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10 Warning Signs That Your Customer Service Sucks

We all want our customers to be happy with our products and services. Ideally, they would all be willing ambassadors for our company:

  • happily harnessing the power of social media to recruit other customers;
  • freely place banner ads for our businesses outside their homes;
  • become international celebrities;
  • and prominently display our products during their frequent Tonight Show appearances.

Sadly, this happens only very rarely.

As much as we want to assure the total satisfaction of each and every one of our customers, unfortunately, this is a practical impossibility. People are diverse, difficult to uniformly please, and eager to vent their frustrations on every available public platform. Since you can’t reasonably act as butler to every individual customer, you’ll inevitably discover that someone has been mightily displeased by your services. This alone shouldn’t be a matter of much concern. On the other hand, if the phrase “worse than Hitler” appears in multiple Yelp reviews, it’s time for a major reassessment. The problem might be with the quality of your product/service. But it might be largely due to your customer care practices.

Here’s how you can tell if your customer service, for lack of a better word, sucks.

  1. You rarely—or never—have repeat customers

    People don’t typically switch service providers just to spice up their lives; if they use, for example, an auto service center that’s skilled, efficient, convenient, and within their budget, they’ll stick to them forever. The same goes with online retailers (once you go, you don’t go back).

    However, not many people take the time and energy to alert businesses to their subpar service—they just don’t ever use their services again. People don’t feel like taking surveys and they flat-out don’t want to contact customer care (except when they’re really, really annoyed), so you’ll probably remain blissfully ignorant of the bulk of your customers’ true feelings. The bliss won’t last long, though. Once you start hemorrhaging new customer acquisition money, you’ll really regret your inability to keep your old customers happy.

    Recommended for you: 5 Ways to Increase Repeat Customers

  2. Your customer care staff is bitter and unmotivated

    Anyone who’s worked in customer service has experienced the rampaging fury of a dissatisfied customer. If left unchecked, agents experiencing the brunt end of such interactions can start dwelling on them, leaving them less motivated, or worse, angry. It’s critical that your customer-facing staff is equipped to handle diverse customer care issues compassionately and effectively. (Read more on how to motivate your live chat team.)

    To see how prepared your staff is, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the turnover rate of your customer service agents?
    • Is there room for growth?
    • How much support do you give them during difficult cases?

    Your team members are supposed to be your company’s advocates. If your employees are unhappy working for you, why should they try to win over your customers?

  3. You focus too much on turnaround times

    “Faster” does not necessarily mean “better”. Although we all want our problems solved quickly, we’d far rather have them addressed thoroughly. It won’t matter if your agents can service 100 or more customer per day if none of those customers feels that their issue was truly resolved.

  4. You’re obsessed with the idea of creating “fans”

    Giving every customer a chilled bottle of water while waiting in the lobby, or individually welcoming them into your store does not necessarily mean you’re delivering the kind of customer experience that inspires repeat patronage. Unless you’re a luxury brand where perks are expected, don’t waste resources on maintaining a veneer of dazzling service—just make sure your customer care strategy is focused on efficiency. “Exceeding expectations” is a great business/marketing phrase, but consistently meeting basic expectations yields greater customer loyalty, and is far cheaper.

  5. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing

    Everyone who interfaces with customers should be able to resolve customer issues without automatically shunting them off to a different department. It’s important that customer service representatives understand the full sales life cycle and how clients interact with it. A silo mentality in a customer service department can lead to a lack of understanding of client concerns, failure to empathize with client experiences, and the inability to effectively own and handle customer problems. Educate your service team on the original sales experience so that they’re better equipped to handle a wide variety of situations.

  6. You have an aggressively sales-obsessed customer care strategy

    You obviously want to sell your product or service. However, there are times when the sales pitch just isn’t appropriate. When customers reach out to resolve an issue, the last thing they want to hear is a spiel about your new and exciting products and services, or how fantastic their existing service is. Don’t leave your customers feeling manipulated. Once again, effective resolution is key.

  7. Your customer service reps don’t have the authority to make decisions

    If you don’t allow your customer service representatives to offer discounts, refunds, or account cancellations, you’re creating a wellspring of resentment for both the customer and the agent. The customer is intensely frustrated because the issue isn’t being solved, and the agent is stressed because he/she can’t help directly.

  8. You think social media suffices as the only customer resolution tool

    Social media pages are great for furthering a brand’s reputation and for engaging with customers. It allows a company to respond to suggestions, question, and overall feedback in real-time, all of which seems ideal for customer service applications. Despite these advantages, social media is not the preferred method of contacting a company for customer service, and in fact, has been on the decline in preference since its peak in 2013. Only 29 percent of respondents in a recent Boston Consulting Group survey said they prefer to contact a company’s customer service via digital channels, with most detractors citing several challenges:

    • long wait times
    • limited functionality
    • difficulty getting a hold of a live representative

    When most customers need help, they want to call or live chat with a representative—one who has their account information and can reference it quickly. If they feel compelled to complain publicly via your social media outlets, it generally can mean one of three things:

    • Your contact or customer service information is confusing or doesn’t allow the customer to contact you efficiently
    • Your customer has contacted you via standard customer service channels, but has become so frustrated by the experience that he/she wants to shame you into resolving the issue by broadcasting it on a public forum
    • Your customer has given up trying to deal with you, and is now trying to warn other customers about your poor service

    Obviously, none of these scenarios is desirable. If you do have a customer raise an issue through your social media page, make sure you address it quickly and personally using that customer’s preferred communication medium.

  9. When you hear from customers, most of them are outraged

    If your company only ever hears about problems once they’ve gone nuclear, then your management team probably has a very poor grasp of what your customers’ overall experiences are. Moreover, it might also mean that small, easily solvable problems are being ignored until they turn into huge debacles.

    One possible source of this pattern is a lack of easily accessible customer service options. If something is inconvenient or difficult to find, many people will give up if their complaint is insignificant enough. Over time, this can build up as an innate lack of respect for your company, and once a big enough problem arises, customers will find a way to contact your representatives one way or another. At that point, they won’t just be angry about their current problem, they’ll bring all that past baggage, too, and your poor customer service representative won’t know what hit him.

    Make your customer service options plentiful and easily accessible, and avoid small problems from boiling over into all-out disasters.

  10. You insist upon one type of customer service communication tool

    Since we’ve become extremely text and instant message-oriented, we’ve been slowly branching out from the traditional call center customer service model. The easier it is for your customers to reach you, the happier they’ll be. Having an intuitive, multi-dimensional customer care interface with email, chat, and telephone options streamlines the customer support experience, allowing both your customers and your team to resolve challenges effectively and directly.

Customer support is no easy task—even Consumer Reports found problems with their own customer service. However, by opening your awareness to the above concerns and taking steps to rectify deficiencies in your approach, you’ll start to notice that you’re not just cycling through customers, you’re building a significant base.

Download now: 101 Ready-to-Use Live Chat Scripts for Both Sales and Customer Service

Download now: 101 Ready-to-Use Live Chat Scripts for Both Sales and Customer Service

The downloadable contains scripts for all kinds of scenarios, ranging from greetings to collecting personal information, and can help your live chat team deliver more efficient, quality support immediately.

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Anna Zhang

About Anna Zhang

Anna Zhang heads product marketing in Comm100. She spends most of her day in finding ways to have more people benefit from Comm100's products. In her spare time, she likes learning new things and sharing with others. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.