Fix It, Then Clam!

Every day, difficulties arise in the service business. When an employee makes a mistake, the client is unhappy at best. Or, in the worst-case scenario, enraged. It is unavoidable. It occurs all the time. It's a necessary element of any procedure with a lot of "moving" pieces.

The next step is "service recovery," or a company's settlement of an issue caused by an unhappy consumer. Things's your responsibility to get it repaired and then shut up. Here's what I'm talking about.Regardless of the strategy chosen, once the issue has been resolved to the customer's satisfaction (and preferably much beyond "satisfaction"), it's time to move on and forget about it. Example:

What should you say to a disgruntled customer?

A restaurant client discovers a hair in their dish, an insect, or an overdone steak, and is forced to wait for a replacement while his dinner companions consume. There are several options for resolving the problem.

  • Please accept my heartfelt apologies.
  • Replace the steak at the top of the cooking line and “Comp” (don't charge for) it.
  • Offer the table a round of complimentary beverages or dessert, and apologize once again.
  • Etc.

Now that the matter has been handled and a replacement steak has been given to the client, I'd want to express my gratitude to them all for "their patience and allowing me to make it right."

Never bring up the issue again

Then it's finished. Never bring up the issue again.

Clap your hands! Don't make any more excuses. Don't appear guilty as you go by the table, and don't hide from the client because you're ashamed or afraid of their fury.

You made a mistake and tried all you could to correct it. It's finished. Now is the time to move on.

When the clients have left, be sure to wish them well and thank them for visiting your restaurant. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever "Thank you, have a wonderful evening, and please accept my apologies for burning your steak," don't say.

Your grin and ability to move on from an issue are the last things you want your consumer to remember as they walk out the door. Because you brought it up again, you DON'T want their final recollection to be of the issue.

After you've solved it, it's time to shut up!

So you're not working at a restaurant. That's OK. Can you conceive of a way to use this strategy in YOUR company? If that's the case, please tell me about it. Please send your stories to me through email.

Thanks to Steve DiGioia at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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