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Why You Must Rethink Your Attitude To Service Recovery

02/12/2015 07:10 am ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

Things go wrong. Good companies make them right. Great companies go beyond that to making the people who were wronged feel better. The lifetime value of loyal customers is common knowledge. The impact disgruntled customers can have is known to be enormous. Why then doesn't everyone adopt a BRAVE approach to service recovery? It comes down to attitude. Those focused on the future are happy to invest in service recovery. Those trying to survive themselves don't think they can afford the cost.

Service Recovery

This is not a new issue. Hart, Heskett and Sasser discussed The Profitable Art of Service Recovery in the Harvard Business Review in 1990, concluding that "recovery is fundamental to service excellence and should therefore be regarded as an integral part of a service company's strategy". Yet the issue persists.

Everyone has his or her own favorite example of this going well and less well. I've recently been astounded by Jet Blue's focus on profits over customer experience and how poor a job Frontier Communications did in managing the transfer of customers when it bought AT&T's landline business in Connecticut.

Contrast those with how Lexis sent people all over the world to fix a minor problem at their launch - before most people even knew there was an issue - and made the experience pleasurable for all involved. Or how Allegro Piano's Rebecca and Ori Bukai arranged to have a flawed piano swapped out for a completely brand new one in their customer's home within two days of first hearing about the problem. Organizations and people like these know that just getting people back to where they were before a problem hits isn't good enough.

BRAVE Approach to Service Recovery

The BRAVE framework works for service recovery, moving outside in through environment, values, attitude, relationships and behaviors.

ENVIRONMENT - Where to play? (Context). Start by deciding which service issues you're going to address and not address. Your level of service and service recovery should align with your value proposition so you have a winning approach to customer service. Lexis and Allegro pianos should and do play at a higher, more refined level of service than do Jet Blue or Frontier.

VALUES - What matters and why? (Purpose). Then re-look at your purpose to help figure out how service and service recovery move you toward what matters and why. If you're Lexis on a quest to build the world's best car company, you're going to do things differently than if you're Frontier trying (and failing) to deliver basic telephone service.

ATTITUDE - How to win? (Choices). This is the pivotal question when it comes to service recovery. Companies like Lexis at its launch are much more concerned about bringing in future customers than they are about protecting current profit streams. Other companies are more concerned about delivering predictable, reliable financial results over the short term.

It's a strategic choice that must be linked to posture and culture. If you're focused on future customers, service recovery is a no-brainer investment in the future. You can have a more proactive posture and embed service recovery as a cultural priority. If you're focused on current profits, it's a cost you may or may not want to incur. You may choose to be more reactive.

RELATIONSHIPS - How to connect? Everyone knows things go wrong. No one really blames airlines for weather delays. But no one likes to feel disrespected. A service break is a relationship break. You have to reconnect with the person wronged... You have to apologize in a way that they believe and treat them in a way that makes them believe you care. (If you don't care, you may be in the wrong business.)

BEHAVIORS - What impact (Implementation). You have to reconnect with the person wronged...AND you have to fix the problem. It's not enough to apologize. It's not enough to say the right words. Your actions must match your words and your beliefs. The new piano has to get delivered. The car has to work better.