Customer Recovery Strategy: Predetermine solutions to all top problems


When I partner with a company that wants to build loyal relationships with their customers, I absolutely insist that they predetermine recovery strategies for top complaints. This single exercise positions frontline professionals to quickly determine recovery strategies that protect a company’s best customers from defection and strengthen loyalty after a service mishap.

Taken straight from our consulting playbook, here are 5 things I ask my clients to consider when generating solutions for all top problems:


Sometimes the best resolution for the customer is for the company to replace the product. Clearly stating when this is most appropriate will help you offer quick and consistent resolutions.

Replacement “plus”

What I mean here is “make it a double for their trouble.” Let’s say you buy a new vacuum cleaner, get it home put it together, turn it on and it doesn’t work. You gather up the vacuum cleaner, the manual and your receipt, go back to Big Jakes and wait in line for 13 minutes to return it. When Little Jake exchanges it for a new vacuum cleaner, are you satisfied? Sure, you’re happy that the exchange was made, but you were inconvenienced big time. You had to take time out of your busy schedule to fight traffic, find a parking space and wait in line. And now you have to put another vacuum cleaner together. A good recovery would add something to the exchange to account for the “hassle factor”. Little Jake could say, “Ms. Smith, I’m going to give you a free package of vacuum cleaner bags as a concrete apology for the trouble you’ve experienced.”

Determine situations when you want to offer Replacement “plus.” 


There will be times when it’s more appropriate, even advisable, to return the customer’s money instead of replacing the product. Can you decide now when it will be appropriate to refund the money? Or, do you want your employees to make this call?

No compensation

There will be times when no compensation is warranted. Determining this ahead of time positions staff to respond with greater confidence and keeps them from giving the store away. 


This might include a follow-up call or note to the customer.

Proactively generating best-fit solutions for your top problems positions frontline staff to respond to complaints with confidence and consistency and helps ensure decisions are made that balance both the interests of the customer and the company. If you’d like to learn more about positioning your employees to make recovery decisions that protect both loyalty and profits, consider partnering with me for consulting, training or an unforgettable keynote. Learn more at

Myra Golden helps companies completely restore customer confidence in their brands after service failures. Considered one of the leading experts in customer recovery, she has helped hundreds of organizations rethink and redesign their complaint response processes so they are positioned to retain more customers, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profits. Myra has designed customer recovery programs for such companies as Verizon Business, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, National Car Rental, Michelin Tires and Frito Lay. She is co-author of Beyond WOW! The Service Leadership Approach to Exceptional Customer Service.


Set Your Ducklings Free [EMPOWER Your People]

Mother Duck and Ducklings by Myra Golden
Mother Duck and Ducklings, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

Last Saturday my family and I enjoyed a fabulous lunch on the river and after lunch we strolled along the river and watched the ducks, geese, and boats. My mother joyfully motioned for me to look down under a shade tree. I looked and saw a mother duck and 5 ducklings. The ducklings were simply adorable! The mother duck watched carefully, yet not intensely, over her little ones. I was rather surprised to see a couple of the ducklings venture out and swim. They swam several yards away. They were so very tiny and I worried that they might swim too far and maybe get separated from their mother. The mother duck seemed confident that they’d be fine and she was unmoved by the fact that her tiny ducklings swam so far away.

On and on the ducklings swam. Soon, the other ducklings ventured out too and in a different direction. Mother duck stayed put. Her ducklings were fine because ducks were born to swim and they knew how to find their way back to mama. As I watched the ducklings swim to the other side of the river and downstream, I thought about a manager and employees and empowerment.

In order to thrive and to create the most value to companies and customers, employees need the freedom to venture out and “swim.” If you’ve hired the right-fit employees, it is their nature to take care of customers and to use good judgment when making decisions about how to resolve any issues customers encounter. Managers need to confidently let employees go and take care of customers, knowing that they will do right by customers and the company. And if they get into a pinch, employees know how to come and find you.

