Customer Service vs. Customer Recovery

One of the topics that The Social XChange is exploring in greater depth with Social 3.0 is the difference between customer service and customer recovery.

What is the difference you may ask? For companies such as ZapposSouthwest Airlines, and State Farm, customer service begins with the first sale or interaction and they gain and retain a customer with that initial experience.

In other words, if you get the initial transaction wrong (billing issue, defective product, or a bad internal process) then the client may have to call back, write or chat on your website, use self-service, or post to Social sites in order to have their situation corrected.  This creates a “customer recovery” opportunity.  You broke it, you fix it, but this effort may not save the long term customer relationship and certainly increases customer frustration.

Unfortunately, this is the way most customer facing centers are built – for recovery.  The alliance of FSM (Finance, Sales and Marketing) has long believed that customer service is a “cost center“, built to deliver “world class” customer care by fixing what went wrong on the front end of the transaction while increasing customer satisfaction and retention.

With every new product, price or process put in place, FSM calculates “breakage”.  Breakage, by definition, is the amount of customers affected by a defective, wrong or incompatible product, a price increase or simply a new internal process that benefits the company at the expense of the customer.   The number of people who will leave due to breakage and the number of people that customer facing agents “save” are also calculated.

In most cases, the focus for FSM is squarely on recovery – so it begs the question “how does this increase customer satisfaction?” Eventually, many customers will uncover the fact that they are not receiving “customer service”.

So therein lies the disconnect between customer service and customer recovery.  Unless the emphasis is to fix processes which cause “breakage” on the front end, a company will not be able to truly be known as “world class”.  All companies make mistakes and a flexible “recovery” plan is vital, but it should not be the focus of ones efforts.  Understanding the difference between service and recovery is critical, especially when a company gets only one chance to make it right.

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