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service recovery fail

Customer Service Recovery: You're Doing it Wrong

It seems that a lot of companies are still fixated on doing Service Recovery wrong. 

Ten years ago, Justin Fox (Harvard Business Review Group), wrote about a horrible experience he had with the company e-Fax. Here’s a link to the post. It was a story of a company that wouldn’t allow you to cancel an account until you’d run an unpleasant gauntlet of high-pressure tactics to get you to stay on with them. If you refused to play this game with them, they refused to cancel your account, and just kept billing you. It’s a tactic called “Barriers to Exit,” and it spoke volumes about the companies which used them. 

The good news is that it is no longer widely practiced.

"Barriers to Service" is a poor service recovery strategy

The bad news is that many, if not most, large organizations have adopted a new, and equally horrible, tactic for service recovery: “Barriers to Service.”

Want to ask someone at large organization a simple customer service question? You might as well go unicorn hunting. (A great example is the software behemoth, Adobe – and it’s just one of many.)

Having a problem with a product or service? You will be funneled through chatbots and hurdles, only to be directed to crowd-sourced forums — in which you are more likely to get a dozen conflicting inaccurate answers from people who may even know less than you, rather than one that is timely and useful.

Yet, somehow, these same companies have managed to convince themselves that they are actually doing a good job at customer experience.


Lousy service = customer defection

What we need to remember that customers defect from companies for a number of reasons – Pricing, Convenience, Quality, etc – but study after study tells us that the dominant cause of customer defection is lousy customer experience. In its simplest terms, customers leave you because at some level, they believe you’ve stopped caring about them.

That perception is not as far from reality as those companies might claim. The reason that so many organizations do nothing to remove their Barriers to Service is because they see real customer service simply as an expense. They are incapable of connecting the dots between high levels of customer experience and sustainable profitability. They don’t acknowledge that skilled employees are the cornerstone of service recovery. They aren’t seeing the perfect storm that’s impacting their customer experience.

Service recovery has lasting effects

The philosophy of doing as little as possible after a customer has made a purchase is profoundly short-sighted. It impacts trust, loyalty, word-of-mouth and future purchases. We know, for example, that service recovery is a common denominator in over 70% of WOW customer experiences. We know that service recovery is the last defense against loss of trust. We know that it is the critical opportunity to reinforce to customers that they made a good decision in doing business with us.

Why on earth would we want to create barriers to those outcomes?

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