Service Recovery:
What is it? Why is it important? How to achieve it.

A loyal patient base is the foundation of every successful practice. But it can be difficult to build and maintain your list of returning patients without understanding the ins and outs of service recovery. This concept deals with both client satisfaction and client retention. And once mastered, it can help your practice thrive.

Service Recovery: What is it? Why is it important? How to achieve it.

What is service recovery?
Service recovery is the act of identifying patient issues or complaints and working to solve those problems. Mistakes are inevitable. In the medical industry, we do our best to minimize them. But since the focus is on treatments and procedures, other aspects of customer service that still matter to patients can sometimes be neglected.

Service recovery isn’t about solving problems before they arise. It’s about treating the issues seriously and showing patients that their concerns matter. In one study, 27.1% of people acknowledged that they ended business with a company because they felt their concerns were ignored. But, by quickly resolving the problems, you stand a better chance at retaining the patients that would have otherwise left.

Why is service recovery so important?
Whether it’s fair or not, patients are more likely to speak out about bad experiences rather than good ones. And those reviews matter. The concerns of one patient will be felt by many.

Service Recovery: What is it? Why is it important? How to achieve it.However, good service recovery can lead to a more positive view of your business. It may seem paradoxical, but patients tend to think more highly of a practice that solves problems than if there hadn’t been an issue in the first place. A positive service recovery experience cultivates loyalty and favorability. Once a concern has been addressed, a patient is more likely to stay and even encourage others to visit. Service recovery is a vital tool for listening, learning and improving any business.

How to achieve service
Service recovery may seem arduous, but it’s actually fairly simple to implement through a few easy steps:

  1. Apologize and acknowledge: Taking ownership for a mistake shows accountability and humanity. And an apology is the first step toward reconciliation.
  2. Listen, empathize, and ask open questions: When something goes wrong, patients want to feel that they’re being heard. Engaging in dialogue might take time, but you’ll alleviate their concerns and get to the heart of the issue more quickly with a personal conversation.
  3. Fix the problem quickly and fairly: Once it’s been established that something has gone wrong, do your best to fix the issue as quickly as possible. If the resolution will take time, set reasonable expectations for the patient.
  4. Offer atonement: There was a problem, now you have an opportunity to make it right. Offering gift cards to local restaurants for patients kept waiting through the lunch hour, fidget toys to pediatric patients who are uncomfortable in the environment, or stuffed animals to patients who are agitated could go a long way for your image, and show patients what you’re willing to do to make sure they’re happy.
  5. Follow up: There’s nothing more thoughtful than to check in on a patient even after the problem has been resolved. It shows that you really care about patient satisfaction and making sure they’re pleased with the experience.
  6. Keep your promises: From practice-wide guarantees to personal promises, make sure you’re as good as your word.
Service Recovery: What is it? Why is it important? How to achieve it.

Remember, these suggestions don’t just apply to you. Your entire staff should be trained on service recovery and what to do in any situation or scenario that arises. No practice is perfect, but it won’t be an issue if you handle your imperfections well. It’s also important to recognize that not every patient can be won back. But committing to fixing the problem may make all the difference.

Looking for more ways to make it right?
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Drennan, Anna (2011, December 19) Consumer Study: 88% Less Likely To Buy From Companies Who Ignore Complaints In Social Media Retrieved from:

Ramshaw, Adam (2015) How To Use the Service Recovery Paradox To Your Advantage Retrieved from:

Berry, L. (1999) Discovering the soul of service: The nine drivers of sustainable business success. New York: Free Press; 1999. Retrieved from:

Hart, Christopher W. L., James L. Heskett, and W. Earl Jr. Sasser. (1990). "The Profitable Art of Service Recovery." Harvard Business Review 68, no. July–August: 148-56. Retrieved from: