The Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Customer Service

October 17th, 2017 | Hutch Morzaria | Customer Service | Blog Home
The Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Customer Service

Before “customer service” was even a thing, the Seven Deadly Sins existed as a guideline for moral living. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, some of these “old school” lessons still have a place in the society of today, and have significant overlap with bad customer service practices.

  1. avaritia / Greed.
  2. acedia / Sloth.
  3. ira / Wrath.
  4. invidia / Envy.
  5. superbia / Pride.
  6. luxuria / Lust.
  7. gula / Gluttony.

When we talk about the Seven Deadly Sins as they relate to bad customer service, some of the more common failures of an organization often spring to mind – failing to listen to the customer, IVR hell, rudeness, overall bad attitude and perhaps one of the biggest, lack of knowledge and ignorance in general.

But greed, sloth, wrath and more are certainly prevalent in some businesses – and whether from the point of view of an employee or a customer, they’ve likely caused you some headaches.

Let’s explore some of the Seven Deadly Sins now and see how these ancient lessons relate to today’s CX practices. Read on to see how many you recognize!

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Greed

Well, this one is probably the easiest of the bunch to relate to and I think you’d all agree with me. Unfortunately, greed is a sin that’s very much evident in many businesses around the world, and one that’s often driven by money.

Perhaps at its simplest, you could talk about companies that simply won’t invest the appropriate funds into their frontline teams in the interests of “saving” a buck, not realizing that due to the horrible customer service they are providing, they are costing their business in revenue and reputation.

greed

Greed can be seen in companies and employees that are only focused on the sale and not on actually giving the customer what they want. Your typical car salesmen may spring to mind, but unfortunately, many commission-based businesses can work in a similar manner.

Contrast these types of organizations with companies that have decided not to focus on greed but on service. They are still for-profit businesses and in fact, are doing amazingly well – it’s just that their business model is focused on keeping their customers happy while making a profit.

Some great examples of this “extra” level of service are the return policies offered by companies like Costco, Macy’s and L.L. Bean. This fanatic belief in serving their customers has led to some of these organizations allowing products to be returned decades after they were initially purchased and used!

While at first glance this would seem contrary to any rational business plan, these practices drive repeat business, and the positive word of mouth generated ensures additional organic growth – which is the goal of any business! The best part is that customers continue to return even if the product is sometimes at a higher price, secure in the knowledge that they are protected if they have any issues.

Sloth

Another one that’s probably very easy to understand and one I’m sure any managers reading have seen at least once. Sloth is the laziness factor prevalent in businesses all around the world – staff that do not actually listen to the customer’s problem, or those salespeople trying to hit a quota that are so focused on the product, they don’t actually hear what customers need.

Sloth is doing the absolute minimum to get by and not making those extra efforts to exceed expectations or provide extra value. Unfortunately, it’s easy to do and significantly easier than actually striving for excellence.

Companies can work to address this by training their staff to listen and empathize with customers, and address customer’s needs at a deep level. They should focus more on resolving issues, and not just the number of calls/emails/transactions logged.

Perhaps more importantly though – agents need to dig in and look at why the customer is calling in the first place. What was not done correctly – was the product sold incorrectly, was it not installed correctly, does it not do what it is supposed to do?

To fight against laziness, it is important to focus on service. Put yourself on the other side of the equation and fix the underlying issues.

Wrath

Our third sin is Wrath – or furious rage. In this case, let’s put the shoe on the other foot as the people receiving that rage are often the frontline staff trying to help.

Customers calling for service and assistance are generally unhappy that they have to call in the first place – after all, the product or service should have worked right from the beginning. Now they have to call, wait on hold and explain the problem to someone who doesn’t understand the issue and ends up having to transfer them… well, tempers can flare in these situations much too easily.

It’s very important for frontline staff to realize that the customer does not actually hate them – just the product/service for failing to deliver what was expected.

wrath

It’s very important to not take things personally. Dealing with irate customers is not an easy thing at all. Some of the key steps are to actually listen to the customer and let them vent. Focus on offering solutions that are actually appropriate to the problem and if you make a commitment – well you’d better make sure that you keep it!

