Ivana Sewart

Chances are you will recognise every one of the failings listed below in your personal dealings with other companies. Slow response rates, poor communication, unsatisfactory resolutions...  be warned this is a dismal list!

But had you ever stopped to think, while a tinny instrumental version of Careless Whisper plays on repeat on the other end of your phone, that you might have some bad habits of your own?

An eye-opening 2018 study by SuperOffice.com showed that out of the 1000 firms they questioned the majority were failing to deliver an adequate level of customer service.

Hopefully you will have trained your frontline staff and have systems in place to help provide the best possible experience for your clients. But there may be areas where you aren’t doing quite as well as you could be. And this really matters, because ultimately poor customer service means losing repeat business.

So, which of these seven fatal customer service errors bug you most - and which ones do you think you and your team might be guilty of?

1.     You keep me hanging on

How quickly are you responding to customer enquiries? By the end of the day? Within 24 hours? How about not at all. The SuperOffice study found that an astounding 62% of emails are never responded to. Whether this is through deliberate negligence or a problem with your systems, it’s a sure fire way of driving away customers. If it’s the latter then some help desk software will mean you don’t miss another email.

2.     Mind your language

Many businesses invest heavily in training telephone customer service staff to be friendly, knowledgeable and articulate. Less emphasis unfortunately goes on written skills. The art of good email communication is tricky – conveying often complex information using accessible language is not for beginners. Check your spelling and grammar several times before pressing send. And if nothing else, please get your customer’s name right!

3. Don’t play hard to get

Many businesses - particularly online - appear to be playing a game of hide and seek with their customers. Contact details are often hidden away at the bottom of a submenu, and when you find them there is no telephone number and a time-consuming contact system that demands you to prove you are not a robot. It’s the online equivalent of shutting your receptionist in a windowless basement room next to the toilets. In the real world, customers like to be greeted immediately by a friendly face. Why should your website be any different?

4.     Are you even listening?

It’s amazing how often customer queries are misinterpreted by staff, resulting in an unhelpful response. These misunderstandings aren’t necessarily based on poor service but on the customer being unable to articulate what they want or need. Think about who you are talking to.

If they’re not an expert in the finer points of your business they might not know how to ask for help. If it’s not obvious, don’t just guess, make sure you ask the right questions and listen to what they say.

5.     Not a robot!

Not everyone wants to talk to an online chat bot. Getting a canned email response that doesn’t answer your original question is beyond frustrating. And talking to a state of the art robotic telephone system might be a step too far. A 2018 survey by the analytics software firm Calabrio showed that 74% of customers were more likely to remain loyal to a company that allowed them to speak with an actual human.

That’s not to say that your investment in expensive digital customer service technology has been a waste of money; most people simply want options. Properly integrated human and digital systems will produce the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

6.     Customer disservice

Mistreat your frontline staff at your peril. A 2018 report by the US customer service company Aspect showed that 45% of GenZ / Young Millennial (18-24) customer service agents want to leave their current jobs. That’s almost half of your core workforce heading for the door. What can you do to stop this? We recommend you lead by example: put customer service at the heart of your company and make staff at all levels outward facing. The same survey also found that 80% of staff thought up-to-date customer service software was critical to their work, but only 35% were satisfied with their company’s systems. Even the smallest businesses can help their staff with powerful and affordable software.

7. Answer the damn question!

What do we even have customer service for? To answer customers questions quickly and accurately. Only 20% of the businesses polled by SuperOffice were able to answer queries from the initial email. The root causes of this are a) inadequate training and b) not empowering staff to do their jobs properly. Customers increasingly expect instant resolution to problems and the best way to do this is by giving your staff the responsibility to do their jobs without the need to seek advice from above.

Is your business guilty of any of our seven fatal errors? Perhaps you’ve come across even greater customer service fails? We’d love to hear about them. Come say hi over on Twitter.

About the author: Ivana Sewart is the Head of Customer Service at EvantoDesk.com (simple help desk software for small and medium sized businesses). Ivana is passionate about perfecting the customer experience.