Operationalize Service Recovery with CRM

Service recovery is a paradox. If you recover well from a poor customer experience you will foster more loyalty than if the poor experience had never happened. But service recovery can feel more like an art form than a repeatable process.

The best way to recover from service failure is to avoid it altogether. Most service failures occur either because of expectations or poorly executed handoffs between departments. CRM plays a role in these two critical areas.

Before you can recover from a service failure, you must know that it has happened. With only one in 26 unhappy customers complaining about service issues, this is easier said than done.

The good news is that a solid enterprise CRM system provides myriad methods for detecting service failure. Here are a few processes to consider adding to your CRM:

  • Ask in person - make sure that company representatives ask questions like, "Let me make sure I understand this correctly," and, "How was my service today?"
  • Ask electronically - providing negative feedback in person can be intimidating for some, so also include easy ways to provide feedback impersonally, such as through post-service surveys, website links, or feedback forms.
  • Integrate channels - meet customers where they prefer to interact. That means voice, email, social, SMS, point-of-sale, bots, and web.
  • Monitor IoT devices – if you sell devices, you can monitor their status and detect service issues sometimes before the customer does.

It goes without saying that all the above opportunities to capture feedback should result in data collected in your CRM solution to make responding possible.

Lastly, when customers provide feedback, always remember to thank them. They are the one in 26 that have taken the time to help you improve your products and services so you can create longer-lasting relationships with all your customers. (Hint: Build the "thank you" communication into your CRM solution).

Service Recovery with CRM

Now that you've uncovered a service issue, you need to convert the art of service recovery into a process that anyone on your service team can execute. Once again, your CRM solution provides the communication, process guidelines, and information capture that makes this possible.

Begin by empowering your people. Define the boundaries around the recovery options that reps can offer. Document standard operating procedures and make them easily accessible. In general, the best practice is to provide recovery options that require the customer to remain engaged (such as $20 off your next order). Your CRM solution needs to enforce boundaries, such as the maximum recovery allowance per incident and the maximum for any rep during a one-week period.

Next, make it easy to go outside the boundaries you defined in the previous paragraph. A few clicks to escalate an extra recovery incentive should be all it takes, and the wait for a manager's approval should be short. These are the kinds of service recovery actions that are infrequent but legendary. They result in great relationships and exceptional public recognition and are highly motivational for employees. Capture the stories and share them internally (your CRM solution does talk to your internal communications intranet … right?).

All the above items should be tracked within your CRM solution. Reporting on these issues should be built into the cadence of your meetings with your sales and service reps and with managers. Chronic service issues should be captured into your issue prioritization system.

Some issues cannot be easily remedied to avoid them in the future. In those cases, capture the standard procedure for rapidly recovering when the issue arises with a knowledge article that can be accessed in your customer self-service portal or emailed to customers when they raise the issue.

LUCK: A Simple Service Recovery Framework

Reducing this entire article to an easy-to-remember framework, create a service recovery process that is powered by LUCK:

  • Listen to customers – capture the dialogue into CRM.
  • Understand their expectations, needs, and experiences – analyze the data and make it available to everyone who interacts with the customer;
  • Connect to solutions – have flexible processes to respond to their needs; and
  • Know the results – capture everything so you can measure and continuously improve.

Geoff Ables is managing partner of C5 Insight.