How often do you admit your mistakes?

Are you convinced about the fallacy that accepting your mistakes would make you appear weak? Get out of this subconscious or conscious mindset. If you’re in service industry, you’ll either know or realize that humility is the key to retain loyal customers. You will make mistakes; that’s fine. But the recovery from your mistakes will decide the user experience. People respond well to humility. They love being pampered.

There’s a stronger connect about trust on service qualities and attitude when someone admits a mistake and goes on to repair the damage. I believe that users/customers who have had service failures resolved in time and properly would be more loyal to that company/vendor than people who have had no service failure. A mature service recovery is indeed user friendly.

A few days back, I had a “healthy” lunch with a friend at Pizza Hut. My order was simple – Cheese Pizza with extra toppings of Jalapenos. Somehow the “hot” Mexican chilly was missing. 5 minutes and a sincere apology later, I was relishing the very meal I had intended to. But I admit that the experience was even better. I may not be a huge fan of this Pizza place, but the prompt and humble service recovery did its job in creating a lasting impression, and of course scoring loyalty points.

Service Recovery Practice seems like an art because of its limited occurrences around us. My ego in the past has made me take a stubborn, non-apologetic stance in a couple of cases, where a natural humility (which I’m told I possess) would have worked like a charm – for quicker service recovery and customer retention. I have learnt this art from companies like Reliance Communications. And it’s really profitable to institutionalize this into your service. Let me throw another personal experience…

I’ve had a long association with Reliance Communications as the preferred voice provider. When it came to high-speed mobile Internet requirement, I again chose Reliance NetConnect. Many satisfied customers of a known competitor Tata Photon+ had asked me to give Reliance a skip, as it has few connectivity issues near my residence, which Tata doesn’t. I chose to “wait” for Reliance to fix this issue, for an entire year, because of all the experiences I have had about great service recovery in the past. The issue seemingly has some political dimension to it, and so I did opt for Tata services. But I’m sure to be switching back to Reliance the moment I hear some encouraging news of servicing my residence area.

Reason? Not a blind loyalty, no. Tata services works fine most of the time. But when it goes down, that’s it! Try reaching their customer service and you’ll know. I have given up on calling their customer support, where even before reaching the representative, the call gets dropped. Is it because I’m calling from a Reliance phone? Anyways, not diverting from the topic, Reliance did everything – from sending technicians, to calling regularly to check, to giving free months of service – all for better user experience.

So, what is the take away from this? The quality (usability) of your service – is it about the number of mistakes you make OR is it about how well you recover from your mistakes?

service recovery

All successful brands follow this as a culture. I’ll close this feature with another example: Amazon. Years ago, I had ordered a few seasons of Columbo from Amazon choosing a standard delivery option (that meant between 30-45 days to destination). 45 days of eager wait later, I had not received the DVD set. Amazon was clearly concerned only about my experience, and requested me to wait for another week for them to investigate and revert back with a resolution. A week later, I received a mail and a personal call saying that they have reshipped the entire set using expedite delivery (2-3 days) and are deeply sorry for the wait. Clearly, the shipment was lost in transit, and Amazon never for a second doubted me for raising a false alarm. They showed how it’s done – service recovery! In fact, they were apologetic about not having a good tracking mechanism once the package reaches India.

Whatever industry you’re in, whatever product or service you are selling, make sure you have a mature recovery model implemented. Else, it’s bye-bye users!

Be user-friendly even when you make mistakes…


Vishal Mehta

Vishal Mehta

Vishal Mehta is a UX professional, hands-on designer and coder. He is a consultant to product companies in San Francisco Bay Area. He loves to play chess and design solutions in spare time. He ran a UX company, IDYeah Creations for six years in India. His expressions can be found on popular platforms like UX Booth, Technorati and SAP Community Network.

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