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What do we understand by the term Service Recovery – “It is essentially the action a service provider takes in response to service failure. A thought out, planned process of returning an aggrieved customer to a state of satisfaction with a company/service.”

To Illustrate and explain this better, let me share a recent incident that happened with me.

The other I was at home with my family and we were all craving some oriental food. I picked up the phone and dialled in to order food from my personal favourite (and very reputed) oriental restaurant.  The order was taken in a polite, respectable and professional manner. While closing the call the order taker promptly informed me that the food would take about 45 minutes – something, which I was expecting.

An hour had passed and there was no sign of the food, everyone in my family was now starving. In my mind, I was giving them the benefit of doubt (because I was a regular here and personally loved the food they served) maybe the delivery guy had lost his way, or they were packed with orders. However, I called them up again to check and the response was “Our delivery boy is already on the way, Sir, allow me to check with where he has reached and get back to you”. I patiently waited for him to call back for about ten minutes, which eventually did not happen, forcing me to make the call again. This time the response was “Sir, I am trying to get in touch with our delivery boy but his phone is not reachable”. This situation carried on for about the next half an hour – by which time, it was way past dinner time for most of my family. It had now been almost 1 hour and 35 minutes since the order had been placed. Within the next five minutes I got a call from the Manager of the Restaurant, who seemed to know what the problem was, and immediately apologized, and said, Sir, “we are still in the process of locating the delivery boy, I am extremely sorry, and we will not be charging you for this meal” (not that this was very important but nonetheless). He went on to say ‘I understand how hungry you must be at this point and we are trying our level best to locate the delivery boy, I will call you as soon as we can locate him “After a couple of minutes, the manager called back to tell me that they had been able to get in touch with the delivery boy and he would be at my doorstep in the next five minutes – and so he was. The order was made complementary and after I finished my meal, the manager called me again to apologize and went on to share his number with me to call him directly for any future orders that I would like to place at the restaurant. 1 hour and 35 minutes for a food order to be delivered is a lot of time. I had more than enough of a reason to be angry, upset and never order from this restaurant again. However, that is not what happened, I continue to order food from this restaurant and whilst I was angry and upset initially, those feelings were rather short-lived. 

What happened here is a perfect example of a well-executed Service Recovery. In the Hospitality Industry or for that matter any Industry where there is a high degree of Customer Interaction – at some point or other things will go wrong, mistakes will happen (it is part and parcel of being human). What set’s organizations and companies apart is how they recover from a situation that has gone wrong. In the situation outlined above the manager did not come in and wave a magic wand that fixed the situation, however, there were a few things that he did do in during his interaction with me that helped:

Ownership: Instead of letting the order taker continue to handle the situation, he stepped in and took ownership. When he spoke with me he took ownership of the fact that something has gone wrong at their end without trying to spin a web of excuses around it.

Empathy: He empathized with me and my situation, trying to understand how a person would feel if their order has been delayed by over 45 minutes. By displaying Empathy he gave me a sense that he cares.

A Genuine Apology: “I’m sorry” – those 2 words can often diffuse anger and bridge an emotional gap between two people in a wide range of situations. An apology, as simple as it may seem, is an important step in moving the situation away from the negative and into the positive, action-focused arena.

Making Amends: Whilst he did offer to waive off the bill, which was a great gesture on his part, in most cases when things do go wrong it’s not a financial waive off that customers are looking at. It is more about being treated fairly. Making amends is a means for righting a wrong. It can be as simple as making a sincere apology, sending a follow-up letter, or may include a small gift or token of appreciation.

These are some of the steps involved in executing Service Recovery and if done correctly you encounter what is called the Service Recovery Paradox – A situation in which a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem with their service, compared to how he or she would regard the company if non-faulty service had been provided. The thought is that the successful recovery of a faulty service leads to increased assurance and confidence among customers.

The Customer Experience Impact Report highlights the top two reasons for customer loss as:

1) Customers feeling poorly treated and

2) Failure to solve a problem in a timely manner

A well-defined service recovery model can help your organization tackle both these reasons head on.

EHL Advisory Services using its deep rooted expertise, history, credibility and knowledge can not only help you define an effective Service Recovery Model but go a step further by assisting your organization in the activation of a Service mind-set and driving Service Excellence. Our end to end solutions are tailor-made, keeping your customer at the focal point and bringing Service Excellence at the forefront of your differentiating strategy to foster your brand.


Kanav MATA

Kanav Mata Consultant India

At EHL Advisory Services, Kanav is a consultant based at the India office. As a key member of the Hospitality Advisory & Service DNA team, he is responsible for People, Process and Product development related solutions for hospitality and non-hospitality companies. Using his varied experience in the field of Hospitality and Learning & Development, he designs and delivers end-to-end solutions with a clear and measurable output. He is also responsible for generating various training mandates on Behavioral Skills, Service Excellence, Personal Excellence and Leadership Skills (across industry verticals) in India and the Middle East.

Prior to EHL Advisory Services, he worked in the hospitality industry with a Luxury Brand in various managerial positions for over 8 years. He then moved into the field of Learning and Development and worked with a Boutique Learning and Development Consulting firm, where in his last role he was heading a team of Master Trainers, Subject Matter and Process Experts and Instructional and User Experience Designers – executing customized and cutting edge Training and Consultancy solutions across Industry Verticals.

A graduate in Hospitality Management from the University of Huddersfield, he is a Train the Trainer, Trainer Mastery Class certified trainer and has completed a course on Gamification from the University of Pennsylvania.

He is fluent in English and Hindi and has a basic understanding of Bengali.

Areas of Focus:

  • Service Culture Design and Implementation
  • Customer Experience Definition and Excellence
  • People, Process and Product Development
  • Human Resources Cycle
  • e-Learning & Blended Learning Solutions
  • Hospitality Operations, Food & Beverage