While I’ve mentioned verbal confrontations, wrath is definitely not restricted to that forum – in fact, in today’s ever more connected society, you will find it online more frequently than anywhere else!

With the prevalence of social media and smartphone apps like Yelp and FourSquare offering users an easy and relatively anonymous method of rating any company, it’s very easy for anyone to put up a review that could be read by thousands in the blink of an eye.

When this happens, there are two different options available

The Wrong Way:
You could set up automated autoresponders on Twitter which is what the Bank of America did, basically completely removing the “social” from social media, or perhaps even worse – threaten to fine people that leave a bad review of your hotel!

The Right Way:
Actually engage with the customer and find out what the problem is. If you must, take them to a separate channel or communication medium to continue the conversation, but engagement is key. Focus on real people and real conversations and you’ll see real positive outcomes!

Envy

Envy might not be as immediately obvious to you as some of the other sins in our list, but if you think about biased claims made by one competitor about another’s products, you’ll see where this comes into play.

For some companies, it’s much easier for them to badmouth a competitor than it is to focus on the features of their product and how it could benefit a customer.

Contrasting this, of course, are those stories about companies that will even refer you to their competition if they feel the product available there is more suitable for your requirements.

While these examples might be few and far between, they stand out. This ability to go that extra mile in the interests of service make an impact, and as a result, customers often return to that original business for different services as they know they will be well looked after.

Pride

We just talked about Envy and the focus on denigrating others. Pride is an interesting contrast to that – especially at a personal level.

As a manager and leader, I’ve dealt with staff at all levels, and one common issue I’ve had to deal with is that service employee who believes they don’t need to refer a case, and they can solve that problem or make that customer happy if they could just work that issue a little bit longer.

In itself, this is not a bad thing, and in fact, it’s something to be encouraged. But when you think about the impact to the customer (in terms of time, if nothing else), you realize that escalating that issue or asking for help would have probably been the better decision.

Pride can be dealt with, by truly knowing your limitations and ensuring that proper processes are built in with a focus on helping the customer.

Lust

Lust is interesting with respect to Customer Service. Generally defined as a strong desire, I have seen instances where companies take the mantra of service to an extreme without accounting for the impact on their staff.

This could include staff being “on call” 24/7/365 with poor compensation, or even the expectation that they will work nights and weekends for months at a time for a major project or client.

Employees often feel trapped by this, as they feel they need to put in the extra work to stay employed, but also if they do this they will be recognized for it by the organization.

Unfortunately, the opposite often happens. Companies that constantly utilize staff as on-call resources often have no incentive to hire extra resources to truly do the job properly. What’s worse, the employee performing that extra work is often too burned out to perform their day job properly.

It’s actually a losing formula as while the intent is a strong desire for improved service, in the end, it is the customers that end up suffering the most.

Gluttony

With Halloween coming soon and the expectation of hundreds of trick or treater’s at the door, parents everywhere are stocking up on candies, treats, and sweets. But, let’s be honest – the majority of those snacks do not end up with our kids after they’ve been sorted, do they? The “bad” pile almost always ends up in the office and gets added to the pile of snacks and junk food found in call centers around the world!

The mistaken assumption that by giving the team food to ensure that they do not have to leave the floor and will work harder, has unfortunately over time become an addiction to junk and fast food. Added to that is the fact that employees in these centers are frequently sitting down for long periods of time, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, many companies and HR departments have realized the danger and have started to initiate programs to help their employees get fit. These programs include discounts for Gym memberships, initiatives to encourage their employees to exercise and even subsidized weight loss programs!

Gluttony

A good donut once in a while is not a bad thing – it’s all about moderation though, and Gluttony is the sin of taking it too far!

Is your contact center guilty of these sins? Or, how have you worked to resolve them? Let us know in the comments below!

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About 

Hutch has been involved with the Internet and technology from the days of dial-up and has been involved in building and growing successful customer service and technical support teams globally. He has a deep and abiding passion for customers and is always looking for ways to make his teams as efficient and productive as possible. In his spare time, Hutch focuses on sharing his knowledge and enjoys spending time with his family. Connect with Hutch on LinkedIn.

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