A Tale of Two Returns: How to Capitalize on Service Recovery

OK, so my last posts mostly critical; this time I thought that I would compare a negative experience with a positive one instead.

How do you handle having to go back to a store or service provider to return a defective product or to point out a mistake in a transaction? Would you feel a little awkward, intimidated, or defensive? Many customers often feel very strong, negative emotions when faced with the prospect of going back to a store or service provider to tell them of their dissatisfaction with a product or service. Some customers may enjoy gearing up for a fight, others may have to psyche themselves up for the encounter, while some others may consider it an annoyance or a waste of time.

The point here is that organizations must train employees to deal effectively with dissatisfied customers; not only regarding the company’s policies and processes, but to also respectfully handle customers, and their mixed, and very different, emotions.

So, last week, I had to go back to both my local, large home restoration retailer, and my local, high-end kitchen-ware store; in the first instance to return a faulty drill, and in the second, to point out that I’d been overcharged for two items which were actually on sale (I only shop at this high-end store when they have a sale!).

The kitchen specialists handled the situation with perfection. Not only did the associate apologize and show genuine regret, in a further attempt to recover the relationship, she gave me an invitation to an in-store cooking session – normally a paid event.

At the home improvement store…not so perfect. There was nothing grievously wrong with the experience – they accepted my return and gave me my money back – but no attempt was made to recover the relationship. There wasn’t even an apology. It was a purely mechanical process. I also couldn’t help noticing that while their main competitor goes out of their way to market to female home improvement enthusiasts, they (my local competing store) really don’t.

A genuine attempt to recover a bad service experience goes a long way toward fostering longevity in relationships, but few organizations seem willing or able to train their employees to handle them effectively. Nordstrom is a very notable exception. The fact that they empower their employees is probably a very important factor in their success at customer experience. Who else does a good job at his? Do you have an example that you’d like to share?

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