Recovering from Service Mistakes

Like Comment

Last week’s Tip discussed an aspect of customer service. We continue another week of that theme; however, this week we explore recovery from service mistakes. While there is much we can and should do to minimize service mistakes, it is nearly impossible to get them down to zero, and even more challenging still that we can totally avoid customer complaint and dissatisfaction. When failure does occur, a business’s response can either strengthen loyalty or worsen the situation by driving the consumer to a competitor, and perhaps worse still, evoke negative word of mouth, official complaints against an employee, or even litigation. Service providers must address recovery situations to continue positive relationships with consumers.

Harun et al conducted a study to provide an operational guideline and strategic decision-making process for service failure and recovery.1 They looked into the comparative effects of service recovery strategies on perceptions of justice in the post-complaint consumer’s mind. This study found 5 elements that were significant in creating a post-complaint perception of justice among consumers. In order of importance they were: response speed, problem-solving, courtesy, apology, and explanation. Moreover, the research found that perception of justice was so important that it led to feelings of loyalty. Feelings of loyalty resulted in positive word of mouth. Additionally, perception of justice, alone, even independent of loyalty perceptions, resulted in positive word of mouth about how the service incident was handled post-complaint. In other words, when the service mistake was handled effectively, it not only avoided customer loss and grievance, it actually resulted in the customer spreading POSITIVE word about the business.

Pharmacy managers can themselves heed these results in providing customer service but also train and empower staff to handle service mistakes, whether the mistake was committed by themselves or by a colleague. Customers/patients want courtesy, an apology, and an explanation for what went wrong, how, and/or why. But doing those things is not enough. In fact, they might mean very little compared to two other actions; specifically, that an attempt to rectify the mistake is undertaken very quickly and that the problem(s) was/were resolved by the action taken. If an employee is not empowered to handle service mistakes and always has to “ask the manager”, this will only exacerbate the service mistake.

Additional information about Customer Service in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Harun H, Rokonuzzaman M, Prybutok G, Prybutok VR. How to influence consumer mindset: A perspective from service recovery. J Retail Consumer Services. 2018;42:65-77. 

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California

1 Comment

Go to the profile of Shane Desselle
Shane Desselle about 1 month ago

Do you agree with the list in importance of elements that yield perceived justice? Are you surprised that excellent recovery actually engenders loyalty?