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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Big companies should learn to fail like the little guys.

In hurry between work and an evening engagement, I called my favorite local pizzeria and ordered pizza from my car. The order was taken, customized when I was asked whether I wanted thin crust, double dough, or pan, and I was given a 30-minute pick-up time.

Arriving roughly 30 minutes later, I met with the counter server and had the following exchange:

“Are you Chris?”

“Yes I am.”

“Just pulled your pizza out, realized it was thin crust when you ordered double-dough. I’m sorry about the mistake. I knocked $5 off the order, but I can get them to fire you another one if you don’t mind waiting.”

“No thanks, that will work.”

There was a service failure, but it was effectively recovered when the provider handled it by:

• Identifying the problem himself, rather than waiting for me to discover it.

• Offering an apology.

• Proactively providing service recovery with an outcome that exceeded my level of dissatisfaction.

• Despite providing recovery, recognizing that I may want the initial promise made good upon, and giving me a reasonable outlet for full recovery of the initial promise.

• Displaying an attitude that made the interaction, though a failure, a pleasant one.

In less than 50 words of dialogue, he took full ownership for the failure and provided a fair outcome and a clear process for full remedy, all before the failed service ever became an issue.

Small service businesses have an advantage over larger ones. They’re closer to the customers they serve, smarter about what commitments they make to whom and enable front line providers to keep the service promises they’ve made.

If big business was able to execute on the 5 simple components of recovery my pizza guy did, they’d spend less on service, less on recovery, and less on replacement of revenue from lost customers.

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