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Updated Oct 19, 2023

Bad Customer Service? Most Consumers Will Dump Your Brand

Don't give your customers a reason to leave. Build brand loyalty instead with these customer service tips.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Customer satisfaction is one of the most important determinants of brand loyalty. High-quality service can make the difference between attracting a one-time buyer and a lifelong repeat customer. But not every company does a good job of treating customers well. To some extent, this is understandable. Good customer service may feel impossible to prioritize when tasks more directly related to your product or service feel so pressing. 

But if you have bad customer service, it’s unlikely you’ll acquire or retain customers no matter how amazing your product is. Prospective customers are less likely to buy from you if they hear about negative customer experiences, and your company could even develop a reputation too poor to salvage. How do you identify and fix bad customer service? Find the answers below. 

Examples of bad customer service

To improve your customer service, you first need to understand what qualifies as bad customer service. Consider these scenarios and whether your company is guilty of any of them.

Lack of real-time support

Odds are, you’ve been there yourself: Something goes wrong with a product or service and you can’t get in-the-moment help from the vendor. Frustrating, right? Customers expect real-time resolutions to their concerns and queries, and it’s considered bad customer service if you only provide assistance on your own schedule. Ensuring support channels are always available is essential. In some industries, 24/7 customer service is the gold standard. If that isn’t feasible for your small business, include a chatbot on your website that can offer real-time assistance.

Failure to resolve issues with the first touchpoint

Customers also consider customer service bad when their issues aren’t resolved on first contact. The more representatives a customer has to speak to and the longer it takes to get their problem solved, the more annoyed they’ll be. An organization should identify the most frequent customer concerns and have a way of resolving those issues as soon as a customer reaches out. You can also use live engagement tools, such as video chat and co-browsing, to improve the average resolution time.

Call center software can help oversee all your communication and live customer engagement channels. Check out our best contact center service picks to find the right program for your business.

Ineffective customer support staff

Incompetent staff with little knowledge about your company’s products and services also result in bad customer service. No one wants to speak to an agent who is seemingly clueless about the problem at hand — or worse, talk to multiple people who can’t address their concerns. Customer service staff who interact with consumers should be competent in their roles and knowledgeable about the products and services offered.

Reasons for bad customer service

Most businesses don’t set out to deliver bad customer service. But if it’s happening at your company, these could be the reasons why.

  • Poor products and services: You’re not ensuring the products and services you sell meet the expected standards.
  • Poor etiquette: Your sales agents and customer service representatives don’t use appropriate language when addressing customers. 
  • Overworked staff: Your employees are suffering from fatigue or exhaustion.
  • Dissatisfied staff: Your staffers are unhappy with their jobs.
  • Incompetent staff: New or inefficient team members aren’t well-versed in your business or best customer service practices.

How to improve customer service

Now that you know what counts as bad customer service and its possible causes, you can commit to transforming all your customer interactions into luxury-level customer service. Follow these strategies to improve your customer experience and build brand loyalty.

Offer customers the human touch.

According to a study from call center service TCN, 69 percent of people say conversations with live agents are one of their most preferred methods for getting customer service. While it may be tempting to explore automation technologies to improve contact center operations, you should still employ strategies and solutions where technology augments human interactions rather than replacing them. Strive to deliver person-to-person contact whenever possible.

Move customers out of interactive voice response channels quickly.

According to business phone service Vonage, only 13 percent of customers enjoy encountering an interactive voice response (IVR) system when they contact businesses. Similarly, 27 percent of customers surveyed hung up the phone upon reaching an IVR. This gets back to the preceding tip: Customers often want to interact with real human beings, not machines. If you’re going to use IVR, create a concise, straightforward menu that can rapidly connect the customer to exactly the right agent, resulting in a quick resolution.

Did You Know?Did you know
Vonage is among our picks for the best business phone systems. The vendor's platform is a particularly great choice for companies seeking a highly customizable communications system.

Keep customer data at your fingertips.

Consumers expect customer representatives to know their purchase history, be proactive, and have seamless omnichannel integration to provide quick customer support, according to a study by customer service brand Hiver. In its survey, Hiver found that 23.5 percent of consumers define good customer service as interactions in which they don’t have to repeat themselves. Another 29.8 percent define good customer service as an experience with an agent who is knowledgeable and shows resourcefulness. 

Having instant access to a customer’s purchase history can put your agents in the best position to achieve the caller’s desired outcome. Use highly rated CRM software and big data solutions to your advantage, and ensure representatives have easy access to as much information as possible when interacting with a customer.

Prioritize pathways to quick resolutions.

Hiver found that the biggest driver of satisfaction when it comes to customer service is how quickly a question or issue is resolved. Customers universally want companies to direct them to the fastest path of resolution. Teach your customer service team solutions for common inquiries and provide them with resources that allow them to address customer concerns in a timely manner. 

Although customers often prefer human interaction, there are cases where automated help is appropriate and can help customers more quickly than if they spoke with an agent. Identify situations when such pathways make sense for your customers’ needs and when talking with a representative would be more efficient.

Provide employees with professional development and work-life balance.

Happy, fulfilled employees are more motivated to improve in their roles and provide customers with a stellar experience. Host regular workshops to train staffers on customer service phone etiquette and invite representatives to participate in group discussions to talk through common customer service issues and role-play different scenarios. Also teach agents how to use customer service programs that make their jobs easier.

As you invest in employees’ professional development, show them that you care about their well-being too. Work-life balance is a top priority for millennials and other generations of workers, so be sure to provide reasonable PTO options and, if possible, flexible schedules. Representatives who have periodic opportunities for R&R will be more productive and efficient than those who are forced to work to the point of exhaustion and burnout.

Turning your customer service around

Offering bad customer service today doesn’t prevent you from offering great customer service tomorrow. If you take advantage of the above tips, you can improve your customer service and increase your customer retention and acquisition rates. Your company will gain a reputation as a brand that consistently pleases its customers, and that can lead to more purchases. With that, of course, comes long-term success.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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