customerright.jpgTry as we might (and try we do!), those of us in the business of Customer Service have all experienced being wrong. Somehow we have failed in our customer service, we have not delivered on our brand promise. It is not a good feeling, and the next step in the customer relationship story is “Recovery,” making it up to the customer, making it right, restoring confidence. The first step in recovery is generally making the customer feel understood, calming ruffled feelings, speaking soothing words.

“You are right.” These words recently were spoken to me when I was a customer in a customer service recovery situation. They were amazingly effective.

How could I continue to argue with someone who was agreeing with me? How could I go on complaining to someone who was being nice to me, telling me I was correct? Of course, it helped tremendously that the server’s body language and tone of voice were all sincerely congruent with the verbal message.

I was at a Hyatt Regency just outside our nation’s capital at a banquet dinner and had requested a vegetarian meal. Normally not a problem. (Hey, 3% to 8% of the population claims to be some sort of veggie person, we are not aliens!) Unfortunately, the kitchen had run short and had to prepare more. My meal did not arrive until after the dessert course had come and gone. I was not a happy Gator.

The customer service words of agreement, of empathy, while not completely satisfactory, went a long way. It also helped that the food, when it finally arrived, was excellent. Customer recovery also was furthered by the server’s offer to assist me with anything else I might want or need, AND the same server approaching me at breakfast the next morning making an extra effort.

Customer relations is an on-going process, akin to an emotional bank account. Deposits made earlier or subsequently can restore an overdraft. As I thought about my dinner experience the next morning, I remember the server at lunch the day before who went out and got me a Starbucks cappuccino (venti, non-fat) because the kitchen did not make cappuccinos (huh?). I was rather impressed at the time and considering the extra-mile service on that occasion figure that Hyatt and I can call it even.