Customer Service Breakdowns Must Be Managed

by | Oct 31, 2014 | Customer Service

customer service breakdowns


“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.”- Henry Ford

This is great advice! We cannot deny that human imperfections are bound to be the cause of lapses. In the business realm too, there is no absence of customer service breakdowns. Despite stiff competition, financial losses, and a shortage of skilled staff, companies may be more cautious and careful when attending to customers. Unfortunately, for them, this is far from the truth. Customer service breakdowns occur when the staff and the company as a whole, act or fail to act, without thinking of the consequences.

Most times, it is too late to salvage the situation. Poor attitude, improper training, and knowledge inhibit the service agents, in addition, to inadequate supervision and company support. The result of all this negativity is that it frustrates and disappoints customers. They even reach a point where they spread these inefficiencies forcefully, through various channels, damaging the reputation of the organization. For the customer service teams, companies can use tools, like interactive decision trees to improve customer satisfaction.

So, how can companies manage customer breakdowns? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Understand the customer service role

As customer service agents, each person must be aware of and remind themselves of why they are there. Also, what is expected of them in relation to the customers? At all times, the first thing to do is to actively listen to the customer. Think about what the customer is conveying or trying to convey through unspoken messages. That is, what one can do to address their problems.

Ensure that whatever course of action you take reflects the highest standards of customer service. Avoid shortcuts and quick-fix solutions. This must be the standard service level for all customers. Even if you feel that you have done a stellar job, reflect back on the situation, and the manner you handled it. See if you could do it better. Can you handle a similar situation in the future if you decide on a different action?

Solution to customer service breakdowns

It is easy to avoid customer service breakdowns with the right attitude, alert mind, and proper planning. Be aware of the worst kinds of customer service breakdowns or errors. With ever-increasing customer expectations, companies, and their service agents have to step up and become more agile. That’s if they are to provide great customer service at all times. Customer service breakdowns happen due to a number of reasons.

Reasons for Customer Service Breakdowns

Multiple reasons contribute to breakdowns in customer service. Let’s have a look at each.

Poor response

Lack of response to customer queries and or complaints constitutes missed opportunities. It turns dissatisfied customers into brand advocates. Research shows that around 90% of customers who have their complaints resolved efficiently, talk about it. They are willing endorsers for the company. It is surprising, therefore, how businesses overlook these opportunities and at times not even acknowledge the feedback. Is it any wonder then, that these customer service breakdowns are talked about through online media, over which companies have no control?

Phone lines that are difficult to reach

Phone lines and numbers that are not only difficult to reach but also cost the customer heavily are deemed for failure. Interactive Voice Responses and rote scripts force customers to navigate their way around useless information when they call to speak to a real person. It’s not possible for a customer to give feedback through an IVR system. They view this as a punishment for calling your company. They would rather turn to a company where someone speaks to them and actually do something about their problem. An easily avoidable customer service breakdown!

Failure to deliver on promises

Avoid promising more than you can deliver. For example, agents make promises of product delivery within a certain timeline, despite, knowing that the product is unavailable. Customers do not take such lies kindly and are offended enough to stop doing business.

Rude customer service agents

Being rude and insensitive towards customers is the worst, and is still the most common complaint. Companies should not tolerate these behaviors under any circumstance. Staff must remain courteous and empathetic in all situations. New employees and employees serving notice periods need to be monitored. Customers do not want to deal with disinterested employees. Also, staff showing complete disinterest in what the customer has to say. It is perplexing to think that companies can engage in this behavior, despite knowing the repercussions of irate customers.

Failure to take responsibility

Not taking responsibility for the problem at hand. This is a common occurrence in companies that do not empower all service agents to handle problems on their own. When customer service agents do not consider the customer’s problem to be their own, and pass the buck to a colleague, it is bad customer service. The customer lacks confidence that the problem will be taken care of. By shunting an issue from one person to the next, they are determined to ‘teach the company a lesson’. Unempowered customer service agents have the tendency to assign blame to others. Customers perceive incompetence and lack of commitment.

Inconsistent customer service

Irregular and inconsistent customer service is extremely vexing for customers. A customer may receive one level of service at one touch-point and then get ignored at another. Not treating your customers well during every interaction should be a cause for concern for companies.

Lack of transparency

Lack of transparency in the charge or payment schedule creates distrust in the minds of customers. Hidden charges like delivery, handling, credit card charges, and such are major causes of distrust. Annoyed customers vow never to do business with such a company again. Customer service breakdowns that seem deliberate are more difficult to recover. Such hidden charges fall under this category. Lack of transparency also translates to insincerity. Rote and scripted sentences like ‘have a nice day’ or ‘happy to help you’ or ‘can we do anything else for you’ seem insincere when used with insincerity.

Failure to record customer statements/issues

How do companies expect their customers to be happy, if they have to repeat their problems and or queries again and again? Companies that do not use complaint and query logs are unable to record these statements by customers. Each time they interact with the company, they have to repeat their issue. Expecting customers to waste time connecting with your company only to repeat their problems is a major blunder. It’s among the unpardonable customer service breakdowns.

How Companies manage customer breakdowns

Companies must be aware of what they are doing wrong. They should take the necessary steps to ensure that they correct the wrongs. Companies should put up measures to prevent future occurrences. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards alleviating it for the customer.

Companies should reach out to customers to apologize and inform them of the corrective action plan. They should check with them if it’s appropriate and whether they want a further course of action. Sending the customer an adequate and appropriate complementary offering after a service lapse also helps to mend the relationship.

Dealing with customer problems

Customer service representatives are the ones that deal with customers and their problems. Therefore, they are in the best position to know what works and what does not. Companies have to break the old mold of decisions taken at senior levels. They should empower each employee to take serious decisions before a customer’s frustration escalates to ire and disgust.

They should be allowed to offer discounts, extra service on next purchases, refunds, and the like. This is a business environment. It seems rather absurd if the agents have to ‘run to’ their supervisor for every decision they have to make. Empowered agents are a company’s way of displaying that the customer is indeed important. They are committed to remedying the issues as quickly and effectively as possible.

Customer service breakdowns may be inevitable. However, companies can reverse them and prevent them in the future. They are potentially disastrous if the company does not manage them. They can lead to customers canceling orders, asking for refunds, and posting a stream of negative comments on social media. A company can decline very rapidly due to these customer service breakdowns, leading to mass employee attrition. Take bold steps and let your customer service excellence shine through!

“There are no big problems; there are just a lot of little problems.” – Henry Ford

Improve Customer Service using Decision Trees

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