Throwing blame, not my fault, service recovery, pointing fingers,

“It’s Not My Fault”: A Service Recovery Fallacy

How to stop the blame game and start playing the service recovery game

An upset customer or guest reaches out and proclaims a negative experience, demanding something be done. It becomes all too easy for our front-line team members to sit back and think, “This is not my fault”. This reaction is shockingly detrimental to the service recovery process. All of a sudden, that team member will focus on pointing fingers and feel less motivated to actually solve the problem in front of them. Instead, team members should be encouraged to skip past the idea of “who is to blame?” and move directly to “what can I do to help?”. In the end, it doesn’t matter who messed up, if the customer is unhappy then the team made an error and the team needs to fix it. But how do we encourage team-level responsibility and a solution-focused mindset?

Breathe Life Back Into the Post-Mortem

Negative customer experiences will happen from time to time—it’s an unfortunate part of life. We do our best to catch feedback in-the-moment and provide service recovery, but in the end, critical reviews or surveys are hard to avoid. When they do, take time at the end of the week to review the experience with the team. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, focus most of the time and energy on what should have gone right. There is study after study that show the more times you picture behaving in a certain way, the more likely you are to behave that way in the future. If you spend too much time thinking about the mistakes, those behaviors will (consciously or not) start to engrain in the team’s mind. Focus on the right behavior and there’s a better chance those thoughts will appear next time a situation arises.

There is No I, You, Bob, or Judy in “Team”

When talking about customer experiences that have gone awry, encourage team members to talk in the collective. Instead of “You didn’t cook the burger correctly” or “Bob sent them in the wrong direction” or “Judy and the valet team dented the car” or whatever it might be, encourage team members instead to say “We didn’t cook the burger correctly”, “We didn’t serve our customer correctly”. No matter who did it, we all did it. Nobody gets a pass, nobody gets blamed, but we all take responsibility for our customers and each other.

Build Confidence to Build Ownership

More often than not, people will avoid responsibility when they are self-conscious or uncertain in their job ability. Think about it—if you are confident in your job aptitude, then the mistakes you inevitably make seem less impactful. However, if you feel doubtful about your job performance, you are more likely to fret about making an error. To build team confidence, take a moment to focus on their wins. In team meetings, make sure to highlight as many good customer experiences as bad (if not more). Take time to acknowledge team members that are doing well and don’t wait for some extraordinary act of above-the-call-of-duty behavior. Just showing up and doing their best is enough reason for a high five or a simple “Thanks!”. The more positive service interactions are acknowledged, the less someone will feel the need to shirk the negative ones.

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