Service Recovery: Brands Benefit by Proactively Making It Right


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What if you hung up the phone after a frustrating call into customer service, only to get a call back an hour later from the same customer service team to try to make things right? Would you be shocked?

This latest trend in customer service is happening more and more as brands are refocusing their efforts on “service recovery” as a way to retain loyal customers. An added benefit from service recovery is that brands are also seeing higher customer satisfaction scores.

Contact Center and CX managers know that adding a new layer into their operations is not an easy task, however. Brand executives first need to understand the benefit and approve the shift. The good news is that developing a service recovery team usually doesn’t require additional personnel, and when done correctly, it can even cut down on costs in the near-term.

Implementing a Service Recovery Workflow

As a subscription service that delivers monthly beauty products, Birchbox greatly values customer service. The brand is routinely cited for excellence in customer experience so it’s no surprise they decided to go above and beyond by launching a service recovery program for when negative interactions occur.

To implement an effective “service recovery” program, Birchbox needed a platform that captured customer feedback following an interaction. This would enable contact center supervisors to see feedback in real-time and quickly determine if they should call a customer back to make things right. The brand integrated Stella Connect into Zendesk to develop this workflow.

With this infrastructure in place, all negative interactions now create tickets so supervisors can assess the situation to see if the agent made a mistake, listen in to the call, and trigger service recovery into motion. In most cases, the same agent can initiate the re-contact. For more complex cases, a supervisor can field.

After the customer speaks with the agent again, they’ll receive another feedback request. For Birchbox, these follow-up feedback requests have proven that the team has made things right with customers who had subpar experiences. Birchbox has also seen an uptick in its CSAT scores since launching the program.

Service Recovery Is Both an Art and Science

As outlined above, structurally implementing a service recovery program is easy enough, but agents will also need some training to ensure the follow up conversation doesn’t turn awkward or go off the rails and make things worse with an already frustrated customer.
Apart from the technology, there are two key skills needed to be successful in handling these calls: 1) the ability to solve complex issues, and 2) the emotional ability to connect with the customer.

For the former, the agent or manager handling the re-contact should have all the details from the original inquiry so they can adequately — and proactively — address the issue. Remember, because this is a re-contact, the agent can take the time to look into the product information or company policy ahead of time. The agent should also discuss the situation with a supervisor to know what can be done to “make it right” be it a refund, credit, or another corrective action.

This preparation is key. For a customer, there is nothing more frustrating than receiving a re-contact only to have to explain the situation over again and still feel the agent doesn’t understand.

Having the emotional ability to connect with the customer requires more finesse. This is a soft skill so having the right tone, choosing words carefully, and remaining calm and positive are important to restore trust with the customer. It’s important to address the issues at the beginning, explain the reason for the re-contact (i.e. the agent made a mistake or the brand wants to simply go above and beyond to retain the customer), and then offer how the company is going to make it right.

When a brand has achieved both the art and science of effective service recovery, it can turn an angry customer into a loyal brand ambassador, helping to “recover” lifetime value for the bottom line as well.

John Ernsberger
John Ernsberger co-founded StellaService with Jordy Leiser in 2010. John leads the company’s client success teams and is a passionate believer in the power of customer service as a driver of customer retention and sales. John graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in management.


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