8 Steps to Customer Service Recovery (with Templates)

Cassie Wilson
by Cassie Wilson

If you’ve ever worked the customer service desk at any time in your career, you know running into an angry customer is inevitable and can be tricky to navigate—especially if there is no official guidance from management on handling the situation.

Recover customer service

Do you just let the customer walk away angry and run the risk of them telling other people about your “bad service”? Or do you do whatever you can to make the customer happy?

In situations like these, it helps to have a service recovery plan in place to help deescalate tensions and make things right with the customer.

If you don’t already have a customer service recovery plan in place (or you’re looking for tips to improve yours), this article is for you.

What is Customer Service Recovery?

Customer service recovery is a company’s steps to solve an unhappy customer’s issue through excellent customer service. When customer service blunders happen, it can feel like a mark against your business, but it doesn’t have to be—you just need the right systems to fix the issue.

In a perfect world, customers would be delighted with the service they receive 100% of the time. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and when customers receive lousy service, nearly 80% of those customers will take their business elsewhere, especially if they feel their complaints are unheard. That’s when customer service recovery should come into play.

Here’s how to handle complaints effectively:

  1. Identify the service complaint
  2. Work with the client to resolve the issue
  3. Learn from the experience
  4. Implement necessary process changes 
How to handle complaints effectively

While it may seem that customers with a bad experience will be hesitant to continue doing business with your company, that’s not the case.

According to the Service Recovery Paradox, when your employees go above and beyond to solve an unhappy customer’s issue, they’re helping to increase the customer’s brand loyalty even more than if no issue had arised.

Clearly, service recovery should be a priority for your business and employees. Let’s look at the eight steps to create a service recovery plan to ensure your employees knock it out of the park when issues arise.

8 Steps to Customer Service Recovery

1. Listen to the customer

As a customer, there is no worse experience than not being heard when you have an issue with a product or service.

Recently, I experienced this with my Internet service provider.  After days of trying to get help from customer service and multiple transfers to various departments, my issue was solved with a straightforward click of a button. The entire experience was frustrating, and as a result, I would not recommend their service.

It could have easily been solved if customer service had taken the time to listen to my concerns and identify my problem. The point of this story is simple: take the time to listen to your customers and understand their issue.

Encourage your reps to use specific phrases to show customers that they are heard. Train your employees to use terms like:

“I understand how this is upsetting.”

“I will work to resolve this issue.”

“I understand your concerns.”

2. Apologize to the customer

Along with listening to the customer’s concerns, the next step in customer service recovery is apologizing for the mishap.

Appropriate apologies never pass the blame on someone else or another department. Instead, they are genuinely heartfelt to help customers understand their needs and issues matter. Usually, a sincere apology helps to calm a customer, too. And when customers are cool and collected, it becomes easier to work with them to resolve the issue.

3. Take ownership of the problem

Part of a good recovery service plan is allowing your employees the authority and resources to resolve customer issues.

The goal is to avoid making customers wait a long time for answers, or make them repeat the issue to multiple people. Bouncing your customers from one department to the next only increases their frustration.

Although a breakdown in service may have happened for various reasons outside your control, it is your customer care team’s responsibility to own and fix the problem.

Research about service recovery through empowerment shows that it’s an  effective way to improve service recovery performance and service team’ job satisfaction. 

4. Identify and clarify the problem

Before your customer service reps attempt to resolve anything, the customer’s issue should be clearly understood. Learning to ask appropriate questions is vital to providing excellent customer service and resolving a problem.

Sometimes, getting to the root of an issue is as easy as asking clarifying questions like, “I understand this is the problem. Is this correct?” Other times, your reps might have to play the role of a detective and ask, “Can you walk me through the steps you took with our product that led you to this issue?

It’s crucial that your customer service representatives do not attempt to solve a problem without understanding it. Attempts to solve an unknown problem will only lead to more frustration for your customers and employees. 

Show your customers you care by seeking to understand their issues.