Zappos has a Confident Mother Duck Mentality. Zappos employees are empowered to do what it takes to fix problems customers encounter. Employees are free to send customers flowers, chocolates, or a product replacement. Mother ducks at Zappos don’t shadow their ducklings. There is no set dollar amount for empowerment. Employees are trusted to do what is right by the customer.

Are your ducklings free to venture out and do what they feel is right by customers? Or do you impose strict rules to keep them caged in? Consider letting your ducklings set sail. Trust that when they do what’s right by the customer, they’ve done what’s right by the company. When you set your ducklings free, you’ll find that customer satisfaction increases, the customer experience improves, and employees’ job autonomy shoots through the roof. Set your ducklings free!

The #1 Turn Off for Your Customers (And How to Beat it)

What gets an unhappy customer’s blood boiling? What fuels negative word-of-mouth stories and sends customers to the competition? What is it that sets a customer off to the point that they upload a YouTube video, post a negative tweet, or blasts a brand on a blog?

It turns out there’s a stinky little yoke that keeps organizations from truly serving customers. And it’s frustrating employees. Break this yoke and you will start delighting and retaining customers like never before.

The unnecessary, show-stopping, customer-infuriating yoke is lack of empowerment. And it’s keeping organizations from satisfying and keeping customers.

Customers hate being told, “I’ll have to check with my manager.” or “This is all I can do.” When employees’ hands are tied, it sends the message to customers that the organization isn’t willing to give employees the power to take care of customers. The message to employees is, “Management doesn’t trust you.”

Empowered employees have the authority, knowledge, and enthusiasm to take care of customers. Empowered employees are instrumental in helping organizations retain and restore customer relationships. Empowered employees feel trusted and respected and in turn, have higher morale and productivity than non-empowered employees.

Three Elements of Empowerment

Empowerment only works when employees have the competence, authority, and readiness to initiate action to swiftly satisfy customers. Let’s take a closer look at each of these dimensions.

1. CompetenceAll employees who interact with customers must have training that develops and enhances skills in communication, creative problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution, and diplomacy and tact. Agents for the U.S. Secret Service, who are among the world’s most highly trained recovery specialists, go through a comprehensive assortment of recovery drills before they work in the field. Agents spend hours thinking about what might happen and discussing and planning for all the possible contingencies (Hart, Heskett, and Sasser, Jr., 1990).  Your employees need training with this same level of intensity and attention to detail.

2. Authority– Frontline employees must have the power to use their judgment to make decisions to resolve problems and satisfy customers.  They need to know that their decisions won’t be questioned and if things should go wrong with their decision, there won’t be a penalty for sincerely working to regain a customer’s goodwill.

3. Readiness – Service employees must always be “standing on the ready” to immediately take action to fix problems customers experience. They need to be adept in determining customer’s needs, even unexpressed needs, and confidently take swift action to correct problems and ensure customer satisfaction. The Leadership Center at Ritz-Carlton has a course called “Radar On/Antenna Up” and one of the core ideas taught in the course is to anticipate customers unexpressed needs and concerns.  For the Ritz-Carlton this might mean getting a cold bottle of water in the hand of guest who is returning from a run or noticing that guests are asking for an unusual wake-up call and may need something to take with them for breakfast (Michchelli, 2008). Your employees need not only be positioned to solve expressed problems, but they need to have their radars on and antennas up looking to meet unexpressed needs.

Empowerment needs to be ingrained into your culture; a way of life in your organization. Empowered employees feel more trust from their supervisors and managers and they most often handle that trust very well.  In an empowered organization, customers are taken care of more quickly and completely and customer satisfaction and loyalty are measurably increased.

Break the yoke that turns customers off and sends them to the competition or triggers negative word-of-mouth advertising. Ready! Set! EMPOWER!

Sources Cited:

Michelli, Joseph, A., “The New Standard”, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2008.

Hart, Heskett, and Sasser, Jr., “The Profitable Art of Service Recovery” Harvard Business Review, 1990.