The Ultimate Guide To Service Recovery

In certain situations, the time period right after a customer has a bad experience is your best opportunity to gain their loyalty. This is only possible if you implement the right service recovery strategy. In this article you will learn about:

-What is service recovery and what it means for customer service

-Benefits of having a service recovery plan

-Best practices in Service Recovery

-How to prepare for a Service Recovery scenario

-How Freshdesk can make service recovery easy for support teams

What is Service Recovery?

Imagine a restaurant you frequent once a month. One day, you are denied entry despite having made a reservation. The staff says the restaurant is booked out and they can’t find your reservation. You will be seething with this experience and making you reconsider your next visit.

But just as you’re leaving, the manager catches up to you and gives you their best table. He also tells you that dinner is on them, and you’ll be getting a discount on your next visit. Filled with excitement and happiness, you forgive them for the poor experience you had just a short while ago. 

The reason you went from frustration to delight, was that the restaurant went above and beyond to right a wrong. There is also a better chance you become their loyal customer because of this experience. 

Service recovery, in essence, is turning a bad experience into a good one by surpassing customer expectations and making customers go from a state of dissatisfaction to one leaning towards loyalty. 

31% of consumers globally are willing to pay more for a great customer service experience. Having an effective service recovery plan adds to the comprehensiveness of your customer experience. By carefully charting out a plan of action to deal with service failure scenarios, you’ll be able to create a more loyal customer base.

What is the Service Recovery Paradox?


Service recovery paradox is a phenomenon where you feel a higher level of satisfaction towards a company after a successful service recovery, as compared to the level of satisfaction you would have felt if you never faced any problem, to begin with.

For example, suppose you order food online, but because of bad weather, there is a huge delay. So to compensate, the food aggregator refunds the amount for that meal and gives you half off on your next 3 orders. You’d be more inclined to becoming a loyal customer now, as opposed to if your order had arrived on time and there was never a service failure.

What does this mean for you?

The service recovery paradox is a helpful indicator to guide you in the right direction when faced with customer situations where service recovery is a possibility. With that in mind here are two things you can do to get a clearer picture of your next steps in service recovery:

#1 Figure out how happy your customers are

To identify service recovery opportunities, it’s important to understand which of your customers are happy and which ones aren’t.  Keeping track of metrics like CSAT and CES(Customer effort Score) can help you with that. Using these metrics, you can narrow your list down to a set of customers where there is a genuinely high possibility of performing service recovery.

#2 Prioritize issues for service recovery

It’s important to note that service recovery does not work for all types of customer issues. For example, when the issue is very serious and has caused major disruption for the customer, service recovery strategies will probably not work. In this case, you can only fix the problem and hope the relationship goes back to normal. Issues that are minor indiscretions and only cause a low level of discomfort are easier to turn around. So pick and choose wisely which customer issues to target when planning your recovery strategy.

How Southwest Airlines came through for Adam Toporek

Adam Toporek, a thought leader in customer experience, detailed an incident that happened to him when flying on Southwest Airlines.1 After paying $8 for in-flight Wifi, he could not connect to the internet.

Other passengers were facing the same issue so he raised it to the flight attendant. After an investigation, she regrettably announced that the Wifi couldn’t be fixed. Since there was no access to email there was no way of knowing if the $8 charge had gone through.

A few days later, he received an email from Southwest Airlines with an apology for the inconvenience along with a refund of the $8 fee. This was a great example of the company proactively reaching out after a bad experience, and doing what’s necessary to recover the customer as well.

Benefits of Implementing Service Recovery

56% of consumers globally have stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor due to a single bad customer service experience.2

When you are faced with unhappy customers because of a service failure, it’s better to have a service recovery plan in place rather than just reacting to these situations on the fly. Here are a few considerable benefits to planning & executing a successful service recovery:

 #1 Very high and instant customer satisfaction

The modern marketplace is very competitive and keeping your customer base from switching loyalties has become harder than ever before. So scenarios where you have the opportunity to convert customers into loyal champions become very valuable to you as a company. This is where service recovery can play a big role.

For a customer who’s just had a poor experience, if you can turn things around with wonderfully crafted service recovery, the satisfaction they gain is instantaneous. This satisfaction is usually higher and achieved much faster when compared to a regular customer. Service recovery becomes a great tool to help create loyalty and satisfaction in a short period of time.

#2 Customer service process improvement

There are a lot of learnings to take away from a service recovery. Regardless of whether it succeeds or not, you can use the information you gain from the experience to improve your already existing practices in customer service. If a service recovery succeeds then you have a great platform to build future such plans from. 

If a service recovery fails, then you’ll know which situations need a different strategy to appease unhappy customers. You’ll also understand the common issues that your customer service process has and will be able to avoid making those same mistakes next time. 

 #3 Higher Lifetime Value and company market value 

Another critical benefit of building a loyal customer base is the chance to gain a larger share of their wallet. Loyal customers are more likely to repurchase or explore other offerings from the same company because they trust the brand. This is why Lifetime Value is so important. The customers you manage to convert into advocates because of a successful service recovery carry much higher Lifetime Value.

Loyal customers also make for great brand ambassadors. When they get the word out, your company’s value in the market will go up and you automatically brand yourself as a company that puts the customer first. 

Service Recovery Best Practices

Best practices give you a great starting point for your service recovery plans. Here are three approaches you should take when implementing a service recovery:

 #1 Be patient

Before performing any sort of service recovery, your support team should carefully try and piece together the complete picture of the customer problem. Ask the right questions so you can get to the crux of the issue faster, but allow customers to take their time when it comes to answering. If you don’t take your time with understanding the problem it may lead to the wrong course of action.

