Three Proven Pro-Active Service Recovery Strategies

People make mistakes. As much as we would like to be perfect, we are human. Mistakes lead to unhappy customers and unhappy customers will go elsewhere. Research on this issue is abundantly clear. Losing customers because of the way employees treat them, when a problem or mistake has occurred, is bad for your business!

So let's get right to the point.

In this article we provide three proven service recovery strategies, which when used consistently, are guaranteed to turn customer problems into opportunities for building customer loyalty.


It is essential that all employees strive to do their service job right the first time. You cannot rely on merely recovering in a positive way to gain customer loyalty. Mistakes mean a lack of service quality! If you are making a lot of service mistakes, being great at recovery simply means you "mess up" quite a bit. You must attempt to provide excellent service to every customer and rely on recovery only as a secondary service tactic.

You must find out what your service mistakes are to achieve a "do it right the first time" approach. The best method of getting this information is from customer complaints. They provide you with the necessary feedback to fix repeated service problems. Every employee must keep track of what customers complain about. This information should be talked about within each work group, shift or department, and repeat problem situations should then be corrected.

When mistakes are made, it is rarely the mistake that irritates the customer. In most cases, it is the way the mistake is handled. If your desire to be the best is sincere, then you must do everything in your power to keep a positive attitude with every customer.


You must make it easy for customers to complain. You need to understand that your customer contact staff are in the best position to know when customers are displeased. They see their reactions, hear their voice tones and listen to their comments. The question is... what do they do when they find a dissatisfied customer?

Do they:

Quickly attempt to correct the problem or let someone who can help know immediately?

Ignore the situation and do nothing unless the customer directly complains?

When things go wrong it is critical that you understand that your customers are primed for a fight. Normally, when these customers become frustrated or angry, they expect less from the company in the future.

However, if you recover impressively by:

- acknowledging the mistake

- expressing your concern and apologizing

- taking quick action to resolve the problem

you will most likely exceed the customer's expectations. When a mistake occurs (regardless of who made it) it actually creates a unique opportunity to surprise customers with service they will brag about later. Recovery situations provide an opportunity to be magnificent.


The ability to turn service mistakes into memorable service experiences is fundamental to an outstanding service reputation.

Making quick, effective and hassle-free problem-solving a part of the everyday job priorities leaves a positive impression on customers.

When a mistake happens do your customer contact staff:

- try to prove that the customer is wrong?

- try to prove that what they did was right?

- try to show the customer that the problem was actually their fault

- try to show the customer that it's not their fault?

- try to convince the customer that it's no one's fault?

- takes no responsibility and tries to transfer the customer to another department?

- force the customer to jump through hoops like completing forms, going to another department to complain, prove that they are right?

- make the customer feel like they are doing the customer a favour by fixing the problem?

Reliable recovery efforts dramatically communicate to customers that the organization cares, that it is sensitive to the customer's needs, and that it will stand behind its product or service-no matter what. Unfortunately, an angry, irritated customer gets treated to a rebuttal more often than they are offered a sympathetic ear! But nothing is ever gained by winning an argument and losing a customer.

It is important to remember that a customer that complains is doing you a great service!

In addition to these three strategies keep the following in mind:

Here are 10 simple yet powerful Rules to Live By when dealing with a customer with a problem:

  1. Place no blame, just solve the problem.
  2. Assume total responsibility for "making it right".
  3. Quickly attempt to correct the problem or let someone who can help know immediately. (the longer it takes to fix a problem, the less likely your customer will appreciate your efforts)
  4. Remain concerned, apologetic and sympathetic.
  5. Remain helpful (find someone to help if you can't).
  6. Remain interested. (if someone else deals with the problem, remain involved until the problem is resolved)
  7. Do what you say when you say you will do it
  8. Never over promise and under deliver
  9. Ensure the customer is satisfied with the solution to the problem
  10. Thank the customer for bringing this to your attention
It can take months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one!


Ray is Managing Partner of The Training Bank, an international training and education firm. We specialize in classroom based and online training in Leadership, Management and Supervisory Skills Development, Customer Service, Customer Focus and Customer-Focused Leadership training. Ray is author of That's Customer Focus and The Customer Focus Companion. These exceptional books help readers develop and implement a highly effective Customer Focus strategy. He is also author of Management Training ...

Go Deeper | Website

Have a question for Ray?

* Required information
Email Address:
(never displayed)

Your question or comment:
Human? Enter the third word of this sentence.
Enter answer:
Tell me when Ray responds to me.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.
New Graphic
Subscriber Counter