Service Recovery Workshop

The last time I flew anywhere the flight was 35 minutes late before it had even taken off because the airplane was nowhere to be found. Not a great beginning to a five-hour flight.

Once we were airborne the pilot came on over the intercom and apologized for our late departure and sympathized with the folks who had connecting flights. I was worried about missing my connection but he said he was going to deviate from our flight plan and something about the jet stream and tailwinds and permission from the airline to run the engines a little faster than normal. The long and the short of it was that he was going to do his best to get us there on time. When we touched down he was as good as his word. I was impressed.

Fantastic service recovery isn’t an accident. Mistakes are an inevitable part of service delivery but the best services are systematically designed to recover with grace. In fact a memorable recovery can build even more goodwill than an encounter that goes according to plan.

Next week Fabian Segelström and I will be running a workshop on service recovery at the SDN conference in Berlin. It’s in the first block of workshops on Thursday. We’re going to go through the basics of service recovery and demonstrate a tool we’ve been working on for designing effective solutions.

This topic is interesting to me because it starts to dig into the “managing as designing” side of service design. We’re going to be looking at service recovery from three different perspectives. Not only the front-stage customer service perspective but also back-stage operations and HR perspectives. We’re drawing from the service management literature on recovery and Fabian has written an overview of the findings from that research.

If you’d like to take part in the workshop then we have a request. Be on the lookout for service failures as you travel to Berlin. Airports, hotels, restaurants and taxis — anywhere along your journey. We’ll have plenty of examples of our own but we’d like to include your perspective in the workshop by deconstructing the first-hand problems you each encounter.

Hopefully your trip to Berlin will be flawless. But if you see someone go above and beyond the call of duty to fix a problem we definitely want to hear about it.


  1. Sounds very interesting! There will be two of us from Flywheel at the SDN conference, so one of us will for sure be in this workshop.

    Having just travelled through Paris, I have an endless supply of service failure thoughts!




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