Customer Service is in Trouble

“Do you really know how well you’re doing with your clients and customers? Are there trouble spots or holes in your customer support you’re unaware of?” –

The questions in the quote above are extremely relevant for any company. If a business does not know how well it is doing for its customers, or if it is blissfully unaware of the lapses and or obstacles while serving customers, then their customer service is in trouble. Irrespective of the size and stature of a business, regular interface with and service to customers is an absolute must and would be the basis of the success of a business. Existing long-term and new customers and potential ones – all are essential for a company and unless all these customer groups can perceive top class service, they would not stay long or become interested in doing business with your company. Your customer service is in trouble when your company fails to recognize the importance of allocating resources to this important aspect and treats customer service as a cost centre rather than a profit making one.

A clear sign that your customer service is in trouble, is when upon repeated requests your company does not receive referrals and testimonials from existing customers. This, just means that your company is not doing enough to get them excited enough to take the trouble to spread the positive word of mouth and over time your customers could move on to a company that would take extra care of them. When running a business, you would know the kind of costs and troubles you would have, to replace even one lost customer and no company can afford to incur those costs or put themselves in that situation.

A sign that your customer service is in trouble is that your company is not growing at the same rate as your expenses. This translates to unhappy customers, unwilling to provide repeat business or encourage others to associate with your company. Regardless of the size of your business, no company can afford slumps or plateaus in growth and profit. Many companies, it would seem, are unable to relate customer satisfaction with business growth and pay more attention to gaining new customers. While getting new customers is important, it is the existing ones that prove to be profitable and are the ones that contribute to the growth of a company. Companies may understand the need for putting a customer service department in place, but fail to recognize that their customer service is in trouble, at the right time.

When companies fail to recognize that their customer service is in trouble, it can spell doom. The strange part is that there are warning signs but companies ignore them or possibly do not associate them with brewing trouble. An increase in the number of irate customers, clamouring for attention with their complaints, is a sure shot sign that your customer service is in trouble. This is hard to ignore – since irate customers can be extremely vocal and sometimes vengeful. If a company has reached this stage, it should know that their company has been doing a number of things wrong and have upset their customers enough to ‘wage war’ on the company. Immediate and efficient action would be required from the management to salvage the situation or else, the company might as well shut down.

Even if customers have not reached the stage of ire, a drop in satisfaction levels is a sure indicator of poor and in trouble customer service. Most companies are unable to see this, since they forget to monitor regularly, customer satisfaction levels and hence only realize something is wrong when the situation is almost out of control. It is important to monitor the issues customers bring, the resolution provided, and then to check back how the customer viewed the handling of the issue. Without checking back with the customer, a company would not know in time, whether their service team is doing its job the way it should or whether they are falling short. The data collected should reveal short and long-term trends about the functioning of your company and if there is perceivable decline in customer satisfaction scores, it must be remedied immediately and find ways to arrest the decline.

The managers and leaders of the service teams must be constantly aware of what is happening within their teams, in real time. Without regular updates and real time metrics, they would never know when customer service is in trouble and would therefore, be unable to do make things better. As customers begin to perceive a drop in service, they either, begin making angry complaints or simply walking away from the company. In both cases, this does affect the morale of the service teams. As problems mount, the service representatives find themselves increasingly incompetent to handle the problems, resulting in lowered morale, high absenteeism, lowered productivity, and a drastic drop in service levels. This is a most potent indication of the fact that your customer service is in trouble. All these factors soon result in high turnover, which as any business would know, is a very costly and high stress period.

With lowered service levels and high employee attrition, the next ‘casualty’ is revenue and customers. If your customer service is in trouble by being awful, customers are going to abandon the company and head towards one that will care for them. As customers leave, there is a significant drop in the revenue of the company, and by the time a company can replace those customers, revenue and profit margins would have dropped to a fatal point causing irreparable damage to the business. It is important to keep a close check on this trailing yet sure shot indicator of trouble with your service and business.

Another significant yet not easily discernible indicator that your customer service is in trouble, is when the various departments within the company work as silos – the communication between each department is almost negligible, people struggle to coordinate the simplest of tasks, and business processes seem hazy. Customers would never be able to get a standard high level of service of every touch-point, leaving them irritated and confused as to the exact status of the company and its business. Customers hate to feel unvalued and not receiving good service across the organization, makes them leave a company and find another that would serve them well.

If your customer service is in trouble, you can be sure to see negative comments from customers via social media – the most visible and highly effective platform to express one’s views. A company that finds itself becoming wary of social media and paranoid about the kind of comments that customers may post, should swing into action to fix the problem rather than waiting for it to blow out of proportion. Revamping the online strategy and proactively reaching out to customers to ascertain problems would be effective methods to pull customer service and the company out of trouble. This is the social media age and hence a company cannot afford to do away with its presence on these sites – instead they should manage their strategies such that these sites become effective extensions of their business and website.

The signs given above, indicating that your customer service is in trouble, are not the only ones. There are many more and it is the onus of each business to check closely and do away with anything that could affect the backbone of their business – their customers.

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