Tuesday September 27, 2016
Customer service is one of the biggest factors in making or breaking a company’s reputation.
If a customer feels supported, understood and valued by your staff, they’re more likely to trust you, like you, and recommend you to their friends and peers.
But if your customer service team ignores or mishandles their questions, it can leave them feeling helpless, frustrated or taken advantage of, and some clients respond to this by covering the internet in negative reviews.
Because potential clients often rely on reviews for their buying decisions, a few dedicated negative reviewers can pollute multiple once-good sources of hot leads.
So it’s vital, both for your integrity as a business leader and for your long-term success, to keep your clients happy.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be perfect in order to avoid campaigns of bad reviews. Most of the time, when I see someone flood the internet with negative feedback, it isn’t just because they were dissatisfied with the product.
It’s because they were dissatisfied and nobody fixed it.
When something goes wrong, but the problem is addressed quickly and effectively, the client will probably praise your company’s customer support. It’s when customer support drops the ball that the internet gets doused in one-star review rage.
Here are six deadly customer service sins that can harm your relationship with your clients, and how you can help your team to avoid them:
Customer Service Sin #1: Not paying attention to the customer’s questions.
Once, I sent an email to a large and prominent company, asking for clarification regarding one of their help articles. The customer service rep responded by sending me a link to the very same article on which I’d been seeking clarification.
It was instantly obvious that they hadn’t really read and understood my question, and it severely diminished my faith in that company’s ability and willingness to support me when I needed help.
The rep may have thought they were saving time by skimming my question without comprehending it, but instead they necessitated several additional emails to answer a question that could have been answered with a single message.
This rep could have benefited from hearing the wise words of John Wooden: “If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
To ensure that your customers to feel supported and impressed by your company, make sure that your customer support team knows that sending the RIGHT answer on the first try is more important than sending the QUICKEST answer.
If your rep did take the time to try to understand the question, but they aren’t sure what the customer is asking, I recommend advising them to ask for clarification rather than taking a shot in the dark. Requesting clarification will help to reassure the client that they’re paying attention, whereas sending the wrong answer runs the risk of looking sloppy and inattentive.
Customer Service Sin #2: Taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best.
Even when the rep reads and understands the question, it’s important for them to avoid a second trap: sending out poorly-researched answers and hoping those answers work, instead of taking the time to find the right answer.
I’ve had instances where reps from large and successful companies responded to my questions by sending me links to forum threads that were vaguely related to the topic of my inquiry, but that didn’t actually give me a workable solution.
As with the above mistake, it’s important for your team to know that doing things right is more important than doing them quickly.
Customer Service Sin #3: Taking too long to get back to them.
While it’s crucial not to compromise quality in order to increase speed, it’s also important to return your clients’ calls and emails in a timely manner, or at least to give people an idea of when they’ll hear from you.
If your staff can’t keep up with your current volume of support requests, here are a few options you can use:
1. Hire an additional rep to handle the overflow.
2. Put a note on your contact page, saying “due to the high volume of calls and emails we receive, we can’t always respond within the same day. We’ll do our best to get back to you within 48 hours”, or whatever time frame is realistic for you.
3. Give them an option to mark their inquiry as urgent or time sensitive, to help your staff to prioritize which emails to open first.
Customer Service Sin #4: Transferring the client from rep to rep, without transferring the data.
While transferring a conversation from one rep to another lets the client get help while their original rep is off-duty, it’s important to ensure that everyone who inherits the conversation knows what’s already been said and tried, so the client doesn’t have to restart the conversation every time they’re transferred.
If the rep who inherited the conversation asks questions that have already been asked, or suggests fixes that have already been attempted unsuccessfully, then instead of making the exchange quicker and more efficient, they’ve made it more frustrating and time-consuming.
So if your company’s customer support policy includes transferring conversations from one person to another, make sure each person takes notes on what was said during their phone calls, and that the people who inherit email conversations look at the previous messages before sending a reply.
Customer Service Sin #5: Saying “no” to reasonable requests.
Have you ever had a time when you asked a company to do something, and they refused – not because your request was difficult or unscrupulous, but simply because “It’s company policy”?
If a reasonable request is within your company’s abilities, the client is willing to pay, and fulfilling that request wouldn’t compromise your values or the quality of the product or service you provide, make sure you have a good reason before saying “no”.
If your client can’t get what they need from your company because of an arbitrary policy with no clear reason behind it, they’re likely to seek another provider who is more motivated to meet their needs.
It’s not uncommon for new and uncertain employees to stick rigidly to policy, for fear of screwing up and getting in trouble. So be sure to provide them with a way to get answers if a customer’s request seems reasonable, but they aren’t sure if they’d be breaking the rules by saying “yes”.
Customer Service Sin #6: Making it clear that you aren’t going to fix the problem.
While the above five mistakes may put a crimp in your relationship, nothing burns bridges like simply telling your customer that the problem will never be fixed, and they cannot get a refund.
Granted, sometimes it will be the client’s fault.
Maybe they waited until the refund period was over. Perhaps they misused the product and damaged it, or they expected it to have a function that it clearly didn’t have. Or maybe they’re simply not willing to be reasoned with, and you have to let them go.
But whenever possible, even if you and the client must part ways, do your best to ensure that you do so on good terms. Be as flexible as you can without compromising your needs and values, and if you can’t fulfill their request, help them to understand why instead of leaving them frustrated and confused.
Remember, there are many situations where your client depends on your customer support representatives, and may be helpless to use your product without them. Your reps are an important lifeline to them, especially if their business and livelihood depend partly on your product or service.
Your team is the face of your business, and they can make or break your company’s reputation. So make sure that they’re trained to take the time to do things right on the first try, and that they have a way to seek guidance if a question is too complex for their level of training.
What are some customer service mistakes that you’ve seen, and how could they have been avoided?
Do you have any tips for how your fellow readers could improve their customer service?
I look forward to reading your comments.