No matter how committed a retailer is to its customer service, in every retail location, at some time, mistakes will happen, expectations won't get met, and customers will be disappointed. In these moments, customers care less about why the failure happened, and more about what the retail company and its employees are going to do about it. A solid service failure response is the best customer loyalty program that any retail organization can have.
Those retail organizations that value customer satisfaction prepare employees with service recovery strategies that will respond appropriately to service failure moments immediately. The best service recovery strategies can fix mistakes, repair relationships, and build trust. The worst responses will almost certainly lose customers.
One of my regular restaurant haunts is the Corner Bakery. It’s a quick serve sandwich/soup/salad restaurant chain that’s almost as fast as fast food, but with menu choices that are more real and fresh. I’ve been to several of their restaurants in more than one state, and it’s the high quality of their food and the consistency of their menu and service that’s impressed me the most. Until one day...
Recently I stopped on my way home to grab an early dinner instead of sitting in rush hour traffic. I ordered a scrambled egg sandwich from their breakfast menu and even though they’re not an all-day breakfast kind of place, they didn’t even hesitate to comply with my request. When my order was delivered, though, there were things on my sandwich that I didn’t order. As soon as I walked back up to the counter with my plate in hand, before I said anything, the cashier, Monica, said, “You didn’t want ham!”
Not only did the cooks have to make a breakfast item at the wrong time of day, now they had to make it twice for the same customer. Some very few minutes later Monica walked up to my table with a new steaming hot sandwich in one hand and a big hunk of my favorite chocolate cake in the other hand. (Besides being friendly, apparently the Corner Bakery employees are psychic too!)
What happened next is something I rarely experience as a customer. Monica said, “I’m sorry for the mixup.” No excuses. No justifications. No attempt to make me feel guilty for my unusual order. Monica made a simple, sincere apology, smiled, and walked away. Five minutes later the manager walked up and said, “How is your new sandwich?” With my mouth full, I nodded and smiled while he said, “Sorry about the first one.”
It was Service Recovery 101. They did nothing extraordinary, but it was not an extraordinary situation. Just like with their menu, the Corner Bakery team delivered a service recovery experience with rock solid consistency. They gave me a new reason to be impressed.
What is the measure of success at the end of a typical retail day? Sales? Number of transactions? How about the number of times you give a customer a new reason to be impressed? That’s a goal that any customer can get behind. It’s what motivates me to say things like, “I really like the Corner Bakery!”
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