Some of the most costly customer service mistakes can be fixed with nothing more than a little effort and time investment.
We've shortlisted our top 10 common mistakes and offer advice on how to tackle them for free.
Does your company fall foul of any of these?
1. Not making promises
Encourage your staff to make promises. In a world where everyone is covering their behinds and making woolly assurances, be the ones who are willing to commit. Anyone worth their salt who has a customer-facing role should be capable of making realistic and genuine promises.
2. Being the middle man
Think like the customer. It’s not rocket science but very few customer service teams take the time to think proactively on their customers’ behalf.
Customer service teams can be so much more than a passive intermediary between customer and business. They can see both sides. That visibility is powerful and gives them the means to offer smart solutions.
Promoting a culture of taking ownership as well as encouraging teams to take a humanitarian customer service approach leads to the very best proactive problem solving.
Top tip: computer says no
Never blame your computer for not being able to give a customer an answer, even if it’s the truth! It gives a very bad impression. Encouraging teams to tell customers they’ll call them back with the answer avoids any embarrassment and the customer experiences a positive interaction rather than a negative one.
3. The knee-jerk
Restricting and/or pigeon-holing customers because something bad happened once isn’t good for customers or brands.
For example, being overzealous about a new social media customer service product and intentionally funneling customers towards it without offering them a choice. In this instance the number one goal is to make communication with your business easy, not necessarily cutting-edge.
4. The sound of silence
Good customer service is grounded in good communication and the arch enemy of communication is – yep, you guessed it - silence. Often the overall length of time to resolve an issue isn’t nearly as damaging as the lack of communication in between.
We have a rule at Covase HQ: 2 days is too long. Encourage proactivity: if customer service teams take action every 2 days to update the customer - even if it’s just to say that they’re still actively working on it – it reassures the customer that they haven’t been forgotten. It also encourages teams to regularly confront any internal/external delays head on, much like the customer would directly.
5. Dispirited employees
Ignore staff unhappiness at your own peril! It's a slippy slope towards unhappy customers.
If employees feel respected and cared for, they’ll make customers feel the same. If they are genuinely passionate about the company then that will filter through to each and every customer communication they have and it can boost a company's brand far more than any advert.
6. Bad time management
Being late to a meeting or conference call, being misleading about time scales, failing to manage a customers’ timing expectations... these are all avoidable. A customer-facing professional with adequate tools/support should be able to manage processes and project timescales confidently. If they can’t, ask who's fault that is, theirs or the business'?
Handling a slipping deadline:
If a deadline is going to be missed for any reason, first apologise then explain why succinctly and state what date you're now aiming for. It's not difficult but it’ll set your company apart from so many others. And for goodness sake, tell your customer before the original deadline passes: telling them afterwards just makes you sound like a wally.
7. Lack of empathy
Telling a customer “no” without bothering to explain why is a customer service grenade.
The quickest way to lose a customer’s respect is to “tell” rather than “suggest”; remember, they don’t HAVE to do anything. A little bit of language training could go a long way.
Ego really is customer service’s Achilles’ heel but the most successful customer service professionals can overcome this oh-so-natural urge: they know that you never get a positive outcome by challenging a customer.
A whiff of sarcasm, that superior tone, one passive aggressive comment: no matter how subtle, ego can send a conversation into an unsalvageable tailspin. If employees can be trained how to keep super-cool heads and control their egos it will do wonders for the customer's experience.
The ego-buster: saying sorry
If you, your colleague, your systems or even your 3rd party supplier has screwed up, say sorry. Willingly and sincerely. The customer deserves an apology. (Saying it with the faintest hint of sarcasm doesn't count!)
9. Overlooking the detail
It’s those things that you don’t notice when they are right but can incite anxious eye twitches when they are wrong! Spelling errors, incorrect names, typos, sloppy grammar... these seemingly small details tend to stick in customers’ minds and imply a general lack of care and attention. Training/supporting all customer-facing teams to get these fundamental basics right every time is a sure-fire way to safeguard a brand.
10. Employing the right people but not enabling them
Even the best people will fail if they’re not sufficiently supported by their employer. Customer-facing teams need both the authority and the means to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
Everyone hates a wishy washy caveat to giving help; “You'd have to speak with my manager…” or “Our policy is not to…”. It’s the last thing customers want to hear. By all means don’t let everyone give off-the-cuff remunerations, but smaller compensations and project/case ownership will give customer-facing employees authority and autonomy, and consequently more job satisfaction too. Customer, business and employee: everyone can benefit.
If you don’t trust your customer service staff to deliver, then there’s a bigger issue. Could the business have failed them in not providing adequate training for example? Why not ask your front-line staff where they see opportunities to improve the service they deliver? Their feedback can help to evaluate customer service systems, tools, training, protocols, morale, resources etc. to locate bottlenecks and misgivings. The knowledge is free, the fixes may not always be, but you can be confident that any money spent will be on those things that will reap positive results.
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