The Service Recovery Paradox: Why a Bad Event Could Lead to a Great Review

Investing in a strong recovery plan is one of the best things you can do for your business. Here’s why.


Sonja Swanson


July 11, 2023

Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? 

We cheer on amazing saves from our favorite athletes and movie characters. And we also love when a service failure is expertly rectified! It shows us we are truly valued as guests and that our care is a priority. Mistakes are inevitable, and service failures happen, but fumbling the ball leads to opportunities for companies to really prove their guests matter to them—to jump in and save the day.

You know, to make a great save.

Rectifying a bad experience can turn a one-timer into a regular and improve your customer retention because righting a wrong builds trust. If your guest can trust that, in the event of a mess up, your staff will show up strong, that’s something to write home about. 

Or, in the case of the hospitality industry, something to write a great review about. 

Why a bad review could turn into a great one

Did you know that the average person will tell 15 people about a bad customer service experience? That number goes way up after they’ve written about their experience online. We’ve talked about the damage of a bad review - but bad reviews don’t come from mistakes, they come from unaddressed mistakes. The service recovery paradox is this: people are actually more satisfied after a service failure recovery than if nothing were to have happened at all. 

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The strength of the loyalty, trust, and connection is forged in the hard times, not the good ones — just like any relationship.

How to recover the blunder

Building a solid service recovery plan is an imperative tool to equip your staff with. Empower your staff to recover well and you’ll see the results in your customer retention and loyalty. Here’s a few suggestions on how to start.

  1. Own up, apologize, and acknowledge their feelings

And do it quick! This isn’t a time to explain yourself or get defensive, it’s a time to diffuse the situation—regardless of who or what is at fault. Your guest is upset and they’re looking to you to respond. They want to feel heard, so hear them out. Validate their feelings and move into a place of empathy. Acknowledge that their expectations were not met, and genuinely offer an apology.

  1. Offer up a resolution

The idea is to start guiding your guest toward focusing on what they can have versus what they can’t. Whether this looks like some sort of an upgrade or waived fees, it can give your guest a sense of control over the situation. 

  1. Overdeliver 

It’s damage control time. From this point forward this guest needs to be followed up with and supported for the rest of their time with you. This lets them know you weren’t just trying to get rid of them — you are truly concerned with their satisfaction and are keeping them in mind after the issue is resolved. You can gift them extra perks, amenities, or experiences (or better yet, all of the above).  

You shouldn’t aim to have service recovery failures, but they can be small blessings in disguise for your business. Mistakes have the power to leave the best impressions if service recovery is prompt, effective, and genuine. Set your staff up for success by investing in the tools they need to recover an experience swiftly. Schedule a conversation with Kipsu to learn about how our digital messaging platform can help you leverage guest experiences and put your staff in control of any situation.

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