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The DOs and DON'Ts of Surprisingly Good Customer Service

February 2, 2020

By: Wendy Sheaffer

We can all think of a time when we have received horrible customer service, right? Unfortunately, poor customer service experiences are usually easier to recall than good examples. For instance, I once had a waiter spill water on me four times...during the same meal. My mother, a teacher, once had to retake an entire series of end-of-year student pictures because the photo printing company refused to send her prints. The reason given? She had not yet paid for her slide-show disk. One problem: the disk was included for free as part of the picture package!

The High Cost of Poor Customer Service

A surprisingly bad customer service moment can do more damage than a history of mediocrity. Those terrible moments stand out in people’s minds and are readily shared with others. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the average dissatisfied customer shares their bad experience with 9 to 15 people, and 13 percent of them tell more than 20 people. Research estimates that companies could be losing as much as $62 billion each year due to poor customer services. 

Thankfully, though, other stories are told and retold, the ones about surprisingly GOOD customer service. Recent research has found that while 30 percent of customers report being likely to share their bad experiences, 49 percent of those same customers would be willing to share examples of good customer service situations. Truly going above and beyond can make the difference between a satisfied customer and an intensely loyal customer who gives you repeat business and sends other people your way.

Of course, everyone has bad days (including service providers and customers), and you can’t please everyone. Here are a few tips to avoid creating outrageously bad customer service experiences that are likely to get you called out on social media (you know, the ones that get nearly 20 million YouTube views)

4 DON’Ts of Customer Service

So what is bad customer service, and why is it so damaging to your organization? Perhaps the best way of understanding what poor customer service looks like is to stress how it takes any situation and makes it worse. Making a mistake is one thing; even people with good customer service skills will occasionally fail to meet expectations. What distinguishes poor customer service is the way people (and organizations) respond to those situations.

1. Don’t Make Things Unprofessional

One of the worst mistakes you can make is failing to be professional in the heat of the moment. This should go without saying, but there should be a zero-tolerance policy against any foul language or insults toward a customer, no matter how rude or insulting the customer is being. Remember that while customers speak for themselves, you (or your customer service employee) represent your entire company.

2. Don’t Create Obstacles

The process of obtaining services should never be more painful than the problem. Nobody likes long hold times, tons of complicated rules, multiple phone transfers, and/or untrained service people. If customers deal with this enough (and once might be “enough” for some), they’ll think twice about doing business with that company in the future. Good customer service makes dealing with your company as easy and frictionless as possible.

3. Don’t Avoid Accountability

As an organization, you should never go back on your word or try to duck responsibility. It’s important to think beyond the short-term incentives of standing your ground on an issue. When companies use loopholes to avoid honoring return policies/guarantees or flat-out choose not to honor them, they may keep that one sale, but they damage their reputation and lose future sales.

4. Don’t Focus on Who’s to Blame

When things go wrong, there is often a temptation to throw someone under the bus to absolve the rest of the organization of wrongdoing. However, in most cases, the customer doesn’t care who made the mistake; they want to know who will fix it. Good customer service skips the blame game. If a mistake was made, apologize, fix it, and move on.

7 Good Customer Service Examples

To provide the kind of customer service that gets people talking in a good way, every organization should take to heart a few features of good customer service.

1. Build a Culture of the "Customer Service Experience." 

Now more than ever, customers want to feel acknowledged, respected, and valued. Ensure everyone from reception to IT to sales knows how to get your customers the help they need. Cultivating good customer service skills is critical to delivering a positive consumer experience.

2. Always Follow Through 

Delivering on all promises and being unerringly reliable are core features of good customer service. If you say you are going to do it, do it.

3. Learn About Your Customers and How to Serve Them 

If you cater to busy business people, help them without wasting their time. If you provide technical products to people who are not technically savvy, focus on patience, and attentive training. The same information you used to win the prospect can be used to keep the customer.

4. Think of Ways to “Convenience” People 

Can you get them the product sooner than expected? Can you solve a problem they didn’t know they had? Train your service people to head off issues at the pass and build a positive experience from the beginning.

5. Exceed Expectations

Make it your goal to shock people with amazing service. Give them more than they expect, surprise them with contests or prizes, send thank you cards, follow-up, and endear them with personal touches.

6. Be More Than a Voice on the Phone 

Any time there is a chance to build a one-on-one relationship with a customer, take it. If someone tells you their situation, take notes. Being remembered is a big deal to people (and having to repeat the same info over and over is annoying).

7. Have a Plan in Place

Not everyone is so nice, and not every customer who complains will be satisfied with your response. Always have a plan in place to deal with the one who wants something for nothing and who will be unhappy no matter what you do.

As good customer service increasingly becomes a competitive differentiator, there’s no excuse for failing to instill good customer service skills throughout your organization. Addressing your customer’s needs, pain points, and complaints quickly and effectively will help you to create the kind of lifelong advocates who are so essential to growing your business.

Wendy Sheaffer

Wendy is the former Chief Product Officer of The Omnia Group. She is a subject matter expert in behavioral assessments and in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. For more information, email or call 800.525.7117.

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