Every customer-centric, customer service obsessed company needs a customer service recovery framework for working with upset, angry, frustrated, and disappointed customers.
I’m a customer service consultant, customer service trainer, and turnaround expert. The customer service recovery method that I’m known for is based on the legendary work of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, but I’ve reworked and adapted it to a wider range of applications and industries. It has just four steps that spell MAMA. This is to keep you from falling into a fetal position and crying “mama” the next time you’re confronted with an upset customer.
Before I train you on the four MAMA steps of service recovery, I want to encourage you to stay optimistic. I know it can be hard, with a customer saying terrible things about you, or your coworker, or even about you, to believe that you could ever make them happy, and ever get them to a place where they would sing our company’s praises again.
But the fact of the matter is, and this has been shown by multiple studies, if a company makes a mistake, and then does a solid job of recovering from it, that customer is more likely to become truly loyal than if nothing had ever gone wrong in the first place.
Here are the MAMA method’s four steps to customer service recovery when you’re faced with an upset, angry, frustrated, or disappointed customer:
1 M: Make time to listen.
2 A: Acknowledge and (if called for) apologize.
3 (have a) Meeting of minds
4 Act! And follow up.
1. The first M in mama: Make time to listen.
Immediately stop whatever you’re doing.
Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your body.
Don’t interrupt the customer with questions or explanations.
Only after listening quietly should you then strive to learn more about the situation by probing for what the customer is specifically upset about.
2. The first A in MAMA: Acknowledge and apologize.
Acknowledge the situation and, if called for (by which I mean the customer feels an apology is warranted, not necessarily that you do), apologize sincerely. Even if you have no reason to feel that you’re at fault, you should convey to the customer that you recognize and regret what they’ve gone through. Be sure to make it a real apology and not a fakey-fake imitation apology.
Here are some authentic apologies:
“I’m so sorry that this happened.“
“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding.”
I’m so sorry we let you down.”
And some fake ones:
“I’m sorry that you feel that way” is a fake apology.
“I’m sorry. I had a lot of other jobs that took priority over yours” is a non-apology.
3. The second M in MAMA: Have a Meeting of Minds
Align yourself with the customer’s expectations for what a solution would look like and what is actually possible for you to deliver. Once you have a match, spell out the agreed-on solution, as you understand it. Then, commit to exactly what you will do to resolve the issue, and by when.
4. And finally, the final A in MAMA: Act! and Follow Up
Take care of the issue as promised. Follow up with anyone to whom you’ve assigned all or part of the resolution.
Follow up with the customer to ensure all is well.
Later on, examine what went wrong with an eye toward identifying negative patterns, systemic issues, and chokepoints.
If you’d like to a complete, printable copy of the MAMA framework to get started on service recovery in your organization, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website, micahsolomon.com, where you’ll also find info on my customer service consulting, customer service training, and customer service eLearning services.