Last Sunday was the monthly meet up of #brunchclub, a bloggers networking group I belong to . This month, the queen bees (the lovely Laura, Lizzy and Madi) organised goody bags and a guest speaker. The speaker this month was Nate, co-owner of Tuihana Café in Dominion Road.
With a foot in both the café and IT worlds and two of his own businesses there is no doubt Nate was talking to his key demographic. Some of the things he said were so important, and so worth highlighting, that I live tweeted them. Note: Sadly, I ran out of characters for a hashtag so I will link to them all at the end of this post. One thing in particular, however, hit me hard enough I felt it deserved its own blog post: service recovery.
In my 12+ years working the most important thing I have learned is that no matter your business model or sector your customer is everything. This may be easy to see for a café, which has people walking in from the street to buy things all day, but it is just as true for any business no matter how far removed they are from Joe Bloggs on the street. And in a world that revolves around customers the most important asset a company has is customer loyalty.
We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we hire the wrong staff. Sometimes the unexpected happens. Sometimes customers have bad experiences. How we remedy those is often the difference between customer loss and customer loyalty. Most people realise that good service leads to loyal customers. What many don’t realise is that a mistake or bad customer experience is more often than not an opportunity to improve the service you offer.
Service recovery is a tricky business but the true essence of it lies in the opportunity you as a business have to go above and beyond. When a customer has a bad experience don’t just apologise. Don’t just put it back to how it should have been as if nothing happened. Do more. Exceed expectations. Show them they matter to your business on a personal level.
Imagine you worked in a café and a regular customer’s coffee order was made incorrectly. How would do you deal with it? Would you apologise and make them a new one? I would. I’d also give them their money back. Your mistake has cost them time they may not have had to spare. It has frustrated and disappointed them. Making a new coffee shows you know you made a mistake. Refunding their money shows you know it had an impact on them personally.
This, I believe, is what Nate was getting at when he said he empowers his staff to make decisions. He may not have specifically advocated for free coffees when something goes wrong but he allows his staff to assess whether that’s the right response at the time. When you have staff who understand the value of customer loyalty and service recovery, and you allow those staff to act in the best interests of both the business and the customer, everyone wins. And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?