Earning Customer Loyalty Through Service Recovery

Ask the customer what it will take to make things right and then do more—give them a “plus one.” Whatever you “should” be doing for your customer, add a little something extra.

“What defines us is how well we rise after falling.”—Theodore Roosevelt

Since I live two hours from any major city, I do a lot of online shopping. I buy local as often as I can, but some things just have to come from somewhere else and 99 percent of those things can be found on Amazon. My favorite sound in the world is hearing the UPS truck coming around the bend, promising a needed smile in my day. I love Amazon.

When it comes to giving companies my customer loyalty, I am pretty stingy. Having trained others in customer service for 15-plus years, I am well aware of what good service is, and what good service is not. Sadly, I have a list of only seven companies I am loyal to and another list with 100-plus companies I boycott!

Is this an advertisement for Amazon? No! This is a story of how to earn customer loyalty through service recovery, and Amazon is one of the companies that does this with ease and grace. Are they perfect? No! They make mistakes; they’ve made several mistakes with my orders over the years, but because I am loyal to them, I forgive them and continue to sing their praises. Research shows that customers who had complaints that were resolved to their satisfaction become even more loyal and are most likely to become a brand ambassador.

A Harvard Business Review study showed 97 percent of customers who report being loyal to a company will never leave. Compare that to 80 percent of customers who report being satisfied but likely will try a competitor next time. What is the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer?

A satisfied customer is happy with the product and service but is not jumping with joy about their experience. A loyal customer is one who has been satisfied consistently and also has been delighted time and time again. How to delight? Delight is a surprise. Surprise your customers by giving them a bit extra every time. Loyal customers keep coming back and they bring their friends! A win-win for the customer and the company.

From Bad Experience to Good

Back to Amazon. Here is a live chat session I had with Amazon that went horribly wrong:

Kristy: Hello! I received a notice that an order I was expecting today has been delayed. I believe it is because our highway was closed due to a car accident. I wanted these items for a trip I am taking, leaving on Sunday. Is there a way for me to pick my order up in Portland (where it was most likely delayed from)?

Amazon: Hello, Kristy, I’ll certainly try to help regarding your concern. I’m really sorry about the crash and delay in delivering your order, Kristy. Yes, you can collect your order from your local carrier. Please take some valid government ID proof along with your tracking number.
Kristy: Thank you. Can you tell me which location? There are several, I am sure.
Amazon: Your package is currently in a local post office.
Kristy: When I check out tracking, it actually says it is in Rawlings, WY. Maybe it is not delayed from the accident. Where do you see that it is at my local post office? Our local post office is 20 steps from my house, so I can walk there and check, but the delay seems to be elsewhere.
Amazon: Since the final delivery is made by USPS, theirs is a chance the local post office might have the package. If not, please kindly go to Rawlings, WY, to locate your package.
Kristy: That is 1,500 miles from my house. I would have to take an airplane.
Amazon: I will cross my fingers that the local post office has it. I’d suggest you to wait until the end of July 26 to receive the package. If not, please kindly go to the Rawlings, WY, to retrieve your package.
Are you laughing? I was! Would you then get frustrated after an initial giggle? Most customers would. I did not. Why? Because this is Amazon. They make mistakes, but I know they are going to fix it. Not 20 minutes later, I received an e-mail from the supervisor who said she reviewed the chat (without me asking anyone to), found my package, was expediting it to my house, and put a $10 credit on my account for the trouble! Am I still loyal to Amazon? Yes. They fixed my issue and did so quickly. Would I have given another company the chance to make it right? Probably not. I would have just “quit” them and found someone else to do business with.

Training Tips

How can you train your employees to emulate Amazon’s approach, even if you are not a multi-billion dollar company, in order to earn customer loyalty through service recovery? Train your employees to listen, really listen, to their customers. Inspire them to connect with each and every customer on a human level. We all crave that. Show them how to empathize with customers and how to ask your customers to be part of the solution and not view them as part of the problem.

More rules to successfully recover from a service hiccup:

  • Be prompt; do not make your customers wait.
  • Fix it, fix it quickly, and ask your customer if they are happy with the solution.
  • Ask the customer what it will take to make things right and then do more—give them a “plus one.” Whatever you “should” be doing for your customer, add a little something extra. It does not have to cost a penny. It can be as simple as a follow-up call, but the plus one is what surprises them, delights them, and earns their loyalty so they cannot imagine using another product or service, ever.

Customer loyalty is the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction and is something every business should aspire to create. Seven in 10 Americans said they are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service recovery (American Express Survey, 2014). Customer loyalty can be earned even when things go wrong. As Don Porter of British Airways said, “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” Turn mistakes and complaints into loyalty-building opportunities, like Amazon. Your team can do it!

Kristy Westfall Moyer is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.