When Mistakes Happen...

And you know they will if humans are involved in delivering products and services to your customers.  Are you ready?  Do you have an effective service recovery process in place to handle those mistakes? 

As evidenced by our own experiences, many organizations do not possess the type of recovery process that will retain unhappy customers.  Here is a simple CX fact – when an organization makes a mistake and recovers from it effectively, customers are more forgiving and less critical.  Just don’t make the same mistake again.  If that happens, then, look out! 

During one of my first positions as a customer experience leader, I worked with a consultant, Maura Burke-Weiner, founder of The Service Impact Group and Jury Matters.  Ms. Burke-Weiner emphasized the importance of the service recovery process and illustrated it in the chart shown. I’ve used this simple yet powerful illustration countless times in my own organizations to emphasize the importance of 1) having one 2) executing it and 3) benefiting from it! 

Let’s look at the key elements in the process. 


First, whether your market is B2B, B2C or B2B2C, there’s no excuse for not doing the job right the first time.  Making sure you’re releasing products that are ‘fully baked’; providing timely promotions that work; and generally being a company that is easy to do business with is foundational to your success.  You’ll be better prepared when the mistake happens to implement the next step in the process – a comprehensive service recovery process. 

It is imperative that every function in the organization understands its role in recovering from the error. This is not the sole responsibility of customer service.  We need to focus on the entire organization’s ability to recover regardless of where the mistake happened.  Skip the blame game and solve the problem first.  Then, most importantly, fully understand the root cause of what happened, use this information to drive continuous improvement and then feed this data into the message of “let’s do it right the first time”. 

And finally, keep in mind that plenty of studies have shown that recovering effectively from a mistake can not only retain customers but also increase their loyalty.  As the chart shows, isn’t our goal as organizations to build loyalty?   Consider this scenario….

A call comes into customer service, “I ordered a pair of blue pants last week, but I received black instead.   Response, “I’m sorry for our error. Let me check to see if we have black in your size in stock.  Yes, we sure do.  I’ll expedite the shipment, so you’ll have the correct pair tomorrow.  When you receive them, there will be label inside to return the blue pants.  You can use the same box and I’ll issue a call tag, so you don’t have to worry about dropping it off at a shipping location. Will that work for you?”  Customer response, “Yes it will”.  By the way, I wanted to let you know that many of my customers order this great new top we have with those pants.  Better yet, I can offer you a 10% discount for all the hassle we put your through.  Shall I ship the top with the blue pants as well?  Sure! 

If this sounds too idealistic, perhaps that’s an indicator of a problem with your service recovery process? Imagine gaining more revenue and retention from a customer with a problem rather than causing them unwarranted effort in trying to return something to you.  Now that’s a customer experience I want from organizations that I buy from!  Is yours one of those companies? 

Robert Azman