Three Words Considered Toxic To Your Service Recovery Model

Coulda, woulda, and shoulda. Three words formed from the informal shortening of could have, would have, and should have, that dismiss the regret or worry about a previous experience.

Appropriate since using them during service recovery will likely mean your customer is history.

Less grammar lesson and more transformative mindset, the presence of these modal verbs indicates a toxic fixation on the past, rather than a more proactive focus on the future.

Think about it:  Could have done, can do. Would have said, will say. Should have been, shall be.

The difference packs power into your problem resolution and generates a stronger likelihood of retaining your customer’s trust.

That’s What She Heard

A meeting planner had arrived in advance of her conference. When she noticed the safe in her suite was not operating properly, arrangements were made to move her to a new room. Which, by the way, included an upgrade as an empathic gesture considering the inconvenience.

As per routine, a member of the team was asked to escort the guest to her new accommodations. During transit, the agent happened to mention the safe deposit boxes located behind the front desk.

That’s when the meeting planner launched into her self-described “Diva fit.” In an apologetic email to me later that night, she described the reasoning behind her emotional outburst:

“I felt it was so inappropriate to suggest I should have used the safe deposit boxes instead of changing rooms. Like I had something to do with causing the situation. I requested a working safe, and that wasn’t provided. It was your hotel that messed it up in the first place.”

She was right on all counts. The next morning, I approached the agent:

“No, no,” he responded. “That’s not what I meant. It was just in conversation, you know, to let her know that if she needed someplace to secure her personal items in the future, we had the safe deposit boxes available. I swear, that’s all I said.”

That is what he meant to say. But that’s not what she heard.

Stay In the Present Tense

Service recovery and problem resolution involve recognizing that something within an experience has fallen short of expectations, and the steps you’ll take moving forward to regain the customer’s trust and confidence.

Stay in the present moment. Resist the urge to go back in time to assign fault or suggest future actions to avoid a similar outcome.

There will be an opportunity for review and critique later. That process may or may not reveal a customer’s involvement in the unfortunate circumstance.

For now, remember the first rule of empowerment: You will do whatever it takes to ensure the customer feels comfortable choosing us again.

Overcoming Knowledge As An Obstacle

Every service excellence workshop includes someone slipping into offering “shoulda advice.” Most contributions involve something to the effect of, “They shoulda put in a wake-up call,” or “The customer shoulda known the dish was going to have a kick to it.”

Each time, I launch into my trademarked response:

“Could, woulda, and shoulda have no business in service recovery. This forces the guest into thinking, “I coulda, woulda, shoulda stayed somewhere else, and next time I will.”

The real challenge is knowledge-based. We are the experts in our jobs, knowing everything there is to know about every nuance and feature. We come to the hotel every day, open the shop every morning, and prepare each menu item with passionate attention to detail.

We’ve even written the policies and guidelines that pertain to our services, sometimes burying them in the fine print at the bottom of a service agreement.

But the customer only knows what they know.

They made a reservation because the photos on your website showed a cloudless blue sky and white sandy beaches. They booked an appointment based on your reputation for luxury accommodations and the utmost care. Your reviews highlight sanitary conditions and applaud an experience free from unpleasant distractions.

They requested a working safe in their room.

That’s why your customer chose you, and that’s what they expect. When something falls short of the expected, your ambition is to return to this original state as quickly and directly as possible.

This doesn’t include re-visiting the past.

Role Play Your Way to Success

Coulda, woulda, and shoulda don’t have to be verbalized to communicate their intent.

Our Media Guru Kristofer had a recent encounter involving an order of Shrimp Enchiladas. Familiar with this decadent sampling of traditional Mexican cuisine, he expected his enchiladas to include cheese. It even stated this in the menu description: “Served with cheese.”

What he wasn’t expecting was for his enchiladas to be smothered beneath a thick, gelatinous pile of yellow-ish lactose. One bite and he felt nauseous.

Not one to complain, he felt compelled to share his disappointment with the server, then the manager. Both offered identical responses: “It says served with cheese.”

That statement, and the tone in which it’s offered, implies accountability. It is a mindset that supports a misguided belief that a customer or guest should share responsibility for any resultant disappointment.

The best way to overcome this unhealthy habit is through role playing exercises. A couple of Tall Tim Tips to help guide you through the process include:

Make It Real

Correlate scenarios with real life examples. Choose challenging situations from guest verbatims or customer reviews.

Set the stage to mimic actual circumstances. Replicate a sense of urgency or emotional state to heighten a sense of anxiety close to what was present in the real scenario.

Be prepared to compare actual results or responses to the efforts of role play participants.

Keep The Present Tense

It’s worth repeating.

Be firm and consistent when holding participants to the present tense. This begins with phrasing your questions properly, i.e., “What will you say to the customer in response?”

Keep it real. Don’t allow fantasy to creep in through offerings such as, “Well, what I would say . . .”

Call an immediate time out, stop the role play on a dime: “Don’t tell me what you would say, just say your response.”

It might take some time, but repetition will drive the proper approach deep into the subconscious where we want it to be.

Push Empowerment to Promote Engagement

Service Recovery models are filled with references to empowerment, the experience and authority to determine a response on behalf of our team.

True recovery, though, isn’t based on a response. It is based on the best possible course of action.

Role Play activities are perfect for measuring a desire to think objectively, to apply genuine empathic empowerment and generate a deeply personal solution to a given situation.

Stress creativity and innovative thought as the foundation for these exercises. Routine application and a cadence of accountability will have an amazing impact on the mindset of your team.

Look For The Good, Beyond Bad & Ugly

While we’ve focused on Service Recovery today, maintaining present tense benefits proactive service opportunities, as well.

We don’t want to go Marlon Brando on anyone, but have you ever felt a twinge of remorse and thought to yourself, “I coulda done something extra,” or “I shoulda noticed that in their reservation and turned it into a memorable moment.”

When it comes to a service experience, the guest only knows what they know. They’re expecting us to be the experts. If something falls short of expectations, be careful not to assign blame or responsibility to your customer or guest.

Remember, they coulda gone somewhere else. Your efforts will go a long way to make sure they don’t.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

2 thoughts on “Three Words Considered Toxic To Your Service Recovery Model

  1. I Love this! So many times we stay in the “who’s to blame, the guest didn’t understand what I meant, or I should have done this” mindset. We need to keep in present tense and be mindful and empathic when it comes to our customers.

    Liked by 1 person

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