There are many great customer service stories that can serve as a template for how to handle a problem. I always fall back on my five-step service recovery process to handle all complaints and problems. For those that haven’t been following, the five-steps are: 1) Acknowledge the problem and thank the customer for bringing it to your attention. 2) Apologize for the problem. 3) Fix it or discuss the resolution. 4) Have an attitude of ownership. 5) Act with urgency.
If you fix a problem or complaint and use these five steps in the background, you will typically not just fix the problem, but restore the customers confidence in you, sometimes to a level even higher than if the problem had never happened.
That brings us to Sarah Wimer, one of our followers, who sent in a story about one of my favorite companies, Panera Bread. For those that don’t know, before Panera was Panera, it was St. Louis Bread Company, a local St. Louis, MO chain that sold sandwiches and bakery items. Today there are over 2,000 bakery-cafes, more than 100,000 associates and sales are over $5 billion. And, they didn’t get there by disappointing their customers. On the contrary, they are very customer-focused, and this story is a perfect example.
Sarah lives in New York, and had the yearning for Panera’s Green Goddess Salad. It was a cold rainy day, so she drove through the drive-through rather than go inside to place her order. When she got back to the office, she discovered that whoever made the salad, left out the dressing. In Sarah’s words, “If you have ever had a Green Goddess Salad, you know that the dressing is the entire point.” Frustrated, she decided to call Panera and share her thoughts. She braced herself for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised as the experience went from a Moment of Misery™, with the missing salad dressing, to a Moment of Magic®, with flawless recovery.
Moment of Magic #1: Since it was lunch time, Sarah thought she might have to leave a message or wait on hold, but was pleasantly surprised that the manager was available to talk right away.
Moment of Magic #2: The manager acknowledges the mistake and apologizes, and then offers up a solution. In just a few short moments he nailed the first three steps in my service recovery process. He asks where she is located and asks if she wouldn’t mind waiting 15 minutes. He’ll get her the dressing right away. That was steps four and five. The manager didn’t make any excuses, such as it being busy or having a short staff. Instead he just owned the problem, and then promised her she would be getting her dressing in just 15 minutes. (Well done Mr. Panera Manager!)
Moment of Magic #3: He shows up on time with the dressing and a Danish ring for the rest of the office to enjoy. I like that… a little something extra for the inconvenience.
Moment of Magic #4: As if all that wasn’t enough, he wanted to make sure she came back, so he gave her a gift-card for her next visit. He also informed her that the team would be running laps outside after lunch as a reminder of why they don’t mess up an order. He was joking, of course, but the humor was another way to add some personality into the recovery effort.
And, this is how it’s supposed to work. And, guess what happens when good companies flawlessly execute, especially in recovery mode? The customer tells other people. In this case Sarah not only told her friends, she also told me. And, I just couldn’t resist sharing the story with others, which means tens of thousands of people are going to find out how well Panera takes care of their customers.