Example of a Bad Customer Service Recovery


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A True Story to Understand the Importance of Service Recovery

For confidentiality reasons the names of the airlines company have been changed to X and Y.

Recently, I traveled with my wife to Vietnam with a company X in Business class. I have nothing to say about the service on board; it was excellent. Nevertheless, their service regarding the Miles & Smiles loyalty program could be better. Contacting them and finding where to write a complaint takes work.

Here is what happened:

My miles were credited correctly to the loyalty account of company X.

But my wife Miles is another story. When I checked her account upon our return, she had zero points.

It has now been one week that I have been struggling with company X by phone or feedback form to find a solution, and still nothing.

My wife’s miles have been credited to another Alliance member account, which is the Y loyalty program account, for no reason.

After many exchanges, finally, company X gave me the account number of company Y to which my wife’s miles have been credited.

To make sure, I called the loyalty program of this company Y, and they told me that it is company X responsibility to solve my problem. If I fly with company X, my miles cannot go to another airline company loyalty account even if part of the same Alliance.

But company X refuses to accept that they made a mistake, and I am still waiting for them to solve my problem.

As an expert in quality, I know customer experience, complaints, and service recovery. I understand that a customer who complains for a valid reason wants his problem resolved quickly.

In this case, not once has the company X apologized and said, “We are sorry for what is happening,” and had some empathy with me.

Unhappy customers wants quick recovery with no hassle. Company X has done the contrary and made me lose three full days in having to correspond with them.

Company X did not make the mistake as their mistake and is throwing the responsibility on me and others.

Company X is not aligned with the Servqual dimensions. Again, their onboard service was excellent, and I refer here only to the post-customer experience.

Company X need to align with the basic principles of the Servqual model.

  • Reliability: They signal no organizational competence and promote no confidence and trust in ME.
  • Assurance: They signal no reassurance to ME, that everything is going as it should or, if it isn’t, that something will be done to remedy the problem quickly.
  • Tangibles: As mentioned, the onboard service was excellent.
  • Empathy: They do not convey that they are listening and are concerned about my BAD EXPERIENCE regarding their loyalty program. As the trust is disrupted, they do not reconnect with ME in a personal way that conveys that they understand that it is critical for ME to have a quick service recovery It is the contrary.
  • Responsiveness: They lack responsiveness and show indifference to MY PROBLEM. Solutions to problems must be timely and responsive to the person’s needs. That is not the case here.


  1. Zemke R, Bell CR. Knock your socks off service recovery. New York: American Management Association; 2000.
  1. Berry L, Zeithaml V, Parasuraman A. Five imperatives for improving service quality. Sloan Management Review 1990 Summer: 29-38.
  1. Seiders K, Berry L. Service fairness: What it is and why it matters. Academy of Management Executive 1990;12(2):8-20.
Alain Najar
Alain Najar: EHL Business Hospitality school graduate, MBA-BSL Lausanne, certified trainer HES-SO-Switzerland, Certified Hospitality Educator-USA, EFQM expert, LQA mystery shopper. Worked 13 years: Hilton-11years, Sheraton, Accor, in Kuwait, Dubai, Madagascar, Syria, Egypt. He joined EHL as a senior lecturer for 30 years, teaching F&B management and Service Quality Design related to Customer Experience-CX. Currently, at the head of Najar Hospitality Consulting, he still share his knowledge as a visiting professor, delivers seminars and certifies hotels schools around the world.


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