We’ve seen it happen before: A client has booked a session, comes in, is greeted by you or your front desk team member, is taken back to relax on your table, and you do everything within your power to give her the best experience possible.
Yet, once she is out front, she is upset. Maybe she was taken back late, or the front desk team member wasn’t as welcoming as he should have been, or the client didn’t receive the complimentary hot towel she usually gets when she goes to the spa down the street.
Regardless, whether the staff or the client is at fault, sometimes our very best can fall short of a client’s expectations—and how we handle that unhappy customer complaint can affect our business.
So, let’s talk service recovery!
Correct Negative Experiences
Service recovery is the action that you take to correct the negative experience that an unhappy customer may have had in your care. One thing we must always keep in the back of our mind is, “How can I get this client to come back?”
Yes, the client may have had a bad experience, but if you have the ability to turn her situation around, this can help your business and repeat clientele tremendously.
There are three basic steps you can take in order to correct a complaint:
Thanking the client for calling the problem to your attention so you can do something about it is an easy way to keep the client calm. It is hard for someone to stay mad after you have thanked him. Saying “thank you” lessens tensions and can help to calm any anger. Always start that difficult conversation with a thank you.
If you recognize that a client has been put out or inconvenienced, by offering an apology you are essentially telling this client, “You are important; your time is important. You don’t deserve this hassle and I’m sorry that this has happened to you.”
Again, it is tough for a client to stay angry when you are showing concern for him. Oftentimes he will expect you to be defensive or blaming, so surprise him!
You can easily defuse a situation by apologizing for the problem, no matter whose fault it is.
3. Take Action.
People are impressed when you actually do something about a problematic situation. It shows the client that you are trying to help her and that you do care about her experience. If you receive a complaint, see if it is something that can be fixed while the client waits.
Ask her to explain the situation to you. Let her talk, which can be very important, so she gets her say first. Remember: People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Ask specific questions, so the client can let you know what she feels. Many times, clients just want someone to listen to them and take them seriously. If it helps, take notes while he talks. You can say, “Let me make a note so I can be sure I’ve got it right.”
No matter what action you take, let that client know that you have heard her complaint and you are going to do something about it.
Guests can get upset over something you have no control over. All these are opportunities for you to practice service recovery skills. They depend, basically, on using courtesy and common sense.
Here are some additional guidelines to try when you are handling a dissatisfied client:
- Be Compassionate. Try to place yourself in that unhappy customer’s position. Make sure she is aware of your concern and try not to place blame.
- Empathize. Allow the client to vent her disappointment and frustration. Offer an empathetic ear and try to provide a realistic solution.
- Anticipate the Positive. Assume the client will be cooperative. Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy—we usually get what we expect.
- Be Direct. Provide the information in a direct manner. Do not beat around the bush or leave the client with only half of the information. Once again, move to find solutions as quickly as possible.
- Ask for Understanding. Clients are humans, and they realize things happen unexpectedly. Thank the client for understanding your situation.
- Do Not Give Excuses. As much as we listen to theirs, clients do not want to hear your problems. They may not care if the therapist woke up late or if the computer broke down. What they are looking for is solutions, so take responsibility for the problem and negotiate a workable solution.
It Isn’t Personal
Remember, your first challenge is to defuse the situation. Recognize it is nothing personal, and if you stay calm yourself you will find it is easier to help someone else.
Your clients will be able to recognize that you not only care about what happens to them in session but outside as well—and they can become some of your most loyal customers.
About the Author