Are you irritating your Customers?

If your answer to the question in the title is yes, you may as well shut shop now and save yourself unnecessary expenditure, since your customer will eventually leave you. No customers, no business. It has been researched and revealed that like all aspects of business customer service too is riddled with ‘fancy’ words and phrases that most often have no meaning for the most long standing customers. So why are companies so hell bent on using them? If your aim is irritating your customers then by all means continue using them! During induction and training, your customer service personnel must be instructed on the use of words that spell empathy, positivity and a desire to help which will help to make each customer experience meaningful and also make sure that you are not irritating your customers.

From the discussion that follows, it may seem amusing to a casual reader but if you are a harried customer struggling with frenzied work schedules or a customer who has a problem that deserves and demands attention these oft used customer service phrases can rile you to a point of vengeance.

Sure shot ways to irritating your customers:

1. Make them navigate through a long and complex IVR system and when they press the option that should take them directly to a customer service agent, let them hear the recorded message that says “your call is important to us and will be answered in 7 minutes”. This, as a survey revealed, was one of the most vexing and frustrating traits of customer service. It’s not possible for a customer to believe that their call or business is important to the company if they must hang on for so long especially after being tortured through the long winded IVR menu. As a customer calling a contact centre, I can recall many instances when I have hung up because of being made to hold incessantly while a robotic voice told me that my call is important. It was just not believable. The fact is that this voice message is heard so often by customers calling in, it’s become like a habit and the first reaction of customers on hearing it, is of not feeling valued. The words being repeated mechanically do not in any way match the kind of service being provided. The simple translation a customer makes is that if my call is important, then it should get answered by someone who can provide a solution or answer to prove that your company does value me.

2. Another thing that you do that is irritating your customers, is sending a message or calling back immediately after a customer called the contact centre. As a customer you would have experienced this at least once – they call to find out if the customer was ‘pleased’ with the call and whether they would be kind enough to answer a few questions that would tell the company what the customer thinks of them. Are you serious? After making a customer hold incessantly and maybe even not answered the question they asked or resolved their problem, you want them to tell you what they think. Be sure to hear some expletives and leave yourself with a customer who will vent on the most visible of all platforms letting the world know how your company excels at irritating its customers. Not very good for business and reputation!

3. If a customer is investing time and money, do you think your company and its representatives are justified in telling the customer that there are things that you won’t do for them. For example, a friend’s father took seriously ill and she had to rush to another town on an urgent ticket. There was no way of knowing when the journey back would be. Sadly, she lost her father and post funeral since she was unable to book a return ticket she asked a relatively inexperienced friend to book it online. Not being familiar with this particular booking site, her friend checked an option that blocked off money from her credit card. Once back she called the company and asked them to please refund the blocked amount as it was done in error after explaining her plight and loss. Guess what she was told “we don’t do refunds under this scheme. When you travel again, you can use that money.” It was probably one of the rudest customer service experiences she had had and even now when that company is mentioned she gets into a really foul mood – this company has probably mastered the art of ‘irritating your customers’. Given the circumstances, the company could have very easily made an exception – the amount was not too large either. By telling customers what you cannot do for them or how limited your capability is, will not only be irritating your customers but they would take their business to a company that would have the ability to help them when they most need it.

4. When customers call or connect with your company they expect to be able to speak with someone who can help. Again many of us would have heard a blunt statement that a customer service person shoots off in an attempt to pass the buck – something that sounds like ‘don’t know’. What a customer hears is ‘I don’t care and cannot be bothered with finding out the answer for you’. What customer service representatives must be trained to do is approach every customer with a can do and will help attitude. The training and knowledge of these frontline agents must be solid – robust enough to handle routine queries. If they are still unable to answer a customer’s query or provide a solution, they must show empathy and let the customer know that they will find out for them. The customer can choose to wait or take the option of receiving a call back with a resolution.

5. Imagine hearing a customer service representative telling a customer that something did not happen for them because they didn’t do what they should have. Irritating your customers was never this easy! Really – train your customer service people to use positive and reaffirming statements. Under no circumstance must you place the blame on customers – it is unlikely that they would take this kindly. Tell them what they can do and what you can do to help them.

6. A customer does not care or know who in which department is responsible for what and your company’s representatives should not be telling customers that the question they asked is not part of their function / department. The right way would be let your customer know that the question is out of your purview but someone from the correct department will call back or revert with the answer. Give them a timeline and ensure that the timeline is met. Don’t pave the way to irritating your customers by telling them that they have contacted a wrong department or person. They might just take their business elsewhere in the belief that the whole company is wrong.

7. A customer is unlikely to call only to exchange pleasantries. They will call when they have a problem or a question. When customer service agents sound bored and use words like ‘so what seems to be the problem’ instead of ‘how can I help you’, they are doing enough to tick their customers off. A genuine and regular demeanour of helpfulness will ensure that not only are you not irritating your customers, you are also giving them great experiences that they will share with others.

8. To excel at irritating your customers, tell them that they don’t understand or ask them if they can understand what is being said. Assume that they are the dullest people alive and it is your company’s responsibility to enlighten them. These dull people will soon walk out the door. If not trying to irritate and lose customers, the customer service person must check back to know if the customer has got all the information they needed and whether there is anything else they would like to know. Always summarize the entire conversation with the customer from the point of ensuring clarity from the company’s perspective.

Irritating your customers either by using these particular sentences or not delivering what you promised or providing shoddy customer service and products cannot be healthy for your company. Overtime you will have a set of hostile and irate customers who will seek vengeance in the most irrecoverable ways – and rightly so.

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