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Service Excellence – How to Turn Negative Experiences into Positive Impressions

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It’s a universal law, according to Mr. Murphy. No matter how much planning and diligence goes in, sometimes things go wrong. As PR pros, we take great care to ensure quality and accuracy in every aspect of our work, but from time to time we make mistakes. But garden variety errors, omissions and misunderstandings do not have to be fatal. If handled properly, they can actually leave a lasting and positive impression, strengthen working relationships and increase sales conversion.

I waited tables in college. If everything went as expected, I typically received nice tips. If things went somewhere south of expected, it didn’t have to mean I’d get a bad tip. With the right mix of listening and action, an undercooked steak or weak cocktail could net me a better tip than if the service was perfect. Why? Because in those instances, I stepped up my service game to counter balance the mistake.

When things go as planned, good service becomes mundane and unmemorable. When things go wrong, attention peaks, needs are more acute and even simple gestures seem heroic.

Whether dissatisfaction stems from a customer complaint, negative review, missed opportunity, miscalculation or a communication breakdown, these three steps will help you find remedies faster and avoid typical pitfalls that block favorable resolutions.

Step 1: Reach out in person or by phone ASAP

Key actions: Offer earnest apologies, not excuses. Assign corrective action, not blame.

Where people often go wrong: Reinforcing the negative aspects of the situation by being defensive or agitated. Look for the silver linings and focus on ways you and your customer can make things better.

Step 2: Understand and solve for immediate needs

Key actions: Go one step beyond a “make-good” and deliver something extra to show appreciation for their inconvenience.

Where people often go wrong: Worrying about short-term costs, trying to save face and avoid responsibility. Don’t short change the value of a customer relationship and undermine the power of positive word of mouth advertising by side stepping nominal expenditures of time or money. Compare the overall value of that customer relationship over time to the cost of re-running an ill-fated print job or doubling down on staff time to ensure perfection the second time around.

Step 3: Dissect and address the root cause of the problem

Key actions: Listen and take time to understand the root cause of the issue. Was insufficient time spent planning? Build more face time with client. Was lack of training a factor? Request product materials or sit in on a training sessions. Were details just missed? Put more checks and balances into your review process for deliverables. Is your communication style camouflaging important information? Revamp your status calls and summary emails accordingly.

Where people often go wrong: Stopping service at the immediate need, fix or make-good. Unless you take steps necessary to make improvements on a deeper level, you’re only buying your time until the same mistake happens again. That’s unacceptable.

The big takeaway is, don’t let a mistake define you or your company. Be proactive, intuitive and resourceful and the negative experience will fade quickly. Your commitment to service excellence will be the impression that lasts.

positive and negative…” by Roger Casado on Flickr, used under CC BY / Cropped from original

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