Customer Service Recovery – Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

Is the customer always right? Of course not, but their patronage and loyalty does determine the success of your business, so keeping them satisfied is as important, or even more important than obtaining new customers. What should you do to make things better when you’ve screwed up?

Recovering from Bad Service

Don’t get us wrong – keeping customers happy shouldn’t require you to bend over backwards to meet even the most unreasonable of demands.

Complaints of bad customer service are nothing new – in 2016, it was found that more than two thirds (68% to be exact) of local consumers switched service providers within the preceding year as a result of poor customer service.

Ideally, mistakes shouldn’t happen – but how you react when they are pointed out can help you to salvage (or worsen) your image and relationships with your customers.

It’s a good thing that with social media, examples of great and less-than-stellar service can be found easily. Here are a few examples to learn from.

The Western Co.

Last November, The Western Co came under fire for their poor attitude in response to a Facebook rant about exactly that – their poor attitude. With approximately 1100 likes, 754 comments, and 1500 shares, it’s safe to say the eatery attracted plenty of negative attention.

Long story short: the customer wrote a Facebook post to detail the poor service he received at The Western Co, and the owner wrote a sarcastic response to reiterate that he (the customer) was in the wrong, not them.

The whole issue kicked off with an SMS sent from The Western Co to the customer upon his booking, to notify him that only cash was accepted. Unfortunately, a mistake on the sender’s part resulted in the message reading “only NETS accepted”, which understandably caught the customer offguard.

After presumably showing some signs of anger, the customer was asked to leave, and was chased out along with his companions.


What NOT to do:

Take criticism badly

F&B, Hospitality and Tourism, and Retail are the most commonly referred to “Service industries”, but really all businesses involve human interaction, and bad service needs to be avoided at all costs.

The last thing you should do when handling a complaint is to react with hostility and absolve yourself of any blame whatsoever.

Instead, politely point out the steps taken to resolve the issue (if any), explain what may have caused the misunderstanding, and issue a genuine mea culpa.

Rely solely on your product

Expecting customers to come back simply because you have a unique or excellent product is not a long term strategy – eventually, a competitor with a better/cheaper/more easily available product will steal your customers.


Just recently, a disgruntled customer complained that he purchased 50 sticks of satay, but only received 47 despite reminding the staff to be careful. A representative of SatayBros was able to respond in a level-headed manner to the accusation of cheating.

What they did right:

Apologise and offer a gesture of goodwill

They apologised – several times in fact (a total of five times!). They explained a possible reason behind the gaffe without presenting it as an excuse (receiving a few huge orders on the same day), and offered to rectify the mistake (by replacing the 3 missing sticks of satay) as well as offer a token of apology (extra complementary satay). The only thing lacking from their apology was a promise to do better in future in order to avoid similar errors.

Big Fatty Crab

Rather than getting flak for any one isolated incident, Big Fatty Crab’s customer service efforts have been bad on more than one occasion. Among their mistakes: late deliveries, cold or less than stellar food, and aggressive Facebook review responses.

What NOT to do:

Demand reviews be removed

Just the word “sorry” doesn’t make things right with your customers – furthermore, the excuse given did not explain the lack of response on the other communication channels. Worse still, the customer was asked to remove his review despite not being offered a resolution for his trouble.

Respond sarcastically

No, the customer is not always right, but your company’s image is everything – maintaining professional behaviour is a must. Personal taste is subjective, and there are classier ways to respond. Again, no solution was presented, for example exploring different forms of transport during rainy weather or insulating the food items better.

Offer inconsistent service

Amidst the nastier responses, Big Fatty Crab had previously posted a seemingly genuine apology to a poor review. Of course, inconsistencies in social media responses are to be expected since more than one employee may be in charge, and employees come and go.

Nevertheless, some standards need to be set and followed – you cannot offer a 10% discount to one disgruntled customer, and reply spitefully to another who is complaining for the very same reasons (unless of course they are being unreasonable and abusive while the former was polite).

Crab in Da Bag

Similar to Big Fatty Crab, Crab in Da Bag has issued more than one crabby response (forgive the pun) to negative reviews, but one in particular garnered attention for the absurd promise to find evidence of the customer’s claims.

What NOT to Do:

Get defensive and dig into your customer’s business

Crab in da Bag did right by offering more than one alternative solution (a replacement and a discount) to the issue at hand (being served a small crab). Unfortunately despite this, the customer still felt compelled to post her honest review about the portion size, probably as a warning to future diners.

Many businesses might feel disappointed but chalk this up to bad luck on their part, since they have already tried to fix things. Not Crab in Da Bag however:

The staff member promised to check the security footage to validate her claim of empty mussel shells…

And proceeded to point fingers at her company…

Which led to more than loss of goodwill with more than one customer…

Since others who viewed the response also felt that it was unprofessional, and promised to boycott the eatery as well as influence others to do the same. Another frequent offender: the owner of Lavastone Steakhouse.

Thanks Hairdressing Studio

There are many more examples of customer service failures in the F&B line, but they definitely extend to other industries as well.

A customer made a hairdressing appointment and was turned away after being told that her hair was not in suitable condition. As with other examples on this list, she left a negative review on the salon’s Facebook page, and the owner took it upon himself to respond.

What NOT to Do:

Make personal attacks

Unlike some other examples posted, it’s not so clear who is necessarily “in the wrong” here. Rather, both parties had their opinions on what exactly constituted good service in the situation – turning away someone for their own good rather than worsening their hair condition, or providing them a service anyway since they have taken half the day off to make an appointment with you.

Nevertheless, several parts in the owner’s response were uncalled for, particularly making a psychological assessment of said customer, mocking them, and pointing out their differing race/language/religion.


Grab differs from the other examples in the list, in that Facebook reviews are entirely disabled. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other avenues for customers to voice their displeasure within – and Grab hasn’t done such a great job at quelling their anger so far.

What NOT to do:

Give the silent treatment

Perhaps because they have avoided any big blow ups, Grab keeps relatively silent on Facebook in terms of customer engagement. Posts on Grab’s Facebook page tend to go unanswered, whether the messages be positive or negative.


Not only that, some customers claim that their official communication channels (the GRAB app, phone line, and email) also go ignored. When irate customers do get a response, they risk getting yelled at.


It’s difficult to say whether getting a rude and unhelpful response or being ignored completely is worse – but what’s for sure is that both don’t serve to resolve your customers’ problems, and only amplify already negative feelings.


Other Solutions

What else can you do other than learn from the above examples?

We’ve previously spoken about the importance of enabling your customers to find answers easily on their own by having FAQs or a self-service portal available for access – but also avoiding giving customers a frustrating experience to get access to an actual human being.

Singapore consumers still prefer to speak to a person when it comes to resolving issues, complaints, and getting advice.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software

With Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can have all your information in one system.

Paired with effective customer feedback measures (depending on your industry, this can be through a physical feedback form, Facebook reviews, or answers recorded down to verbal questions from your sales or service staff), you can more effectively manage customer satisfaction levels and identify gaps in service delivery.

Note: This story has also been adapted for publication in Steemit.

Get the free PDF below to read about Customer Relationship Management in SAP Business One!


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