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Lessons from Big Brands: 4 Customer Service Pitfalls That Will Destroy Your Brand

Christine James
Christine James

The goal of almost every business is to provide products or services to others that lead to profits for the business.

That seems to be something that everyone can agree on, customers and employees alike.

Yet the interaction between both sides does not end there and it has not for a long time. Companies have to maintain a relationship with their consumers and respond to needs or problems with their product. This is customer service.

And in a marketplace now that is flooded with more than 28,000,000 small businesses competing for customer attention, customer service can separate those businesses in the customer's mind.

Solid customer service can turn a bad experience and customer issue into a positive one that will encourage them to come back and try your brand again. We've all heard about the importance of happy customers. But did you know that bad customer service can not only end relationships with customers, it can destroy your reputation for years to come?

The customer now possesses more ways than ever before to leave feedback online and tell others about your brand if they feel pushed far enough to. Word-of-mouth is nothing compared to a couple of perfectly placed scathing pieces of feedback for everyone to see online that searches for your company.

Ultimately, that is why it's important to consider the ways that you may be risking your reputation today. Let's look together at four big problems that can destroy your company's presence online.

Related Article: Customer Service Crimes: This Is Why Your Business Is Failing

Broken Products and Services

Honestly, if the products or services you are offering constantly require customer service assistance, there is likely a bigger issue to begin with. Either something is broken, hard to understand, or is the customer does not expect what they are receiving.

One of the first things that pops into my mind while thinking about this brings up phone and Internet companies. Multiple carriers have gone through customer service rollercoasters when there are periods of time when people report serious failures in customer service.

But one company that has regularly had to deal with poor customer service and consumer satisfaction causing customers to leave has been AT&T. From hard to understand bills to changing rates and service plans, one of the largest carriers for mobile services dealt with poor ratings for years before their more recent attempt to improve it over the last couple of years. The reputation has stuck with AT&T for years to the point that there are multiple websites for consumers to spread reviews and experiences with the company that have alienated and enraged their users.

When your consumers are not happy to begin with and then have to deal with poor customer service while already aggravated, it will likely lead to the loss of business. Sadly even for the best businesses this may happen sometimes but when it happens at a high rate then word quickly gets out. This is why Chipotle should have fixed it's food safety issues in 2015 instead of handing out free burritos in 2016.

And for many businesses that can be something that will sink the ship before they can even address smaller problems. For small to mid-sized businesses this can be avoided by trying to clarify and aid customers in the learning of what your company can offer while being upfront about prices and what they should expect. Helping create less customer service traffic can easily lead to fewer serious customer service issues altogether.

Related Article: Find Your Biggest Customer Service Opportunities in These 3 Places

Improper Employee Training

According to a recent study, the world of social media is dominated by users under the age of 40. While everyone from grandparents and uncles to distant relatives might have a Facebook account now, most other outlets like Twitter and Instagram are driven by teenagers and young adults. And that likely won't change anytime soon and it's not likely these places go away.

So when you create an official account to be your online face to potential and current customers, do not leave the keys the car to someone inexperienced with understanding that they are working instead of just posting anything that comes to mind. Yet this is a common thing with many businesses, news sources, and even political accounts. And the results are often that sooner or later something is posted or retreated that should not be and the brand takes the heat for it.

Ask Arizona based Isagenix, even well known KitchenAid, or Marc Jacobs and CEO Robert Duffy. It often makes sense to leave something like social media usage to someone who understands it compared to an overworked employee or inexperienced employee who does not know how to use it at all. But leaving something that can reach thousands of reads within a minute to an individual that is not experienced with using social media is problmatic. Especially, in a work setting that can often lead to disastrous results when not monitored. And that is definitely not how you want thousands of people to find out about your brand.

Lack of Common Sense

Often the difference between a good idea and an idea that never worked out is the timing of when they are implemented. This is also a truth in humor and discussing current topics in the open. And nothing has ever been as open as social media has become now. Major companies and personalities can post something that might reach over a million views in a day. So stepping forward with a new campaign or hashtag to catch some views, do so with with caution.

Pay attention to what is going on within your business, your own field of interest, and within the world. Qantas Airlines left the world with a perfect example of what can happen with your social media department when it does not know what is going on within the company. Employees had no basic idea about the customer service protocol and started a "luxury" social media campaign the day after labor negotiations failed with their internal unions. Something that could have encouraged potential customers to interact with the company led to a PR nightmare.

Food maker Entenmann's will forever have one of the most popular instances in which not knowing what was going on in the world resulted in a Twitter fail. Kenneth Cole helped kill his own brand reputation for a while in 2011 trying to make a light of the situation in Cairo in a way to get attention for his new products. He jumped on a popular topic and "hashtag" at the moment and tried to find a way to turn attention towards the company, but did so with little regard for how it would appear.

No Social Media Strategy

While we live in the blossoming world of social media and immediate interaction online, sometimes using it as a source for customer service can lead to a different end result than desired. Anyone that has spent an extended amount of time on Twitter has seen that quick 140 character messages might not be the best way to discuss complex or serious topics. Just look at the trend of Twitter Q&A segments where companies have used their official accounts to have scheduled days where customers can discuss new or changing services.

British Gas held a Q&A back in late 2013 after announcing a rate increase to plans and the disaster should have been predictable. They increased prices for many families during a rough market and then left the "floor open" for an hour for angered customers to discuss it. And it quickly turned into a massive black-eye for the company and another source for customers (and potential customers) to see the outrage of many against British Gas.

Look around the Internet and Twitter and you will find this is a common trend. Q&A's set up on the popular social media outlet that often go horribly wrong between displeased customers, online trolls, and endless responses from people just looking for laughs. Let them laugh at another company, not yours. The face of the company can make errors just as easily as the newest employee when it comes to using online resources to try and pull interest to a company. Great jokes can kill. Bad jokes can tank public perception.

Related Article: Like PB&J: Customer Service as a Marketing Strategy

And not knowing what is going on around the brand and world outside of it before trying something different can lead to your quick error being imprinted in social media history.

In the end creating ways to improve customer service online and interact with possible consumers through social media are a must for growing companies now. The world is constantly growing and using these resources will help you reach more people than ever before, and you better believe competitors know that.

But the customer service side of being online is still treacherous and not knowing what to look out for can guide your brand into the crosshairs before you even get a chance to realize what has happened. Just like with anything new and magical there can be as much danger as there is promise.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Christine James
Christine James Member
Christine believes that every customer has a voice. She is the Community Manager at (a customer complaints website) and loves talking to customers on social media about their challenges with Fortune 500 companies. Her work has been published on Huffington Post, Inc., SocialMediaToday, and Thought Catalog.