Businesses sell products or services to customers.
That much we can all agree on, right? But the relationship does not stop there.
Companies must maintain solid customer relationships. That's called customer service. And some organizations do this better than others.
Focusing on customer success is critical today. And the world of technology allows us to have an even deeper glimpse into the success (or failure) of customer service teams.
In the age of the customer, having the power to change and improve the customer experience is more important than ever.
But you cannot improve something if you are living in denial that it is broken to begin with.
Case in point, a DirecTV customer once spent more than 10 days trying to get an issue resolved. Do you think the President of AT&T (John T. Stankey) knows his customer service is that broken?
It's time for CEOs and business owners to take the lead on transforming the customer experience. Your customers will thank you and appreciate the fact that you want to go fix a poor customer experience.
But what should business leaders today look to fix? Here are fix signs that a company's customer service strategy is broken, and more importantly how to fix them.
1. You Ignore the Big Issues
If your product or service requires a call to a customer service agent, it's already broken because that means it's not easy to use.
For example, it's painful spending hours on hold with an airline just to change a flight, or a cell phone provider just to understand your bill.
Although it usually works out, ideally it should not be this difficult.
Fix this mistake by looking at the root cause of all the customer service calls and solve the problem.
If you only add more reps to the phone lines you are not ever going to get ahead. In most cases, customers have to call customer service repeatedy to get their problems fixed.
Try and get things resolved the first time, and don't ignore deeper issues.
2. You Do Not Give Enough Training to Your Employees
Nothing is worse than a customer service representative setup to fail from day one. Do you provide adequate training?
Everyone who deals with customers should be armed with the knowledge and skills to wow those customers.
Customer-facing employees should understand their customers well enough to personalize the experience and treat them like royalty.
Fix this mistake by setting up a comprehensive training program that errors on the side of too much training vs. too little.
Start with understanding your product, the personas of your customers, and proper crisis communcation. When in doubt, you must believe that proper training is the single greatest predictor of success in the workplace.
And ultimately happy employees lead to happy customers.
3. You Ignore Customer Requests
One customer service employee told me that when customers call to cancel, they are pressured to sell more services. What? Yes it's true.
Some companies want to pressure their customer-facing employees to do the exact opposite of what the customer asks. When customers reach out to you, they usually need something urgently.
Respond to them, even if it means helping them cancel or get a refund.
Fix this mistake by promoting a culture of kindness at your company. Make sure that every employee feels enabled to do the right thing, not the action that might make the most money.
This is easier said than done. As a business owner I get it, profits are vital and you do not exist without sales. But if you are in a business that has to sell your soul in order to survive, you might want to consider your future carefully.
4. You Stop Learning
If you've dated more than a few people in your adult life, you have a general idea about the way men and women both work.
It's the same with customers. If a company doesn't have a good idea about it's customers by the second or third "date", then they might not ever get it.
After dealing with several hundred customers you should understand the common issues, what their problems are, and how to eliminate them in the future. That's called working smarter, not harder.
Fix this mistake by setting up some type of internal wiki system inside of your company. Make sure that there is a place to log common issues, complaints, and more important the resolutions to those problems.
Learning should be constant in any organization, but especially one that a track record of problematic customer relationships.
5. You Blame Your Customers
Last month I went into my AT&T store to adjust my wireless plan. I did this because it's so painful to wait on hold over the telephone that I might as well drive to the store.
I've shared this with several customer service reps over the phone. Once, a man I'll call "Greg" blamed me for not having the patience to wait on hold. Never blame your customer for what isn't their fault to begin with.
Fix this mistake by taking ownership of customer service problems when they happen. And if you are a business owner, this starts with you.
Make it a daily habit to accept responsibility first, and deflect to others second. If a customer is upset, it is rarely their fault. And in the rare occassion that you do find user error, treat the situation with humility and respect.
Poor customer service is written about so much today, and that's great. But it is still rampant inside companies both big and small.
In fact, a poor history of customer support was one of the main reasons the government blocked the recent Comcast merger. So, if the government cares about it that deeply, chances are you should too.
If you don't support the customer and provide an easy means of doing business with your company, chances are they will go somewhere else.
So, if your customer service is broken, please fix it.