by: Lori Soard , www.ie3media.com
Customer service is the keystone of any successful business. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, one you gain a loyal customer, you will gain as much as 10 times that business again from that person. That ties right into Marketing Metrics’ statistics that a current customer is 60 to 70 percent more likely to buy from you than a new prospect. If you want to retain those hard to attain leads, then you need to offer them such a good customer service experience that they’d never consider going elsewhere.
One of the best ways to figure out how to improve your own customer service is to study failures and figure out how to avoid them for your own company.
Fail # 1: Punishing Complainers
Sarah Burke wrote in “Examples of the Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Customer Service on Social Media” that a New York hotel called Union Street Guest House was unhappy with the negative reviews wedding guests were leaving on Yelp!
Did they try to reach out to the unhappy guests and make amends? No. Instead, they posted a policy on their site (since removed) that stated that any negative review placed anywhere online by the customer or anyone attending the wedding would result in a $500 fine deducted from the deposit. And they are threatening to institute not just a single fine, but a fine for every negative review. Yikes!
You can imagine the response from customers. Never punish someone for complaining. Instead, try to reach and out rectify the situation. Yes, some people are hard to deal with, but you won’t do your business any favors if you point it out. Other people who are considering using your services are watching how you handle difficult situations.
Fail # 2: Don’t Hide Bad News
Chuck Gumbert, founder/CEO of The Tomcat Group and author of General George S. Patton on Accelerating Performance in Today’s Business World, advises businesses and individuals on customer service policies and growth strategies. He shares an experience he had that opened his eyes to the importance of communicating quickly with customers.
“When I ran the sales and marketing department for a medium sized aerospace company, I was getting calls from customers stating that they could not get calls returned from our customer service department. When I walked into customer service, I saw a large stack of pink telephone message slips on the customer service rep’s desk. When I inquired as to whether or not the call had been [returned], he said no, because their orders were late and he didn’t want to give them any bad news.”
At some point in your service business, you will get behind on service calls. Perhaps several technicians are out with the flu, or you have more calls than you can possibly handle in a single day. Whatever the reason, don’t just try to hide that there will be a delay. Communication is key. Call the customer and inform him of the delay, why you are delayed, and when the customer can expect to see you.
Fail # 3: Not Listening to the Customer
Have you ever called a customer service rep and felt as though the person is talking over you and not really listening or understanding the problem? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? When Ronda Weems, a homemaker in Indianapolis, Indiana, called a local satellite television provider to report that her TV would not allow her to select channels or view upcoming shows, the rep kept talking over her and stating that she needed to hit the button marked “Guide.”
“I had already tried that and I had already restarted the box, but the lady wouldn’t listen to me and just kept talking,” Weems shared. “It was so frustrating. I finally told her to let me know when she was finished talking over me.”
A customer who calls in with a problem is likely already frustrated. It is important that you listen to the complaint so that you can come up with an effective solution to solve the issue. Weems added, “When I call a company about a problem, I expect them to at least listen to what is going on and try to fix it or tell me why they can’t.”
Fail # 4: Talking Bad About the Customer
Comcast is rather infamous for their customer service fails. You’ll find multiple posts on YouTube and on various blogs reporting different experiences that are not so flattering to the company. In one example, a woman named Mary Bauer reported to WGN News that she was so frustrated with the service that she requested her final bill. When the final bill arrived, however, her name had been changed to a nasty expletive.
There are other incidents of people being reminded about an appointment and it stating “Hello Dummy” at the top. Talking bad about your customer, either in-house or to others makes you look like you don’t care about the customer’s concerns. Train your employees to treat the customer with respect even when the customer isn’t around.
Fail # 5: Getting Too Automated
Back in 2013, Bank of America got busted for using bots on Twitter to respond to customers. People began tweeting things not related to Bank of America at all and getting a canned response. It was obvious to anyone reading the tweets that they were being generated either by a bot or a very clueless customer service rep.
Although automation can save you time and make your company run more efficiently, when it comes to customer service you still need to give the customer your personal attention. Take the time to respond by name and be sure you fully understand the problem.
The key to excellent customer service is quite simply putting the customer’s needs first. It costs a lot less to retain a loyal customer than to find a new one. As Chuck Gumbert shares on his blog, “If we expect to improve our levels of customer service in business, making a conscious effort to get “back to basics” in all areas of life is a good place to start.” He adds that you should treat customers the way you’d want to be treated.
The bottom line? Do everything you can to keep the ones you have happy and your business will continue to grow and thrive.