Customer Recovery: Turn bad Experiences into Unforgettable Good Moments


Usabilla blog

August 1, 2018

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Not even the best strategies or processes can prevent things from going wrong every now and then. It’s inevitable: every organization eventually drops the ball with a customer. We call this a “failure” and it occurs whenever reality doesn’t meet customer expectations.

Unmet customer expectations are often the main determinants of customer switching behavior. On the positive side, there are some preemptive measures that you can take to mitigate these risks.

What’s Customer Recovery

Customer recovery is the action a company takes in response to a service failure, in an effort to convert previously dissatisfied customers into loyal ones. Successful companies have a process that not only mitigates incoming customer complaints, but also make the customer feel really good about the experience. There are two crucial elements of a successful resolution plan: urgency and a sincere apology.


In the long term, service recovery has a positive impact on customer retention, satisfaction, brand reputation and word-of-mouth. And, while most companies place a greater focus on customer acquisition than on customer retention, we all know that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to twenty-five times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

Let’s take the example of an airline company using a sincere apology. There is nothing worse than having your holiday dreams shattered by a delay, a rebooking or cancellation of your flight. To make passengers’ lives a bit easier in these unfortunate cases, KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, automatically offers coupons for food and beverages for delays longer than three hours through their app. They also do an amazing job at sending timely updates on the status of your flight, acknowledging the sense of urgency you feel while waiting for your flight information.


The Service Recovery Paradox

The service recovery paradox is a situation where a customer thinks more highly of an organization after it has corrected an issue the customer might have encountered with their service, compared to how the customer would view the company if no service failure had happened. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to purposely create negative experiences for your customers. Just keep in mind that the service recovery paradox doesn’t operate as well in the case of extreme or repeated failures and problems that could have been prevented by the company.

Going back to the airline company example, let’s say your flight got cancelled, but the airline company offers you another flight of your choice on the same day together with a discount voucher for future travels. Nice of them, right? According to the Service Recovery Paradox, you would have a more positive attitude towards the carrier than you would have had if no problem occurred.

Building a Service Recovery Strategy

Signalling the issue

Naturally, negative experiences compel customers to leave feedback. When they do, you need to make sure you are facilitating that experience. How? Give them the option to easily reach out to you aside from the standard channels like social media and customer support. A Voice of Customer solution is a great way to start. Whenever customers run into issues, are unable to complete tasks or experience any form of friction, they can leave their comments, thoughts and suggestions via a feedback button, thus making you aware of some otherwise hidden problems.

Again, back to the airline example: do your customers get frustrated only when a flight is delayed? Or do they also experience issues with the ticket order process? Do they know how to book multiple flights? Do they know how to change seats? Is information on baggage allowance easily found? By listening to your customers directly, you can get a better understanding of what they expect from your service and work towards achieving that.

Alternatively, you can take preemptive measures and tackle possible customer issues by proactively asking them for feedback. You can trigger a survey to ask for customer input whenever someone spends a longer time on a specific page or when they motion to exit the website without completing their purchase. There’s probably a good reason for doing so: maybe they didn’t find the checkout button, maybe there weren’t sufficient payment options, or they lacked the instructions to move forward with their purchase.


An example of a Usabilla survey triggered after a customer motions to exit the webpage. Insights on why users exited a page can have a large impact on increasing conversion.

Investigate and solve the reported issues

Customer feedback will give you several insights. The technical issues the customer mentions when they leave feedback can potentially be solved on the spot. But what about the non-technical CX related issues? For this, you will need to dig a bit deeper to get a better understanding of your customers expectations.

Start your investigation by asking questions. Don’t think about the long customer satisfaction surveys reviewing the complete experience, but run micro surveys targeted right at the specific interaction of the customer; just a couple of specific questions regarding a feature or area of your platform. This will not only help you uncover the core of the problem, but it will also reveal your customers’ true concerns. Questions signal to the customer that you are engaged and care about what they have to say. Once you have uncovered the true issue, you can start working on fixing it in a timely manner.

Closing the loop

Communication is key to a good recovery strategy: internally and externally. Once you’ve organized and analyzed the feedback, it’s essential that you get it to the right people within your organization. Feedback workflows help you to get insights, issues and expectations of your customers to the responsible teams within your organization. These insights will help you to prevent such problems from occurring again in the future.


Once the issue is solved, circle back with the customer to make sure everything is in order and thank them for their involvement. Integrating feedback in the processes of your customer care team can help you create an efficient resolution process. Not every item of feedback will need to be closed, but you can use your feedback to address pertinent issues in internal and external newsletter, in meetings, and in planning the future of digital channels.

Mistakes happen. Inevitably, things will go wrong and when they do, you are faced with an opportunity to make your customers even happier than they were before. “Failures” actually become opportunities to re-engage and delight your customers, to act urgently and offer them a sincere apology. What customers really want is to feel heard. Enhance your customer recovery process by opening up multiple channels of feedback, and create comprehensive workflows to act on the valuable insights you receive.

Take advantage of the bad situations! When you implement a strong customer recovery strategy, your organization will be able to turn unhappy customers into loyal ones, and ultimately become more customer-centric.

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