#CustomerExperienceFAIL: How You Recover is Critically Important to Your Business

Posted On June 8, 2015
By Wayne Morris

with Ari Ashkenas

It’s never good news when an organization drops the ball during an interaction with their customer, but in reality this happens all the time. How an organization reacts immediately in the face of failure determines whether or not it can recover.

In today’s digital age where everyone carries a smartphone and moves at lightning speed, news about customer experience transgressions moves through cyberspace at an alarming rate and develops a momentum that, if left unchecked, could cause real and lasting damage to a brand

Imagine your company’s #CustomerExperienceFAIL stories going viral on Twitter – probably not very good for business.

 For instance, take the following story:

On a recent business trip, my colleague and I stayed at a hotel that was recommended by our client. After working all day, we decided that we would meet at the hotel restaurant for dinner, finish up some work and take in the basketball game together. My colleague remains kosher in his diet, and, because the hotel restaurant menu did not offer kosher options, he decided to bring his own food so we could dine together. We found a good spot at the bar in front of the biggest screen and began eating. Almost immediately, the employee behind the bar came over and informed us that we could not eat “outside” food at the bar area and that we would need to move into the common area to watch the game.

My colleague calmly explained his situation, but the server only responded, “I’m sorry, sir; that’s just our policy.”

We proceeded to move to a common area that was located far away from the big screens, but that had another TV and some seating.

Within about 5 minutes, the server came over to deliver a TV remote so we could control the TV and said, “If it was up to me, it would be no problem, but my supervisor is a real stickler for the rules. In fact, this is something that comes directly from the Director of Food and Beverage!”

Yet at no point during the interaction did the employee offer a sincere apology or offer to make the situation better.

In many circumstances, this marks the beginning of a #CustomerExperienceFail. While policies regarding consumption of “outside” food are, in fact, quite reasonable and should be followed, there may be some instances where exceptions to the rule are appropriate. However, all too often employees blindly enforce policies without first understanding the specifics of the situation.

The next morning, we left the hotel for meetings at our client. When we returned, I was greeted by an employee at the registration desk who asked me how my day was going. Still affected by the events from the night prior, I responded that I have been better. He sensed that something was wrong and asked if there was anything he could do to improve my day. I explained the situation. He immediately notified the Manager on Duty, who came out to speak with me. Upon hearing the story, she was clearly mortified and assured me that she would make it right for my colleague.

When my colleague checked out later that day, he was showered with apologies at the front desk and was presented with 10,000 reward points for his trouble. Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, the manager explained that his situation would be shared as a case study at the next hotel leadership meeting to ensure that this would not happen to future guests.

Two weeks later, my colleague and I once again returned to the hotel. At check-in, he was greeted warmly and with a smile and was pleasantly surprised to find that his room had been upgraded. He was granted concierge lounge access and was also presented with a complimentary drink voucher for that evening.

Talk about a rebound and recovery! The hotel staff took great steps to erase a bad memory and create an even stronger, positive one.

In order to make a full recovery from a poor customer experience, organizations must react quickly and take immediate steps to focus on the things that matter: listening, sincerity, authenticity, and a willingness to apologize and make things right when things go wrong.

The recovery that the hotel made after such a poor experience was truly impressive. Not only did the hotel recognize that they made a mistake, they apologized sincerely, listened to our concerns and executed change immediately.

Keep this in mind the next time you have a #CustomerExperienceFail!