In my interview with Kelley Jones, he stated unequivocally that what separates good restaurant managers from average ones is follow though. Kelley further stated less than 5% of the managers out there reliably followed-up; a very sobering number. This led me to start thinking about follow-through and how it relates to Service Recovery.
Unlike most other business where the success of complaint recovery often hinges on a stranger’s voice in a call center somewhere, a spa, hotel, or restaurant complaint will often be resolved in person. Sure, some complaints come in from guest surveys, but even then hospitality operators have a huge advantage in that they can research significant complaints before the response.
Complaint resolution is not a knowledge based service, it is a skill. You have a guest there, she is mad, and the staff member has to deal with it. Scripted standards and training may help, but the bottom line is that it is two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and you desperately need a base hit.
In analyzing hotel mystery shopping research findings prepared by our network of professional evaluators, we always test ‘Complaint Recovery’ to see how staff responds to a guest complaint. We measure the effectiveness of the recovery around these basic principles:
1. How quick was the guest able to reach a staff member?
2. Did the staff member address the problem with care/empathy?
3. What was the level of discovery?
4. How resourceful was the staff member in resolving the issue?
5. How was the follow-up?
Hotels, restaurants, spas and cruise lines as a group generally perform well at items 1-2. Staff are usually very accessible, and the vast majority apologize and show sincere concern. The level of discovery and resourcefulness varies by the complexity of the complaint, but again staff are usually adept and capable. Staff members can look up the folio, talk to the guest and get to the root of the problem if it isn’t already obvious. Staff at hotels and cruise lines in particular have vast resources at their disposal to fix many guest problems. And let’s be honest, most of the people in hospitality management positions really want to make it right; they care.
That brings us to item #5, Follow-Up and Mr. Jones assertion that very few managers practice follow-up. This is the one area of universal weakness when it comes to service recovery. The staff member has appropriately apologized, probed for needs, and offered a solution that the guest accepts.
Mission Accomplished? Hardly. Follow-up is a crucial component to make sure that the medicine prescribed for the ‘guest illness’ actually worked. Too often, we read of engineers fixing the HVAC only to find it doesn’t work again an hour later. “The Wi-Fi is now fixed, but I am getting a weird message when I login.” “Yes, you did send me a new steak that is now cooked medium as requested, but the piece is really fatty.” “Thanks for switching my room, but this one smells of smoke.”
Other times, the guest is never even aware that the problem was fixed, because the staff leaves no evidence they resolved the problem. Sure, an engineer was sent to the room to fix the phone, but how can the guest tell?
A quick call, check-in, or email to the guest that has had a problem will make sure all the hard and skilled work that was done in steps 1-4 actually had meaning. Otherwise, you can only guess that you truly recovered the guest, which may be the difference between one that is loyal to you or one that resents you even more.