the housekeeping supervisor and his department manager. And the manager said, ‘Hello Miss Low. It is a pleasure to meet you. My team have informed me of your experience with this room, and I would like to do something special for you about it. Would you be willing for us to upgrade you to one of our larger suites?  It would really be our pleasure.” I nodded with a big smile, and within half an hour was enjoying my new room.

Superior service recovery involves three action steps:

1. Fix the problem

The housekeeping team quickly cleaned each of the problem areas. The supervisor then ensured each problem had been fixed to my satisfaction.

2. Show concern for the customer

When the supervisor visited me within minutes, he demonstrated that the matter was important to him, and that I was important to him! When he asked if I was happy with the room, he showed concern for my comfort.

3. Do something extra to bounce UP!

When the manager and the supervisor both appeared on my doorstep, they took the initiative to provide a touch of ‘extra care’. And when they upgraded me to the suite, that gesture was an extra mile, a real bounce UP that recovered my mood, and my loyalty.

Here is the golden egg inside the story. What started as a horrible experience for the guest became an opportunity to convert disappointment into delight. Each time you use these three “service recovery action steps”, you can harness the potential to increase customer loyalty with superior service recovery.

Try this where you work, and let me know how it “bounces back” for you.

Categories: Service Recovery & Guarantees
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10 Responses

  1. Alex Goslar says:

    Thank you Jocelyn Low, for these insightful pointers. All true. However many executives in managerial positions shy away from admission of failure. And that is the precondition for improvement.
    Alex Godlar

  2. Sadanandan CT says:

    Indeed true – every complaint is an opportunity and to make the best out of that opportunity it is important to accept the failure at the first place.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this !

  3. Jaya Rajah says:

    Thank You, As a retail jewellery in Colombo Sri Lanka, we face many situation like this. I learned something today.

  4. Wong Kim Leong says:

    Hi, Thanks for sharing. I would like to add something extra before “fix the problem”. Handle customer emotion first before you provide solution as it is difficult to be rational when in emotional mode. Also, sometimes the immediate solution may not readily available.

  5. Dheeraj says:

    Thanks Low for learning. This is absolutely correct, we generally tend to do one or two steps, but in case all of us, start to take all the three steps, am sure such issues can definitely be changed into an opportunity in improvement of present set-up & further ending up building long customer relationships.


  6. Mohammad says:

    This is simply damage control after incidence. You can’t befool customer for long. In this case hotel management should have checked for room’s readiness before offering to customer. Hotel management lacks in procedure.

  7. shakeel khan says:

    Thanks for this

  8. Geri says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights! I will definitely share the information with my associates.

  9. Pat says:

    One important point that needs to be added. Check for acceptance that the issue was resolved to the customer’s liking. Often times, the company will offer what they perceive to be a fix from their perspective, but the customer may not perceive it to be a fix. The customer is the judge and jury on everything, including what they will feel is a proper resolution. For example, an expensive dinner may have been delayed, forcing the diner to miss a show (that the restaurant management may not have known about) so offering a free desert would not come close to appeasing the upset customer. Be sure you know the entire situation, apologize sincerely, fix the problem, offer the UP, check to make sure it meets with their approval, and, make sure that the issue doesn’t happen again so it doesn’t affect other customers.

    • Ron Kaufman says:

      Excellent reply. Thank you for this contribution to the conversation.

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