Customer service is the backbone of a successful business. It could be the difference between good reviews and repeat customers, and word getting around about negative customer experiences and people avoiding your business altogether.
Given that customer service is so important, it is valuable to know some of the most common customer service mistakes. Customer service experts lent their expertise to Business News Daily and shared how to avoid them.
Just because it can be automated does not meant it should be, and it also does not mean the automation will automatically translate into cost savings.
Don't automate just because you can. Avoid erasing all personalization and direct contact with the customer. When possible, provide a variety of different communication modes, as some customers prefer online chat while others want to talk to a person over the phone.
"Give them that option. Don't force customers to use frustrating phone trees," said Dana Brownlee, founder of consulting firm Professionalism Matters.
2. Failing to listen
Assuming you know what the customer wants, instead of listening to the customer, is a big mistake.
"Teach listening skills throughout the organization, especially to (customer service representatives)," said Brownlee. "Develop processes that 'force' CSRs to really listen to customers – get rid of CSR scripts."
3. Being reactive instead of proactive
Instead of thinking about how to delight customers on the front end and avoid getting the calls, many companies fall into the reactive approach of being satisfied with somewhat mediocre products or service and thinking of customer service as something that happens on the back end when there are complaints or problems. Take time to conduct process analysis, continuous process improvement and root cause analysis to truly improve your product service.
"Require every employee to take (five) customer service calls a month to maintain connection to the customer. Incorporate customer service goals into every employee's compensation/bonus structure," Brownlee said.
4. Undervaluing customer service staff
It's a shame that very often the staff members who interact with customers the most are paid and valued the least. To avoid this mistake, Brownlee said, "Hire better staff, pay them more, and reward them for providing great service."
5. Not giving customers what they want
According to Robert C. Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, customers want accurate answers or quick, efficient and respectful solutions, and getting that to the customer is the most important thing, even if the answer or solution is not ideal.
"Make sure the employees (who interact) with customers have access to the right information and are listening to their concerns," Johnson said. "Ensure communication is realistic – it's always better to under-promise and over-deliver on that promise than the other way around."
Avoiding customer service mistakes
Customer service is proving to be a vital part of a successful business. But where does it start? Employees may not know where to turn for advice on customer service, or how to get the right information.
"A culture of exceptional customer service must start at the top. It can't be just a slide in a presentation or a cliche saying that employees are expected to follow," Johnson said. The CEO needs to set the tone, invest in the right team members and technology, and lead by actions as well as words.
A survey conducted by Professionalism Matters also found that scripts are not the way to deal with customer service complaints. Customer service representatives need to be trained to work to resolve a customer's specific situation, as opposed to the "if they say this, you say that" approach.
Correcting mistakes when they happen
No one is perfect. Whether due to a lack of focus, understanding, guidance or diligence, mistakes will happen.
"Sometimes we move too fast, and sometimes things just happen. At the end of the day, it's how you recover from these mistakes that's important," Johnson said. "Good companies own both the good and the bad things that happen."
The key is knowing how to rectify the situation once it has happened and making sure that the customer still receives the best customer service, despite some bumps along the way to a resolution.
Johnson suggested reaching out to the customer and owning up to the problem with empathetic and sincere communication. Formulate a response strategy, such as a timeline for communication, and execute it quickly.
It's also critical for customer service representatives to apologize on behalf of the company immediately if the company dropped the ball in any way, Brownlee said in the Professionalism Matters survey.
"There's nothing wrong with simply expressing regret that the customer is experiencing anguish, even if they haven't determined yet if the company was at fault," Brownlee said.
Once the situation has been rectified, take your own internal action independent of the customer, said Johnson.
"Sit down with your team to understand all the details, including what specifically happened, why it happened, and the actions that can be taken to avoid similar problems in the future," he said.