Most businesses fail not because they sold inferior products or priced their inventory too high. They fail because they failed to solve their customers’ problems.
A good product at a great price can begin the customer relationship, but customer service helps you grow and sustain your customer relationships for the long haul. Your customer service team is ultimately responsible for your brand reputation, and prioritizing excellent customer service can help you increase sales and build customer loyalty and trust.
We’ll highlight six egregious customer service mistakes to illustrate why businesses must invest in customer care to grow and thrive.
How not to approach customer service
Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of what not to do in customer service. The following six examples are all too common. The good news is that implementing new practices and creating awareness can keep your customers happy and your business thriving.
1. Overpromising on problem-solving is a customer service disaster.
Let’s begin with an example.
A customer calls your service desk regarding a product problem. The service rep promises to come back with a solution in two hours. Instead, they call back after five hours, saying the problem has been solved.
Where did the service rep go wrong? While it’s great that they solved the problem, they failed to call the customer within the promised two-hour window. As they’re left hanging, the customer begins to lose patience. This is when many unhappy customers start thinking about your competition.
Don’t commit to deadlines you can’t meet during the problem-solving process. Your customer is already experiencing an issue, and unfulfilled promises only add to their dissatisfaction.
A better approach is to tell customers upfront that their problem’s solution might require a specific time frame. Be generous in estimating it. If you solve the problem within that stated time frame, the customer will likely be satisfied. If the solution occurs sooner than expected, the customer will be pleasantly surprised. Clear communication during this process is also crucial.
When you fulfill a problem-solving promise, you’ll end up with happy customers who are appreciative and feel good about their decision to do business with you. On the other hand, broken promises lead to frustration and anger; unhappy customers are likely to spread the word to friends and family that your company is unreliable.
Invest in a help desk ticketing system to streamline the customer support process, which can lead to quicker responses and a better customer experience.
2. Leaving a customer wondering is unacceptable.
Be transparent in your customer service approach. Statistics from Ameritas show that 97% of customers who had a positive service experience are likely to recommend the brand to others.
If you want your brand to stand out, a positive customer service experience is essential.
When a customer approaches you with a problem, don’t tell them you’ll work on it and get back to them when the problem has been solved. Empty promises and vague answers are for rookies. Instead, be clear and explain to them what you can and can’t do to fix the problem. Give the customer a generous estimate of how long you think it will take to solve the issue. If anything changes, contact them immediately with a new time frame, and keep them in the loop about what’s happening. Communicate that you’re still trying to help them, even if a solution is elusive.
3. Never question the customer’s perception.
The customer doesn’t know your product as well as you do, and they may not be fully aware of its intended usage. Industry norms, social norms and your competitors’ offerings may shape the customer’s perception of your product.
It’s crucial to understand this when a customer approaches you with a problem. For example, be patient when the customer asks for something your system doesn’t presently offer. Communicate that you’ll find a way to accommodate their request or provide a workaround, and outline the steps you plan to take. This level of communication will make your customer feel more involved.
If you’re on the receiving end of a complaint, the most acceptable approach is listening with patience and trying to understand the customer’s issue.
Customer complaints are your biggest customer service opportunities, offering ways to gain insight into your company operations and customer service process.
4. Inconsistency across channels is a missed opportunity.
How often have you called a customer service agent and they could quote a tweet you sent them about the same problem? How often has a service rep quoted your email from an hour before you called and told you that they were already working on the problem?
Most of us have rarely had such an excellent customer support experience because businesses aren’t great at tracking conversations across communication channels and platforms. Communication channels, more often than not, are silos.
Companies should spend more time and energy on integrating communication channels.
They can start by building an omnichannel knowledge base that all agents can access. If a customer calls, the agent would have immediate access to their Twitter communications, prior phone calls, and live chat sessions. The customer will feel heard and understood, and this level of attention will leave a lasting impression.
5. Ignoring customer communications is inexcusable.
Leaving a customer’s email unanswered, or not responding to a Tweet or other communication, is one of the worst things a business can do. The customer will likely grow dissatisfied and offended if their message is ignored. This is one of the easiest ways to lose even the most loyal customers.
American Express has a separate Twitter customer support account called @AskAmex, ensuring all customer concerns are answered promptly with a friendly and personal response signed by the tweeting employee.
6. Lack of familiarity with the product is irresponsible.
Service reps may convey false product information and make exaggerated claims if they don’t have full knowledge of your product’s functionality and features. This lack of knowledge and awareness makes your business seem irresponsible and may cause customers to lose trust.
To combat this problem, ensure that your customer service team is included in all phases of product development. Agents should be aware of all products’ current functionality and the features your team is developing. It’s essential for agents to be able to discuss upcoming features when a customer shares unmet needs.
It’s equally crucial for the agent to have an excellent working knowledge of the product’s user interface so they can talk customers through various processes and issues.
Both happy and dissatisfied customers leave online reviews. Respond to every online review to show unhappy customers that you’ll fix the issue and to demonstrate appreciation to satisfied customers.
Why customer service is so vital
According to Zendesk, more than 60% of customers would switch to a competitor after only one bad customer service experience. With online services and 24/7 access to company information and products, businesses must raise the customer service bar even higher to remain competitive.
Your company’s goal is to provide your customer with a professional product or service that solves their problems. Standing behind your offering with exceptional customer service is vital for your brand reputation and sales goals.
Implementing and maintaining excellent customer service will appeal to your customers on an emotional level and help build trust. The deeper the relationships you form, the more repeat customers you’ll gain.
Data security as a form of customer service
Your customers trust you with their personal data, and companies should never take this for granted. As cybercrime continues to grow, it’s essential to protect your business from data breaches to safeguard your customers’ sensitive personal data.
You can take these measures to secure customer data, to name a few:
- Invest in reputable data storage providers, including cloud document storage.
- Be transparent about how you use and store customer data.
- If you do business internationally, ensure you comply with the GDPR.
- Keep sharing to a minimum; always get customer consent if you must share their information.
Self-service channels for customer support
While providing customer support during business hours may have worked in the past, today’s fast-paced world requires more. Online tools can provide customers with a wealth of information when agents are unavailable.
- Customer knowledge management systems: Customer knowledge management systems allow you to provide a database of answers to frequently asked questions for real-time, DIY assistance without the customer having to contact a company representative.
- Responsive websites: Ensure your website is optimized and responsive so that customers have a smooth buying experience. Include a prominent FAQs page that answers common questions about your products and services.
- Social media channels: Create social media pages that are responsive to customer feedback, both positive and negative. If a customer reaches out on a social channel after hours, make sure they get a prompt response.
Niraj Ranjan contributed to the writing and research in this article.