When Severe Service Failure Occurs – Is Forgiveness Possible?



By Marie-Therese Phido

This has been one of the worst weekends in my life. I am a dog lover. I crave the indulgence of my readers who are not, so please read the article for its message and learning points.

I have four dogs. An Alsatian (Gandoff), a Boerboel (Daisy), a Monty (Android) and a hybrid of Gandoff and Daisy (Angel). Daisy gave birth a few months ago and did not recover properly, lost a lot of weight and was sickly. The “Vet” on a monthly retainership, could not heal the dog. We learnt of a Veterinary hospital where very sick dogs got treated and became well. We took Daisy there; it was admitted for two weeks and came home robust and healthy.

We however, still needed to take it for outpatient consultation. On Saturday, I noticed that Android had gone out and returned with a swollen eye and face. It seemed someone had hit it or thrown a stone at it. Android is a streetwise and smart dog who sneaks out at will but always comes back home.

Since we were going to the Clinic for Daisy’s checkup, I decided that we should also take Android to be checked and given eye drops or something to alleviate its discomfort. We dropped both dogs off and left after we had consulted with the Vet and understood the course of treatment for both of them; only, to get back to the hospital to be told that Android had run away.
You cannot begin to imagine my fear and annoyance. The hospital is located on a major highway with the lagoon behind it. It is far from our home and there was no way Android could locate its way home. To crown it all, at first they tried to blame the dog.

That the dog was too smart and they had never seen a dog like that before, nor known a dog to run away. Secondly, they treated the matter with levity and kept on assuring me that they would soon find Android. Thirdly, they lied about the circumstances surrounding its running away and the mode they employed for its search, which I found out after insisting that I needed to go to where they were searching. When I got to where they were searching, it was a grim scenario I saw. They had no clue about how to proceed and were just standing and looking forlorn.

We’ve searched high and low since Saturday and have not seen Android. We intend to continue searching. People have been telling me not to worry that he’ll find his way home. I am hopeful and praying. Readers who are dog lovers will understand the trauma we are going through as a family. The pain is intense. We are constantly looking at the gate and willing it to come back home the way it normally does.
The question is how do you forgive this type of service failure? When you take your property for treatment or service, you expect it to come back better than when you got there, especially when it is something that money cannot replace. Where do you start from?

According to Jeff Joireman, Yany Gregoire and Thomas JN Trip in their Research Paper, titled “Customer Forgiveness Following Service Failures”. They said “recent research has focused on the conditions under which customers will forgive firms for their misdeeds within this context, it is important to recognise that some service failures represent minor issues that occur within routine customer – firm exchange relationships. The construct “customer forgiveness” becomes more relevant when there is:
• Relational norm violation within a strong customer firm relationship
• Severe service failure
• Failed recovery (double deviation)
• A belief that the firm was trying to take advantage of the customer (negative inferred firm motives)”
It is clear that the loss of Android ticks the four bullets above, especially the second failure (severe service failure). How do I begin to forgive you losing something of mine that I hold dearly and cannot be replaced in monetary terms. I am struggling, angry and trying to understand.

The emotions I am wrestling with above, is in consonance with the definition of Customer forgiveness, which says, “the customers internal act of relinquishing anger and the desire to seek revenge against a firm that has caused harm as well as the enhancement of positive emotions and thoughts towards this harm doing firm”.

It goes on to say that the forgiveness theory applies “to interactions when firms have caused significant psychological or physical harm. They also said, “following a service failure a firm’s best customers can become its worst enemies. This is because customers who have close relationships with firms (or have entrusted their priceless properties) feel more betrayed as it is not a mere service failure, and this feeling of betrayal can lead them to engage in anti-corporation activities, which motivate revenge and impede forgiveness”.

Results of the research revealed that customers have a higher desire for revenge than reconciliation. It is clear that when we start talking about a need to forgive an organisation, we are not talking about the pet peeves we have when being serviced by organisations regarding their attitude to customer service. Needing to forgive means they have dealt you a severe blow and you need to find it inside yourself to forgive them.
Organisations should ensure that they do not put themselves into situations like this, because it is like putting a gun to your head and killing yourself. I am praying that I will not be in the category of those who do not forgive. I want to forgive and I want Android to come back home.

– Marie-Therese Phido is Sales & Market Strategist and Business Coach
Email: mphido@elevato.com.ng
tweeter handle @osat2012; TeL: 08090158156 (text only)