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Turn Your Upset Customers Around Using This Proven Service Recovery Method

If your company doesn’t yet have a customer service recovery framework (a system for dealing with upset customers), then let the current crises spur you to put one in place, sooner rather than later. With external stressors abounding and tempers fraying left and right, these times provide particularly fertile ground for customer complaints and misunderstandings.

Once there’s an upset customer in front of you, wagging their finger in your face via video chat or shouting at you on the phone, it’s not a good time to be improvising from scratch. And, indeed, all great customer-centric organizations recognize the inevitability of such situations and adopt or develop a customer service recovery framework that can be used for those times when the situation hits the fan, and the customer hits the roof. (For example, Marriott uses its own sequence, which spells LEARN, and Starbucks uses own that, adorably, spells LATTE).

If your organization hasn’t already committed to a different service recovery system, allow me offer you my own four-step MAMA service recovery framework, which was recently rolled out in my new book from HarperCollins Leadership, Ignore Your Customers (And They’ll Go Away): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience.

Micah Solomon’s MAMA Method™ for Customer Service Recovery

Take these four steps, in this order, when responding to a customer who is upset about a service failure:

Make time to listen

Acknowledge and apologize

(have a) Meeting of Minds

Act! And Follow Up

Step 1: Make time to listen

  • Immediately stop whatever you’re doing.
  • Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your body. Don’t interrupt the customer with questions or explanations.
  • Only after listening quietly, strive to learn more about the situation by probing for what the customer is specifically upset about.

Step 2: Acknowledge and Apologize

  • Acknowledge the situation and, if an apology is called for (by which I mean the customerfeels an apology is warranted, not necessarily that you do), apologize sincerely.
  • Even if you have no reason to feel that you’re at fault, you should convey to the customer that you recognize and regret what they’ve gone through.
  • Be sure to make it a real apology and not a fakey-fake apology like “I’m sorry if you feel that way.” (Delivering a bogus apology like that one, through gritted teeth, is probably worse than not apologizing and all.)

Step 3: (have a) Meeting of Minds

  • Strive to align yourself to the customer’s expectations for what a solution would look like, and work from there to determine what would both be acceptable to them and would be practical (or even possible) for you to pull off. (In doing this, continue to include your customer in the process of developing this solution, and strive to be open to a different vision emerging at this point of what a successful solution may be–one that may never even have occurred to you.)
  • Once you have a match, spell out the agreed-on solution, as you understand it.
  • Commit to exactly what you will do to resolve the issue, and by when.

Step 4: Act! And Follow Up

  • Take care of the issue as promised.
  • Follow up with anyone to whom you’ve assigned all or part of the resolution.
  • Follow up with the customer to ensure all is well.
  • Later on, examine what went wrong with an eye toward identifying negative patterns, systemic issues, and choke-points (for example, repeated complaints of long lines on Tuesday afternoons or of a website that loads slowly, but only on weekend nights), and strive to learn from the error, using this new knowledge, where applicable, to refine future company operations and training.


If you’re looking for additional information and practical pointers on customer service recovery and other essential customer service topics, including:

  • how to provide “wow” customer service
  • creating a “culture of yes”
  • hiring and talent management
  • social media customer service
  • the power of diversity and inclusion in customer service

and more, you’ll enjoy my new HarperCollins Leadership book, Ignore Your Customers (And They’ll Go Away): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience.

Micah Solomon

Micah Solomon is one of the world's leading authorities on customer service, the customer experience, consumer trends, hospitality, and company culture. He is a consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, and training designer specializing in these subjects, as well as being a best-selling author.

Want to read more? Get the book!

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