6 Common Customer Service Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
By Leo Dirr
Poor customer service is one of the most common reasons that companies lose business. Customers often feel that front-line employees are indifferent to their needs, often due to miscommunication. The bottom line is that customer service mistakes cost corporate America a ton of money each year. So, let’s look at six of the most common blunders and effective methods for preventing these mistakes in your organization.
1. Insinuating that the customer caused the problem or asking the customer to do too much to fix it.
Dysfunctional companies often make the mistake of forcing customers to talk to several people, fill out unnecessary paperwork and jump through other hoops to resolve a problem with their product or service. Sometimes, a customer service rep will even insinuate that the customer is somehow responsible for the problem.
This ill-advised behavior is one of the easiest ways to turn an unsatisfied customer into an actively unhappy customer who refuses to end the call until he has fully expressed his outrage. The best way to avoid this stressful scenario is to be humble and listen. Apologize sincerely for any problems the customer reports. Make it obvious that you understand the issue and that you’re going to do everything you can to help fix it. Most unhappy customers just want the company to take ownership of the problem and address it quickly.
2. Giving an impatient customer inaccurate information in an attempt to end the call.
This customer service mistake is way too common. Rookie phone reps are notorious for telling customers anything just to get them off the phone – especially when the call center representative doesn’t know an answer to a question. Maybe it’s because the rep feels dumb asking for help or fears racking up long call times. Whatever the reason, giving your customers false information is the last thing you want to do.
Make sure your customer service reps are well trained and that they have easy access to company information. Most of the time when a call center agent tells a customer the wrong information or says, “I don’t know,” the correct answer is available. The agent just doesn’t know where to find it. By providing your agents with a simple and intuitive interface for researching important company information, you can greatly reduce the risk that they will confuse your customers with misinformation.
Photo courtesy of JPhilipG
3. Making customers feel as though their requests for help are a burden.
Many customers report ending their relationship with a company because they believe that its employees are indifferent to their needs. Indifference manifests itself in myriad ways. Here are some common culprits: poor word choice, tone of voice, body language, posture, facial expressions, talking too fast, interrupting a customer before he or she has finished explaining the problem.
The solution is simple: hire employees who genuinely care about their work and other people. Look for good listeners who love to smile and have a can-do attitude. Customers can tell when employees are doing their best to take care of problems. Most people are willing to be patient if they feel their concerns are being heard and being given the attention they deserve.
4. Making customers wait too long for answers to their questions or concerns.
Effective customer service often comes down to call times. If you are constantly putting people on hold for excessive amounts of time, you can count on a good chunk of them getting grumpy. Long wait times can wreak havoc on your bottom line. About one-third of customers who decide to hang up won’t call back.
Obviously, having adequate staff to answer incoming calls is one way to reduce this problem. Beyond that, though, you must establish a culture that stresses handling inquiries quickly and efficiently. Your customer service reps should have easy access to answers to frequently asked questions. They also should receive training on how to effectively keep small talk to a minimum without making customers feel rushed or ignored.
5. Telling customers that somebody at the company will follow up with them and then failing to make sure the follow-up actually happens.
This one happens all the time, in companies large and small. An employee who can’t take care of a customer’s issue on the spot tells the customer that somebody else will call back with an answer. It all sounds fine and dandy, until that customer waits and waits and never gets any response. Failure to follow up is one of the deadliest customer service sins your business can make.
Make sure you have a protocol in place for escalating issues your reps can’t resolve to management. You also must develop a system for tracking these issues so you know which ones have been handled and which ones haven’t.
6. Blaming co-workers or the company for the customer’s problems.
Sometimes, a stressed-out employee will actually blame a co-worker or the company itself when a customer calls in to report a problem. An agent may do this in an attempt to deflect criticism or calm down an angry caller. However, pointing the finger at co-workers and bad-mouthing the company can erode customer trust and damage your brand.
All the customer really needs to hear is a simple apology and an explanation of what you are going to do to fix the problem. Train your representatives to remain professional and positive in all of their workplace interactions.
Guest contributor Leo Dirr is a freelance writer for iGLASS Networks, a company providing network monitoring services and corporate IT for businesses of all sizes.