If you have any doubts about the importance of customer service, just think back to a personal purchase you made recently. If things went well, you came away satisfied with the transactional experience and open to the idea of doing business with that company in the future. If things went poorly and you felt mistreated or shortchanged in some way, you’ll certainly think twice about patronizing that company again.
Now multiply this negative experience by hundreds, if not thousands of times, and you’ll get a sense of just how costly customer service mistakes can be to a business. In fact, no business can hope to survive long without putting a high priority on meeting (and, where possible, exceeding) customer expectations.
Here’s a look at key customer service mistakes and what can be done to avoid them:
1. Relying on outdated CRM systems. Larger organizations regularly upgrade their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to meet changing customer needs. This is sometimes a greater challenge for small businesses, but shouldn’t ever be less of a priority. The good news is that online CRM technology has advanced to a point where systems are both more efficient and more affordable than ever before.
2. Not empowering front-line employees to resolve customer complaints. Customers who have an issue with your product or service won’t feel better about getting those issues resolved if they must jump through hoops in order to get anything done.
Front-line employees are ideally situated to address many service issues, but companies don’t always give them the authority to do so. Big mistake. Look closely at the structure of your complaint-resolution process and identify areas where empowering employees to resolve a problem “on the spot” might be the most efficient (and customer-pleasing) option.
3. Promising too much and delivering too little. Just about every business has done it at some point—promised a new client they can deliver on anything they want, and then falling short at the point of execution. Their reputations suffer as a result.
Instead, make certain you have the resources and processes in place to deliver exactly what you promise to deliver (with a little wiggle-room for possibly exceeding the scope of your promise). This way, you not only guarantee pleasing the customer, but succeed in creating a favorable first impression—an important step towards cementing a potentially long-term relationship.
4. Cutting back on customer service in an effort to reduce operating expenses. When profits are down and operational cutbacks are deemed necessary, avoid cutbacks when it comes to your customer service efforts. Remember, there are consequences for every cost-reduction action you take.
“Turning the lights off means your store looks abnormally dark as a customer walks toward the back,” notes retail consultant Bob Phibbs. Eliminating staff “increases wait times.” Giving customers less options for how to purchase your goods “adds friction, and some will simply walk out without buying.”
5. Demonstrating a lack of empathy for disgruntled customers. Dissatisfied customers sometimes wish to vent about their concerns, but encountering indifferent staff (or employees who take things personally instead of focusing on the issue) only makes matters worse. Prompt, courteous service is important, but “best-in-class” businesses don’t stop there.
For customer service representatives, select individuals who enjoy interacting with customers, possess a talent for active listening and are inventive in adding little details that leave the formerly unhappy customer feeling good about your business again.
6. Neglecting to follow up after an issue has been resolved. As noted, it’s essential to act promptly on any customer service issue, but it’s also a good idea to follow up with a customer afterwards. This demonstrates your commitment to full customer satisfaction and offers an opportunity to uncover any lingering or potential issues the customer might have.
Also, as noted by customer experience strategist Adam Toporek, following up “replaces the last experience, where an issue had to be resolved, with an experience that is completely positive.”
Make improving service a top priority in the new year and you’ll likely see a higher return of return business from your satisfied customers.