#2 Go the extra mile

A rule of thumb when it comes to service recovery is always going the extra mile for the customer. A Service Recovery scenario requires you to put the need of the customer first. This means sometimes you have to deviate from the normal way of dealing with issues. If that involves a significant compromise from your end, so be it because you have to compensate for the distress the customer has faced.

 #3 Keep a recovery mindset 

Service recovery requires certain flexibility in mindset when it comes to problem-solving. Empathy and understanding is an important part of this mindset. It’s not enough to just fix a customer issue. Service recovery requires support teams to approach every customer problem as an opportunity to win them over. 

#4 Prioritize speed of recovery 

The distress customers go through when things aren’t working for them can quickly turn into frustration. To avoid these situations your support team needs to act quickly when working on service recovery. Speed in both initiating the service recovery process and completing it is essential to taking advantage of that window of opportunity. 

Zingerman’s on-point letter hits the sweet spot 

Zingerman’s is a specialty deli in St. Ann Arbour, Detroit USA.2 They are known for their specially made baked goods. A customer who was organizing her parents’ anniversary celebration ordered a box of their cookies and brownies.  Unfortunately when the package arrived the big cookies and brownies were slightly crumbled.

They still tasted good so the customer didn’t mind. Zingerman’s has a good customer feedback practice and duly sent them a letter asking about the pastries. The customer replied saying while the cookies were tasty they did arrive crumbled. They also added that they would try out another bakery that would be closer to their home the next time.

On receiving this feedback, Zingerman’s immediate response was to apologize for the damaged baked goods and offer a replacement sent directly to their address, even offering to have a personalized message given it was a special occasion. They also asked the customer’s opinion on how they can improve this situation while sharing the feedback with upper management. This type of recovery practice was truly remarkable and showed how much the company cared about its customers.

3 steps to prepare for Service Recovery Implementation

Now that you know what Service Recovery is all about and how it can impact customer service how do you make it a part of your strategy? While service recovery plans can vary based on the situation and type of customer, here are three steps you can take to prepare for those situations:

#1 Context setting and recovery planning

Customers hate having to explain themselves every time they have to talk to an agent. When the customer has a problem and calls your support team the agent receiving the complaint should have complete context of the issue even if it’s the first time he or she is interacting with the customer. 

Context setting speeds up your service recovery process. When every support agent has the same view of the problem you can quickly take action on the issue. This information will also help you plan your recovery better the next time you run into similar customer problems.

#2 Proactive reach out and anticipating customer issues 

Based on the context gathered from customer issues, you can identify certain patterns in the type of customer complaints coming in. Use this information to try and anticipate any issues that could happen in the future. Proactively reach out and inform the customer of the problem before they come to you. 

For example, if a customer complains of slow speed to an ISP, they are bound to get similar complaints from other customers in the same area code. So before that happens they can proactively send a message to each customer telling them that they are working on the issue. If they want to go one step further, offering them a form of compensation like a free upgrade can also compensate for the customer’s dissatisfaction.

#3 Agent training and Solution readiness

Service recovery plans are only as good as your best agents. We mentioned how it’s important to be empathetic to difficult customer situations. But training employees in dealing with these situations is equally important. Instructing agents on the steps to take as well as giving them decision making power in these situations makes it easier for them to do what’s necessary to make the customer happy. 

It is also important to have your recovery solutions ready to go. When you are able to anticipate problems and understand the range of issues that your customers face you should make sure you have the right fixes for those problems at your fingertips. Well-trained agents who know exactly what to do and are equipped with the right solutions makes for an effective recovery plan.

How Freshdesk can enable your service recovery implementation

Having a customer support software like Freshdesk makes it a lot easier for your customer service teams to do their job. With that in mind, let’s look at a few features that will come in handy when you want to execute your customer service strategy:

#1 Contextual conversations

Context is everything when it comes to service recovery. When the customer is dissatisfied because of an issue, you have to act fast, which means you don’t have much time to collect information on the issue.

Freshdesk allows you to have access to ticket history through an activity log that gives you all the information you need instantly. It includes all conversations your support team has had with the customer previously, who’s worked on the ticket, status changes etc. This helps you stay on top of any questions the customer throws at you and is a good starting point for your service recovery.

#2 Collaboration

During a service recovery process, there will be situations where you’ll need help from engineering, product or sales operations teams. Sometimes it might even require more than one agent to get involved.

To make the transfer of information easier in these situations,  using the Freshdesk ‘Shared Ownership’ feature allows the agent to give ‘Ticket View Access’ to whichever team or individual requires it. This type of simple yet effective collaboration can really help speed up service recovery and help agents give customers updates in real-time.

#3 Predictive engagement

Prediction and pattern identification is where customer service is heading towards. But in the context of service recovery, these practices become very important.  Being proactive and identifying customer pain points are all part of executing the perfect service recovery scenario.

In Freshdesk you can setup custom proactive support emails that will be sent out whenever your agent anticipates an issue. You can write any message you want and add all recipients that will be affected by the issue. Each message can be personalized to the name of the recipient. You can also use predictive support to detect customer frustration through abandoned carts, rage clicks, etc and reach out to them for support.


One of the biggest learnings in customer service is understanding the value of the customer’s time. While some issues may take longer to fix than others, being considerate towards a customer’s situation is important but equally difficult. This is the same mindset required to be successful at service recovery. 

Not all situations can be salvaged through service recovery. The situations where service recovery is possible timing becomes crucial. To get the timing of service recovery right, it becomes important to try and gauge how unhappy a customer is after an issue. If you wait too long the opportunity will pass you by, but if you can react quickly and appropriately, it gives you the highest chance of success.

Try Freshdesk for free


1 –

2 –