5. Solve the problem

The customer care team members are expert detectives and problem-solvers. Their job is troubleshooting the customer’s problem and finding an appropriate solution. Armed with the knowledge of the issue, your customer service reps can now do what they do best: solve the problem.

At this stage in the customer service recovery process, your reps should be focused on solving the customer’s issue and actively working to maintain the customer relationship. Maintaining customer relationships while solving a problem sometimes involve offering a refund. Other times, it’s fixing a broken product or upgrading a service. It should always include the company covering all costs associated with the fix. Research shows that when companies overcompensate for service failure, customers are more likely to accept the fix as fair and satisfactory.

It’s important to note that a problem is not solved until the customer is completely satisfied. Be sure not to make assumptions about customer satisfaction. Instead, ask them if they are satisfied with the solution and the service they have received.

6. End on a positive note

The service recovery process isn’t over when the customer is satisfied with the solution. Remember, customer service recovery is also about enhancing brand loyalty.

It’s often not enough that an unpleasant situation has been made right. After all, that’s the service or product your customer should have received in the first place.

Instead, show your customers you care and offer them a token of appreciation. If you’re a subscription service, think about offering a free month of service or waiving shipping fees for delivery. Or, offer a 15% discount for the next purchase. Come up with offers that make sense for your company and offer those to your customers in appreciation for sticking with you through their bad experience.

By doing this, you’ll be sure to end the interaction on a positive note and keep a loyal customer.

7. Follow up with the customer

Want to score extra points in the brand loyalty department? Follow up with the customer to ensure complete satisfaction.

Good customer service recovery continues well after the initial conversation with the customer ends. Ask them if they are still satisfied with the solution and service you provided with a follow-up email, a simple phone call, or take it a step further and mail a handwritten note. Consider asking the customer to respond to a satisfaction survey, too.

It’s also a good idea to keep a record of customer interactions for future reference or analysis.

8. Learn from the recovery experience

While service recovery might seem like it only benefits the customer, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Service recovery is just as much for your team as it is for customers because it helps your team identify lapses in service or defects in your product line. You’re missing out if you’re not using it as a learning opportunity.

With the information your customer service team gathers from troubleshooting with customers and responses from the customer satisfaction survey, you and your team have the tools to ensure a bad customer experience doesn’t happen again.

Continuously improving and tweaking your products or services based on what you learn makes for a better experience for all, including your customers and employees.

Service Recovery Email Free Templates

Implementing a service recovery plan for your business doesn’t have to be complicated. If your business operates online, you can use these service recovery email templates as a guide to writing your own emails.

Apology Template

Hello [Customer]-

Thank you for emailing us about your concerns with our product line. I’m sorry to hear you are experiencing an issue with our product.

I apologize for the inconvenience, and I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We stand behind our promise of guaranteeing the best product on the market, and we’ve failed. This one’s on us. 

To clarify, you are experiencing [describe the issue in detail]. We want to make this right for you, and we have a couple of options.

We can offer you a full refund of your order or replace the defective product entirely at no extra cost to you.

Please let us know which option you prefer.

On another note, as a valued customer, we are offering you 20% off your next order. 

Thank you for being with us! 

[Your Company]

Follow-up Template

Hello [Customer]-

I hope this email finds you well!

I just wanted to follow up with you about your product replacement. I see that it was delivered to your address yesterday.

Please let me know if you experience any issues with your replacement product. Y

If you have a minute, we’d love if you took a second to complete a short survey about your experience. We’d greatly appreciate your responses to help us continue to improve.

Don’t forget to use your 20% discount for being such a valued customer! 

Thanks for being awesome!

[Your Company]

Improve Customer Satisfaction with Service Recovery

If you provide a product or service, encountering an angry or rude customer is bound to happen. It’s almost inevitable. But with the proper service recovery plan in place, your customer service team has the power to calm your customers and do right by them.

When mistakes happen, don’t squander an opportunity. Use it as a chance to show your customers you care and build lifelong business relationships.

Cassie Wilson

Cassie is a freelance writer for projects big and small. Her biggest goal is to write compelling content that sticks. When she’s not writing, you can find her people-watching at sporting events.
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