Imagine the last time you took an employee or new intern through an orientation at your gym...
You probably explained how important your systems are, and how they allow you to eliminate slip-ups in the client experience. Stick to this plan and we won't have any problems, you said.
Well guess what...problems happen. In fact, the most systemized businesses in the world stumble from time to time.
We could have 100 staff meetings at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) in the coming year regarding timely program design, but sometimes those clients show up a day earlier than expected. Sometimes printers break. Sometimes employees are late due to extenuating circumstances. Stuff, in general, goes wrong from time to time.
But I’m not worried about stuff going wrong. What I’m worried about is how we respond to it.
What is Service Recovery?
The art of solving client problems is sometimes referred to as “service recovery,” and it is as important to the long-term success of your business as the systems you’ve designed to theoretically eliminate mistakes in the first place. You know that moment when an olympic gymnast loses her balance for a split-second on the beam before self-correcting and continuing on with her routine? Yeah, that’s what great service recovery should look and feel like.
So how do you react when things don’t go according to plan? Do clients see flustered chaos, or do they walk away from the experience with a positive attitude about your operation?
The biggest danger to you as a business owner in these circumstances is an employee who is too adherent to the operational rules you’ve put in place. “I’m just following protocol” is a shitty response when a customer has to wait for you to fix an error. Clients want to feel heard. They crave empathy and authenticity in your responses. And, most importantly, they expect a prompt resolution.
With this in mind, an employee shouldn’t need to run a proposed solution up the managerial chain when one can be reached in a quick and low-cost manner. This means that if a program isn’t finished when a client arrives, my Office Manager Julie doesn’t need to come to my office to ask if she can pull a coach off the training floor to prepare material on the fly. Instead, she apologizes for the delay, moves quickly to offer a resolution, and maybe even throws in a bottle of water and a protein bar for the inconvenience.
The best thing you can do as an employer to get ahead of service recovery failures is to empower your team to break the rules, alter the routine, and help the customer.
For example, you could set a cap on how much money an employee can spend without permission to improve a client’s experience. You could keep a stack of free drink coupons for the coffee shop around the corner to help ease the blow of the occasional delayed consultation start time. You don’t even necessarily need to make a financial investment in a service recovery. As long as people feel like you’re taking action quickly, you’re headed in the right direction.
The Bar is dreadfully LOW
A client walked into my office earlier this week to tell me that, while he is appreciative of the training he receives while at CSP, the thing he has valued most to-date was Julie’s willingness to drop what she was doing and resolve a problem of him being double-charged the day before. The mistake was entirely ours, and here he was telling me that one of the best things we’ve done for him was to quickly solve the problem.
That’s just how low the customer service bar is currently set thanks to the many businesses that have conditioned their clients to expect bad service. Don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of these disappointingly low expectations.
If a service recovery plan or policy doesn’t currently exist in your business, put it at the top of your agenda heading into your next staff meeting.
You wont regret it.