Customer service mistakes to avoid

John Sherman

When it comes to retaining your best customers and building a successful business, the customer service experience you provide is absolutely critical. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Likewise, a Bain & Company study found that a customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related than price or product related.

Clearly, when customer satisfaction begins to dip, you know you have a serious problem on your hands. Whether you’re working for a lean and mean start-up or an established corporation, make sure you don’t make these critical customer service mistakes:

Failing to train your staff adequately

When your customer service staff is inadequately trained it reflects poorly on your entire organization. To prevent this, it’s important to have standardized processes for dealing with upset customers, deescalating situations, and above all else, providing actionable solutions. Customer service training shouldn’t just be for the customer service department either. Everyone in your company should be on the same page when it comes to customer interactions.

Not greeting your customers in a friendly manner.

The way your customer service staff greets your customers can change the entire mood of the conversation that follows. If they are friendly and warm then there is a high probability that the customer will respond in the same fashion. However, if your customer service staff sounds stressed out, bored, or uninterested then it will only lead to a negative experience.

Making yourself inaccessible.

Some organizations make it very difficult for their customers to actually contact them. They hide their contact information or direct customers to a long and tedious FAQ in an effort to avoid a real human-to-human interaction. While it's true that customer service time adds to your costs, the customer service experience also drives revenue. When your customers can't find solutions to their problems then they will turn to someone else and they will tell the friends to do the same.

Being overly rigid about policy.

“I’m sorry, that’s just our policy.” This is a statement that will turn your customers away in a flash. When there's a situation that needs to be remedied and you can keep the customer by bending the rules a little bit, sometimes this is truly the best option. Amazon is a company that lives by this policy and will go above and beyond to make sure that you’re satisfied with the outcome of your purchase—even if this means doing things that aren't in the rulebook sometimes.

Talking too much.

Sometimes your customers just want to be heard. If you want the interaction to go well then it's important to pause and listen to everything that they are telling you. In some cases the problem they have might not be as obvious as they think it is. This is especially true in the tech world, for example. If you take the time to listen to your customers before responding to them the outcome of the interaction may be much more positive.

Handing off the customer too many times.

Airlines and telecom providers are particularly bad about this. As soon as you get through to a real human being they ask you questions about your call and then hand you off to another representative. Then that representative asks you the same question and hand you off to someone else!

This is extremely frustrating and turns customers away. The solution of this problem is to give representatives the authority to solve the problem themselves without handing it off to a different department or superior.

Failing to follow up with customers after the contact was made.

Following up shows the customer that you care about their experience and that you want to make sure that the problem was fully resolved. It leaves things on a positive note so that the last thing your customer remembers is that you were attentive enough to make sure they were fully satisfied.

Over promising and under delivering.

Some companies train their customer service staff to keep the customers happy at all costs. While this sounds like a great philosophy it also leads to a lot of promises that cannot be fulfilled. Obviously, when your customer expects one thing and is given less than they planned on then your reputation will suffer. Your staff should only make promises about service that they can actually keep!

Failing to document interactions.

Documenting your interactions with customers saves you time and provides you with critical data that you can use to improve your products and services over time. Plus, nobody wants to explain their problem over and over again when contacting a customer support representative. If you have a database that documents prior actions then you can get caught up and start addressing the problem faster, which will lead to a more positive outcome with the customer in the end.

Sending too many “canned” responses.

Some companies – startups in particular – choose to provide customer service exclusively over email. While this isn’t a problem itself, it can become one if you are sending too many canned responses. Your customers know when they’re receiving a pre-fabricated message and it can make them feel like they are being brushed off. All it takes is adding a little bit of personalization in the beginning of these emails to make the customer feel like they are being paid attention to.

Another Bain & Company study found that it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This statistic alone should show you how valuable each and every one of your customers are. The bottom line is that customer loyalty is paramount to the health of your organization. Avoid the mistakes I’ve listed above and you’ll be providing a superior customer service experience that will pay off tremendously in the long run.

Are you interested in learning how to better understand the needs of your customers?

You might find How to Understand Customer Needs to be a valuable resource.


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