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  • Writer's pictureAdele Gutman Milne, CHBA, CHDM

Five Star Service Recovery. Let's fix it!

Is your service recovery goal to earn a customer for life?

Or would you rather earn 1,000+ customers for life?

There is a step to service recovery that many businesses miss, including many hotels.

I call it the "internal feedback response."Bain and Company, the creators of NPS call it, "closing the loop."

As long as we are humans serving humans, it's inevitable that things will sometimes go wrong in business. Even in the hospitality industry when we focused on our hotel and restaurant guests and deliver great service, there are many hands “touching that customer journey” and anything can happen. Hospitality professionals understand that providing excellence in service recovery is critical for guest satisfaction, guest reviews, and creating brand loyalty.

However, I believe that the model of service recovery that most companies aspire to often fails to actually hit the mark when it comes to creating and maintaining a five-star reputation, enthusiastic fans, and reviews and recommendations galore. That's because we don't make it clear to all our associates, that the goal is to constantly improve by closing the feedback loop.

In 40 years in hospitality, and as a traveler and a consumer, I have observed that there are various levels of service recovery today.


How can I satisfy this customer enough to stop complaining so I can move on to other things?


How can I try to solve their problem, show personal empathy, and give them a little token of appreciation so that they feel I tried to compensate for the error.

The Gold Standard:

Here we focus not only on the external response for one guest, but we extend the service recovery to include the "internal response", which is more important because that will impact the experience for all future guests, and your employee experience as well.

Questions we should ask ourselves:

  • How can I not only show empathy, apologize, and take care of the immediate needs of this guest, but go a step further?

  • How can I show respect for them as a customer, and really listen as a responsible and mature business leader?

  • How can I listen to what went wrong and use that to investigate with my team to find the root cause of the issue?

  • How can I show respect and gratitude for the customer by sharing how I plan to implement change based on this information?

  • With fearless authenticity, what can I share modification in my People and Culture (training & empowerment), Process (communication), or Product to ensure that this disappointment doesn’t recur for future guests?

  • How can I share this information with the guest reporting the issue so they can feel honored by the impact their experience has had on future guests.

I know that a small or large gesture of compensation for the mishap will help the guest feel our care, but nothing, absolutely nothing, will impress a guest more than knowing their complaint was acted upon as an opportunity for micro-innovation.

Caring deeply enough to change to ensure future guests won't have the same suboptimal experience is the best way to leave a guest feeling truly cared for, appreciated, and respected.

But more than that, our organization is now in a better place to have less friction and more joy for future guests.

Remember, although problems can and will always arise in business, it is the management's approach to using the information to create innovation that will impress your guests and create fans for life. Nothing will make sure your guest will feel heard as sharing with them the lengths you have gone through to assure that the problem is corrected so it will be less likely to impact others. Apologize, make good on your brand promise in another way, and show them a generous appreciation for their feedback.

In this episode, listen to real-life examples of apologies that fell flat and discover a more effective way to think about five-star service recovery.

Please tune in to this podcast and don’t forget to subscribe below on and also on your favorite podcast streaming service.


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