Party Professor – October 2019


Service Recovery

Home Improvement Woes Bring Valuable Business Lessons

Beth Standlee 0319

Beth Standlee

By Beth Standlee, CEO, TrainerTainment

When it comes to guest service, it’s difficult to be perfect. There are times that no matter what you try to do, you can’t satisfy everyone. I believe it’s what you do to recover that can make all the difference.

Recently, my husband and I hired a company to do some irrigation work in the backyard. We got their name from someone else who did some home repair business for us. And that company was a referral from a friend. We felt pretty good about the choice. The owner of the company dealt with us in a friendly manner. We came to an agreement about what the job would entail, what the costs would be, and he suggested the work would be completed within 30 days. He met with us on May 13 and was quick to collect a 50 percent ($3,000) deposit check from us on May 14.

Here’s Where the Service Began to Need Some Recovery

The short and sweet explanation of the experience is that it took 105 days and 14 attempts at communication before the guy ever completed the work. He scheduled three times during the 105-day period and each time he “no call/no showed.” My husband was managing the project and each time I would ask, “Have you spoken to Chris,” Jerry would snort and let me know he was taking care of it. This guy’s lack of performance was causing conflict for Jerry and me.

Finally, we drove up our drive on a Saturday after attending a funeral, and there were several pallets of grass stacked high on the side of the house. Chris texted Jerry and let him know they would be there on Sunday to complete the work. One additional piece of information: Chris suggested he had a better idea of what to do then what we originally agreed upon. Jerry texted back and told him he simply wanted to get the job completed.

Late Sunday evening, one of the crew approached Jerry, asking for a check to pay the balance of the agreement. Jerry is a very calm laid back guy so when he, in a pretty fierce way, told the crew member he was going to take time to assess the situation overnight and then pay the final payment, things got a little sticky.

Chris, the owner of the company, could not understand why we were so put out. We had paid a large deposit and had suffered quite a bit of anxiety about whether or not we were going to either get that money back or the job done. We had scheduled our lives around the three dates he promised to show and didn’t. My husband and I had some grief with each another. He did the opposite of service recovery by threatening to take us to court.

I share the story of this 105-day nightmare to have you think about how it might apply to your center. A mom or a dad pays a deposit for a birthday party that’s going to be held sometime in the future, or better yet, a group, an organization or a company does so. They may or may not have anxiety about the experience, but if they’ve never done business with you they don’t have any way to know exactly how the event will turn out. Imagine if they show up and you aren’t ready or maybe your doors are locked. That would cause your buyer an enormous amount of grief. I’ve been at facilities and have hosted events where things did not go perfectly. Often­times with service recovery, the “fix” is to give a discount or refund the entire event.

I can share with you that after this experience Jerry and I had, the fact that the guy (after a lot of conversation), discounted the work $500 doenn’t mean much. We will NEVER do business with him again. We will NEVER refer him. If anyone checks with us about him we WILL tell the truth! Buyer beware!

When it comes to birthdays and group events, giving people money back is not a guarantee that you can recover a “poor service” experience. In our case, communication would have been key. Unless my husband hounded the guy, he didn’t connect with us at all.


Not my fault Adobe Stock - Party Professor 1019

Don’t make excuses or assign blame for what goes wrong. Accept responsibility and look for a way to try again. Handling service mishaps in a professional way and working to find an equitable solution goes a long way when it comes to customer retention.

Three Key Elements for Excellent Service Recovery

1. Do what you say you’re going to do when possible and communicate quickly when something changes. Things break. An attraction can be down. Heck, you may have had a fire in the kitchen and you can’t deliver the food that was promised.

2. Take responsibility for the service mishap. Never make excuses that BLAME or attack the customer. Own the lack in service, even if it’s not your fault. No guest wants to hear about a team member who didn’t show or a vendor that didn’t deliver a part.

3. Look for a way to try again. If you feel like the guest needs a financial solution to make it right, why not offer a “full refund” in the form of a gift certificate to use next time. When you simply give money back there’s no reason for the guest to give you another chance.

In closing, none of us are perfect. We are going to have times when service isn’t all it should be. Communicate quickly, resolve as soon as possible, and understand that being in service to others is a gift. Give well!


Beth is the CEO of TrainerTainment LLC, a training company devoted to the family entertainment and  hospitality industries. Beth and her team are focused on helping the companies they serve make more money through sales, guest service, leadership and social media marketing training. Training products and services are delivered in person, through books and DVDs, and virtually with e-learning courses, webinar development and 24/7 online access. Visit her company’s website at



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