At its most essential, customer service is not rocket science.
In fact, its intention couldn’t be simpler – to provide a helpful service to customers who have previously purchased a company’s goods or services.
It’s amazing how many companies get it totally wrong.
In this article, we present the top three customer service problems as reported by consumers. If any of these sound familiar, don’t panic!
We’ve also got some solutions you can try within your organization that should do the trick.
Customers Can’t Get a Live Human Being on the Phone
In a recent survey, the Consumer Reports National Research Center asked over 1,000 American consumers what their top customer service problems were.
Can you guess the top answer*? Not being able to get a live human being on the phone. Full three-quarters of respondents found this issue to be ‘highly annoying.’
(*In fact, this response won top place with a second answer, which we will cover shortly).
Admittedly, there is a range of reasons why a business might implement automated answering services. Often, these have to do with being able to handle peak demand periods for customer calls (along with efficiency savings gained from having standardized responses to common issues).
The reasoning goes that customers would prefer to ‘speak’ to a machine than to have to wait or to have their call go unanswered.
However, this logic doesn’t always hold to be true in practice. The fact is, people want to talk to people, not machines.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes (or in the customer chair as the case may be).
Having to call with a burning customer service issue that needs resolution is already an inconvenience, particularly when it is the company that is somehow in error.
But having a machine answer at the other end, only to run through a pre-canned list that may not even be relevant to the customer problem, can tip an often relatively neutral situation over into an annoying and highly irritating experience for the customer.
In this way, automated messages have the potential to take a situation that is already potentially harmful to your company – in the guise of an unresolved customer service issue or complaint – and make it much worse.
It may seem like an automated answering service is your only option. But for those companies who are wanting to embrace the power of truly engaging with customers one on one, there are some solutions.
Firstly, consider if it’s truly essential that you have customer care dealt with by a machine. Is it a sound decision to trade off customer goodwill for greater efficiency? Where will this get you in the long run?
Secondly, consider a hybrid solution. For customer inquiries that are routine or can be dealt with in a standardized way, consider having a human operator answer the call on pick-up, check-in that the customer is ok to proceed with an automated process, and then transfer the call.
Where you have high variation – primarily peaks and troughs in demand time for calls – or where there is a requirement to have calls answered outside operating hours, it might be worth considering outsourcing your reception services to a live reception service (such as Answer1!).
These services can provide the human touch your customers need while allowing your team to focus on what they do best – delivering your business!
Customers Receive Rude or Condescending Customer Service
The equal top gripe raised by respondents in the Consumer Reports Survey was being met with rude or condescending customer service when raising an issue.
The fact that almost everyone can relate an experience of this type of customer service (if it can be called that) unfortunately speaks to how common it is out there in the world of business.
Everyone has their bad days, customer service staff and customers included. No one is perfect.
However, and whether or not you subscribe to the view that the customer is always right, as a customer service professional, there is no excuse for behaving with anything less than absolute professionalism, every time.
All is well and good of course if you are a business owner or a manager who is dealing directly with customers. However, how do you ensure that your team does the right thing also?
Hire your customer service team for attitude, not for experience. This is more of a long-term strategy, for sure. But it’s one that will pay off in the long run.
People who have a natural empathy for others, enjoy getting to the bottom of customer problems and who have above all a positive, can-do outlook on life are vital to the success of your customer care strategy.
It might be like looking for a needle in a haystack, true. But worth the effort.
Find them. Hire them. Then find more of them.
And whether you have new team members or not, another great strategy for improving your team’s customer service skills is always to be upskilling your team by way of investing in ongoing training and development.
Wondering where to start?
The truth is, customer service in most places could use a bit of a boost, especially if standards have not been reviewed for a while. So there’s tremendous opportunity for improvement right there.
If you’ve measured your customer service efforts at all (and most indications, suggest that you should), go back and have a look at the numbers to see where you can make some inroads.
Better yet, try conducting a customer survey to see if you can get a handle on the exact pain points requiring attention.
Even excellent customer service can be improved. You have to go a long way to hit the ceiling, and by then your customers should be raving fans.
Customers Are Transferred to A Person Who Can’t Help Them
Lastly, a common complaint of customers is being transferred to a customer service representative who can’t help them or who provides the wrong information.
This is the ultimate death knell for your customer service reputation.
When customers can go elsewhere – say, by searching the web, or by asking a different, more helpful sales representative – and find the right answer to their question, you’d better believe you will hear about it.
This will usually happen on social media, and you may or may not have the good fortune to be tagged into the conversation so that you can adequately respond (if you can still adequately respond at this point).
Rather than suffer this fate, consider the following suggestions.
Make sure everyone who answers phones knows their stuff, or can transfer the customer to someone who does.
You can greatly assist in this regard by maximizing every chance for knowledge transfer within your team.
Documentation is the key here … either in the form of an online knowledge base or in a handbook that is easily accessible by your team.
When someone gets stumped by a question they can’t answer, have them own up. They can then get back to the customer with the right answer, or put them on to someone who does.
The most important thing is that it is the right answer. The second most important thing is that the process is seamless.
The customer shouldn’t have to repeat themselves or tell their story more than once. Set up your systems to avoid this happening wherever possible.
When all is said and done, providing great customer service is not a complicated matter. Unfortunate as it is, tales of bad customer service abound.
Don’t let this also be the story of your company. Lead by example in providing exemplary customer service, and have your team members follow suit. Your company’s reputation depends on it.