How to Avoid a Breakdown This National Workaholics Day.

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Today is National Workaholics Day. The definition of a workaholic is a person who compulsively works hard and long hours, according to As devoted as the worker is, it can cause many problems such as some forms of stress, putting work before hobbies and exercise, and working so much it takes a toll on your health. With the potential for breakdowns, overworking can lead to very negative customer experience.

Here, Micah Solomon from Forbes gives ‘4 Steps From Customer Anger To Customer Loyalty: The Expert Customer Service Recovery Method‘.

‘Breakdowns in customer service are unavoidable. An ice storm forces you to miss a customer’s shipping deadline. A waiter drops a tray in a customer’s lap. [I confess to this one personally, back in my brief and colorful career as a waiter.]  A computer system goes down. A key person walks out on you with no notice—on the only day you couldn’t possibly arrange coverage.

All of this, potentially, is good news.

Service breakdowns are uncomfortable, and they require training to resolve. But you’ll find an opportunity hidden inside your company’s worst moments: the opportunity to bring a customer closer to you. Indeed, you can learn to handle service breakdowns so masterfully that they actually help you to create loyal customers.

Here’s how.

The Four Steps to Great Service Recoveries

Train your employees to respond to each service failure with a specific stepwise sequence:

1. Apologize and ask for forgiveness: A real apology, not a fakey fake “I’m sorry if you feel that way.”

2. Review the complaint with your customer: turn your customers, in other words, into your customer service consultants, letting them explain what’s gone wrong in the customer experience in the customer’s view and what you should do to fix it.

3. Fix the problem and then follow up: Either fix the issue in the next twenty minutes or follow up within twenty minutes to check on the customer and explain the progress you have made. Follow up after fixing things as well, to show continuing concern and appreciation.

4. Document the problem in detail to allow you to permanently fix the defect by identifying trends.

Let’s look at each step in more detail.

Step 1: Apologize and Ask for Forgiveness. What’s needed here is a sincere, personal, non-mechanical apology.

There are many creative and sensitive ways to convey that you recognize and regret what your customer has been through. It helps to think through what a customer wanta out of an apology? She wants to be listened to, closely. She wants to know you’re genuinely sorry. She wants to know you think she’s right, at least in some sense. She wants to know you are taking her input seriously.

Overall, she wants to feel important to you.

This means that the key to an effective apology, to getting back on the right foot with your customer, is to convey at the outset that you are going to take her side and share her viewpoint.

Step 2: Go Over the Complaint with Your Customer. In Step 1, you’ve begun an alliance with your customer; in Step 2, those collaborative feelings will let you explore what she needs for a good outcome.

Fully exploring the customer’s issue often requires you to ask rudimentary questions—even ones that can feel insulting to a customer, like “Are you sure you typed your password correctly?’’ I refer to these as DYPII (‘‘Did You Plug It In?’’) questions. DYPII questions are likely to get customer hackles up. If you raise DYPII questions before you’ve finished Step 1, they’ll often be considered offensive. But after you’ve developed collaborative feelings in Step 1, the same questions are generally tolerated well.

Just hold off with all the DYPIIness for now. Don’t leap straight into problem solving.

Your customer and you will get there eventually, together.

Step 3: Fix the Problem and Then Follow Up. So you’ve decided to replace a substandard service or product. That’s a step in the right direction—but it’s only a first step. Remember that the customer has been stressed, inconvenienced, and slowed down by your company. Merely giving her back what she expected to receive initially–before all this trouble–is not going to restore satisfaction.

A key principle in fixing a problem is to resolve the customer’s sense of injustice—of having been wronged or let down. You do this by providing something extra.

You can find a way to restore the smile to almost any customer’s face, whether it’s a free upgrade or a more creative offering, like one on one consultation time with an expert on your staff. Collaborate with your wronged customer to figure out what would feel like valuable compensation to her, or use your initiative to get going in the right direction.

Ideally, your ‘‘something extra’’ will change the nature of the event for her: your special and creative efforts on her behalf will come to the foreground in the picture of the event she paints for herself and others, online or off, and the initial problem will move to the background.

The Elements of Follow-Up

Various approaches to the follow-up are appropriate in different service settings, but they all should include immediate, internal, and wrap-up components.

Immediate Follow-Up If you’ve handled the problem yourself, check in promptly with the customer after the intended resolution. This underscores your concern. It also lets you catch lingering unresolved issues. Immediate follow-up is also important when you have reassigned the customer’s problem to somebody else. For example: Suppose that you work in sales. A customer calls you (because you’re the person she knows) to report being inconvenienced by a glitch on your website.

Naturally, you hand off the technical resolution of the problem to your IT department. But will you ever know if IT actually ends up implementing a workable solution for your customer? Whether she ends up feeling taken care of by the technician? You’ll only find out if you check back in.

Internal Follow-up Others in your organization need to be alerted immediately to the service failure a customer experienced. Here’s why such service failure alerts are a hallmark of exceptional businesses:

• Your staff will know that any further interactions with this customer should be rechecked beyond the usual quality control.

• Your staff is cued to interact with the customer appropriately after the failure. It is not the customer’s responsibility to explain her troubles once again—unless she wants to. Nor should she be forced to ‘’act happy’’ to match your staff ’s incorrect expectations. They should already be aware of what he’s been through. For example: A restaurant can grace the departures of such customers with relevant words of thanks from the manager or maitre d’: ‘‘Your business means a lot to us, and we appreciate your patience this evening: I’m so sorry about the mix-up with your entrées and look forward to doing a better job for you next time.’’ This beats an off-puttingly cheery ‘‘How was everything this evening?’’ that makes it sound like the left hand doesn’t know that the right hand dropped the soufflé.)

• You can flag the unfortunate customer’s file for special treatment during her next visit or transaction—even if that special treatment is just the ability to return a knowing look or to share a laugh at your own expense.

Wrap-Up: Solidify your relationship with the customer by following up again with a handwritten note or a phone call when the episode is over: ‘‘I’m sorry you experienced this problem. I’m so pleased to have you as a customer, and I am looking forward to welcoming you back.’’ Doing this by email is all right if you’re solely an online business, but it won’t have the same impact.

Step 4: Document the Problem in Detail. It’s natural to want to give yourself a breather after solving a customer’s problem. Still, make sure your staff is trained to record, every single time, the details of what went wrong—promptly, before the memory can fade or distort. I call this the deposition. Be scrupulous: The only way to prevent serious problems from recurring is to document the problem for careful analysis later.

Your goal in using this documentation is to identify trends or patterns that hint at underlying causes. For example, you might notice that a problem tends to happen around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays when Billy is on the job. This could lead you to consider whether Billy may have missed a particular training module. Or it happens only between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., which leads you to notice that a freight elevator is always under maintenance at that time, creating unacceptably slow service.

Or the complaints are always about rear wiper blades you sell, but only in your Eastern and Midwest franchises, leading you to discover an interaction between salted roads and the particular rear blades you stock.’

Whether you call them customers, guests, patients, patrons, riders, fans or clients, BARE International can create a program to measure their experience interacting with your brand. Every 2 minutes, a BARE evaluation or audit is completed by our field force of more than 500,000 evaluators. Using calls, clicks or in-person visits, the common thread of our services is always revealing the moment of truth when your customers interact with your brand.

Let BARE International reveal the true nature of your business. Contact us today for a complimentary evaluation today.