starbucks.bmpAt some point it is not enough to just “Say Sorry,” you must also genuinely, sincerely “Do Sorry” as well. Just like the little boy who cried wolf once too often, at some point you “can’t talk your way out of what you have behaved yourself into.”

This holds true in the arena of customer service. Recovery behavior in the context of customer service is concrete action that conveys meaningful true remorse, true regret for a lapse in customer service, AND constitutes an appropriate deposit in the customer’s emotional bank account.

I was the first customer in Starbucks one morning and it was obvious that while the front door was open, they were still going through their opening routine. My “tall non-fat capp” was taking waaaaay too long to prepare. In all fairness to Starbucks, there are a couple of things I should mention: it WAS 6:09 a.m. and it WAS the 4th of July. I probably should have just been grateful they were open! On the flip side, this was Upper Midtown Manhattan, epicenter of the city that never sleeps. In New York City, we like our caffeine early and often.

So as the barista was getting ready to hand me my cappuccino, he apologized for the delay. The chatter in my mind started up, “Yeah, well, if you were REALLY sorry, you’d…” and before I could finish the thought, the barista concluded with “… so I made it a grande.”

Ooooh! Instant happy customer! Excellent service recovery behavior!

Customer service recovery is best when immediate. Customer service recovery must also be a measured response: the barista did not give me a free $25 gift card or even a free mug. It would not have been in line with the issue at hand and Starbucks would not stay in business if it made a practice of repeatedly overdoing customer service recovery behavior. The barista probably gave me only a dime’s worth of extra cost to Starbucks if that (a bit more paper for the larger cup, few cents more worth of coffee and non-fat milk), but it was a meaningful value-add to me, the customer.

What is 10 times more important, it was customer service recovery behavior that gave real weight to his apology. Furthermore, it imparted to me a feeling of recognition, worth as a customer, value as a human, a sense of being special. (Okay, I can be had cheaply, but you get my point).

Learning, teaching, and practicing appropriate customer service recovery behavior is vital for any organization or individual wishing to compete successfully.