When you own a business, occasionally something goes wrong, but how your employees respond to the situation can make the difference between keeping or losing a client. With planning, you can create a team that knows how to make things go right when things go wrong.
An important part of the planning involves building a foundation of a client-focused business. It involves teaching your team that one primary goal is to make sure the client always feels cared about.
Even when your protocols regarding service standards are in place, mistakes are inevitable. In these cases, your staff needs to know how to respond. Your team can be successful by following this three-step process – See something, say something, do something.
1. Pay attention: You can help your staff respond effectively to service errors by training them to pay attention to customers and their needs.
· You have a client that values efficiency over all other aspects of service. For this customer, employees should keep conversations short and focused. They should keep the customer updated on any wait times and always set realistic expectations.
· Another customer might tend to be anxious and slow to decide. This client needs reassurances and could benefit from the value of a service to be explained more than one time.
· Your staff should pay attention to a client’s nonverbal communication. Feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, impatience, nervousness, and fear will almost always be evident in a person’s facial expressions and body language. Teach your staff how to respond appropriately to these nonverbal signs so the client knows they care. Asking questions to clarify the customer’s feelings of concern may be necessary.
2. Choose your words carefully: An invaluable skill to teach your staff is knowing what to say and how to say it when something goes wrong. They should know the difference between an apology and an empathy statement.
· An apology should be offered if your business made a mistake. In a service oriented business it may sound like this – “ I apologize that we neglected to hook up your appliance correctly causing it to flood your laundry room.” On the other hand, an empathy statement conveys compassion and understanding without assigning fault. An empathy statement may sound like this – “ I don’t have your appointment on our schedule. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
· In many circumstances, an apology and an empathy statement are appropriately used together.
Example: A doctor didn’t call a patient as promised because they were called to an emergency. In this instance, a staff member can say, “I am so sorry Dr. Joe hasn’t called you back. The reason is that he was called in on an emergency – there was a bad car accident.”
In addition, teach your staff how to deliver the message. When conveying an apology or empathy statement, body language and sincerity are paramount. Making eye contact, leaning forward and displaying a caring expression convey genuine concern for the customer’s feelings.
3. Take Action – People are generally understanding when mistakes or poor service on an occasion happens. This is especially true if they perceive that someone genuinely cares about their feelings and takes actions when things go wrong.
Plan ahead so your staff knows which actions to take when a customer needs assistance. Next, train the team to react properly in different situations. Taking action to make things right is referred to as service recovery – the process of trying to return a customer to a state of satisfaction when a service hasn’t met expectations. The options for what action to take should be routinely discussed with your team.
· A client pulls through your drive-thru to pick up food and an item is left off out the order. Your staff can offer to deliver that item to the client’s location or offer them a free entrée on their next visit.
· If your team neglected to give a requested bath to a pet during boarding, offer a complimentary bath right away or a free one on their next visit.
· If your salon customer incurs an extensive wait time, offer $25 off their service, or provide a free product such as shampoo or hairspray.
The staff member that acts should signal it to the client by using phrases such as, “Ms. Smith, what I will do is…” or “I am going to (insert action step) for you.”
Fortunately, a staff trained to “See something, say something, do something” when things go wrong can build client loyalty and increase referrals. This is because of the service recovery paradox, which refers to a situation in which customers might think more highly of a business that acts to correct a problem than they would have if the problem never happened. People form opinions based on whether they think a service provide cares and has gone above and beyond to help them. Remember Maya Angelou’s quote: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
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