Arie Weinzweig, who wrote the Bible on service brands called ‘Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service’ says, “Both formal statistical studies and all my years of hands-on, face-to-face experience lead me to the same conclusion: customers who receive a high-quality product but poor service are unlikely to give a shop a second shot.”
“By contrast, surprisingly high numbers of clients who’ve gotten great service but received substandard product will return to give the business another opportunity to take care of them.”
Fact is, you will never score 100% on product or service, and therefore, you must train your staff in Service Recovery, which is the science and art of regaining customer confidence when due to a rare error you have caused a loss of time or money to your customer.
As a customer, I tend not to experiment, preferring to stay with brands that are consistent in their delivery.
So it was interesting to see what happened when three of my favourite brands, Samsonite, Amazon.in and Jet Airways, all faltered around the same time.
Who won in Service Recovery?
All our baggage at home is Samsonite: some of our bags have lasted for over 20 years. Three years ago, when I walked into a shop to buy a new computer satchel, the salesman asked me what happened to the previous one. “Oh, the zip isn’t working.”
Did I know which model of Samsonite? “No…too long ago…no wait…the ad had Richard Branson in it.”
That one has a lifetime guarantee, sir. If you have the bill, we will return the cash INR 4,500 which is what its price was five years ago. If you don’t, we will reduce INR 4,500 from the cost of whatever you buy now.
Just like that!
He did not ask where I had bought the Samsonite, where the bill was, when I had bought it. I had been singing praises of Samsonite in all my workshops since then, till….
The products started giving way. Wife found herself in remote Sikkim with a brand new Samsonite and a malfunctioning zip.
And two weeks ago, in a hotel in Oslo, at midnight I stared down at a similarly malfunctioning Samsonite.
Ah, and before that the clip of the Samsonite currency holder broke…twice!
Back in Mumbai, I complained to the shop salesman. “Why has the quality dropped substantially?” Maybe they make them in China, not in Europe.
I write a long mail to the company, explaining I am a twenty-year loyal consumer and am worried about the declining quality.
I get an auto-reply from the asst. director, customer care, asking me to get the bag over to the nearest shop:-)
No regards for my loyalty or for own product quality: a certain death-wish?
Service Recovery score: 0%
Next favourite: Amazon.in.
My One Plus One battery goes on the blink and a friend advises getting Huawei Honor Pro, now available exclusively on Amazon Prime.
I book it on a Monday, delivery guaranteed on a Wednesday.
Wednesday: no phone.
Tracking shows “Address not found.” This after 26 deliveries have been made in 12 months to the same address!
Thursday: no phone.
A call to the ‘delivery boy’ confirms that they have added the wrong PIN.
Friday: no phone.
A call to the call centre confirms the issue will be sorted out in a day…and can I please respond to the call centre mail about its level of service:-)?
Monday: no phone.
Email response sends me to a link where I must explain the problem.
Tuesday: no phone.
So I finally Tweet. I hate making my problems public, but they have driven me to it :-)
Tweet reply says, “Please note your complaint here.” Which is the same link the email had sent me to!
The painful saga ends with Amazon reversing the online payment. At least they do that on time!
Service Recovery score: 10%
And finally, Jet Airways.
As a Platinum member, I get vouchers that I can trade for an upgrade. So on a flight to Bengaluru, I ask the lady at the counter whether she can upgrade me on this particular flight. I know my chances are better on a flight that is not during rush hour. She consults her senior, then nods assent, makes notes on the voucher, changes my seat number on the boarding pass, and leaves me happy.
Until I reach the departure gate.
Now I am told that my upgrade has been reversed, but I can buy the upgrade for another INR 3000 and I am now in a middle seat instead of my earlier aisle seat. The girl from the counter enters the plane and apologises, and returns the guilty voucher :-)
I write an email stating my case: I didn’t ask for the vouchers, you gave them as a gift. I asked for the upgrade and the senior confirmed. Very embarrassing to be chucked out at the last minute.
The reply follows the classic Service Recovery rules.
1. First, agree there was a mistake
2. Second, apologise for the mistake
3. Third, explain if possible why it happened
4. Fourth, provide a tangible reward as compensation
The email did all four, and in style.
Service Recovery score: 100%
Today, all product brands are service brands.
And without a well-planned Service Recovery system in place, you are likely to lose your share of loyal consumers!
( Kiran Khalap is the co-founder and managing director of chlorophyll brand & communications consultancy)