From frustration to happiness: 7 opportunities to excel in customer service

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Rosemarijn Dumont

Rosemarijn Dumont

If I would ask 100 men and women whether they have a story to share on bad customer service, I bet the majority of them will have one in mind. There will be one person telling about how he had to wait for weeks to get his new TV delivered whereas a delivery time of a couple of days was promised. Another one will remember that time when he was redirected more than 5 times before speaking to the right person. Unfortunately, this kind of stories is still common nowadays.

It surprised me that good customer service remains a hard nut to crack, even though the importance of it has been proven repeatedly. Let’s be clear, delivering a consistently good customer experience when it comes down to customer service is not easy. But what makes it so hard? What is going wrong that these experiences end up as bad ones?

Based upon my –both good as bad- experiences as a customer, I identified 7 common customer service frustrations and the improvement opportunities they hide.

1) Companies that can’t keep their promises

Opportunity: Make realistic promises that you can live up to.

Companies often promise the most optimistic outcome to a customer, even though they know upfront that the odds are very small that they will be able to keep that promise. So why do they still choose to do so? A lot of them focus on the short term target of selling that specific product to the customer, neglecting the after-sales risk on an unhappy customer. Delivering a tv 3 weeks after its promised date is a big disappointment for each customer. Did your sales man do a good job in that case?

Focus therefore on making promises that you are able to keep 95% of the time. It will substantially increase the amount of happy customers. Because remember: You’re 14 times more likely to sell to an existing happy customer than sell to a new customer [1].

2) Not feeling valued as a customer

Opportunity: Make long term happy customers one of your strategic objectives

Companies that remunerate their sales men purely based upon the number of items sold or the number of customers acquired on a short term, risk to neglect the importance of a (un)happy customer on the long term. These companies are often not aware of the impact of customer service on revenue: customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience [2].

One way to increase the focus of your sales men to prioritise customer success is to make them responsible for the happiness of the customer at the end of the sales cycle (and this includes possible after sales service) and to remunerate them based upon the number of happy customers they “deliver”.

3) Pushy sales men selling products you don’t need

Opportunity: Sell solutions to your customers’ needs

Companies that succeed in truly listening to a customer’s need and that are able to respond correctly to that need are definitely a couple of steps ahead of companies that are purely product focused.

Imagine a customer entering your store and asking to buy television X. He needs that television urgently. You know you cannot deliver that specific television within time. The true question to ask is: Does my customer really want television X or does he just want to watch television? Or in other words: do I just sell him the product he asked for, neglecting his need for a speedy delivery or do I try to find a valuable alternative that also responds to his needs?

Listening to your customers, digging deeper to truly understand their wishes and being bold enough to propose a solution that better fits its needs will in the end pay off more than just selling products without carefully thinking it through together with your customer.

4) Service agents that are little engaged with the client’s wellbeing

Opportunity: Engage and care about your client

In 82% of negative customer service stories employees were perceived as not caring [3]. There is nothing more frustrating than having to deal with a sales man, service agent or any other stakeholder in a company that gives you the feeling that he/she does not care about getting your problem solved.

Engaging your employees to act upon every customer as they would like to be treated their selves is a golden rule towards a more customer centric approach. The importance of having emotionally intelligent and empathic personalities in customer-contact positions is probably still underestimated nowadays.

5) Service agents or sales men that stick to the communication script

Opportunity: Focus on clear and transparent messages and avoid redundant communication

Have you ever received a lot of unclear automated mails following a call to the service center of your telecom provider? Were you ever even more confused after ending your call with the service center? Nevertheless that communicating is part of our everyday life, all of us are still confronted with unfortunate, disturbing, redundant or inappropriate communication from time to time.

I am convinced that communicating appropriately according to the occasion is one of the hardest skills to learn. Together with attentive listening, proper communication is key for customers to feel valued.

In order to let this happen, service agents or sales men should carefully be trained in communicating according to a couple of guiding principles: honest, clear, transparent, anticipative and patient.

6) Being confronted with employees without decision power

Opportunity: Let your employees make the right choices for each customer

One of the biggest issues with regards to how customer interactions are organized nowadays is related to the limited autonomy service employees often have.

I am sure that all of you have ever heard something that sounded like the following: “I’m sorry madam/sir, for this question I will have to redirect you to one of my colleagues.”

Giving the autonomy and responsibility to your employees to act upon what they believe is right, means trusting your employees on their knowledge on different levels such as their emotional intellect and their product expertise.

7) Employees that do not have access to the correct systems

Opportunity: (Re) organise your systems to support the customer service process

The majority of the common flaws I’ve encountered and dealt with so far are related to changing the employees’ mind-set.

In many cases however, problematic customer service experiences are often partly due to the lack of appropriate or well-organised systems. A lot of companies have been building and expanding their customer databases organically throughout the years. In order to make your company excel in customer service, these systems should carefully be revised or even rebuilt from scratch in a customer-centric way. Moreover, focus should be put on installing systems that are not only flexible, scalable and convenient to use, but they should also be intelligent, self-learning and organised around continuous improvement.

These 7 frustrations are commonly heard across different types of customers and industries. However, industry specific customer service frustrations probably exist. The 7 frustrations and corresponding opportunities above are a good starting point to challenge your customer service level. Next to that, conducting a similar reflexion exercise specific to your industry and customers will certainly bring you lots of additional insights. Based upon your customer’s feedback, you can identify and prioritise your most common flaws with regards to customer service and think about a pragmatic plan on how to deal with them.

[1] Source: https://www.pearson.ch/Informatik/Pearson/EAN/9780137058297/Marketing-Metrics-The-Definitive-Guide-to-Measuring-Marketing-Performance [2] Source: https://hbr.org/2014/08/the-value-of-customer-experience-quantified [3] Source: The Science of WOW Customer Service, The Belding Group 2015

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