“78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.” – American Express Survey, 2011
In the current business scenario and within the realm of customer service, one instance of poor customer service is enough for a company to lose a customer for good. Part of the problem it would seem is that companies and their people do not seem to care enough about delivering service excellence, even if they continually say they do. So poor customer service exists and is so rampant, but why? Some experts suggest that customers have become accustomed to and accept poor service since there are very few companies as it is that stand out for their service – mediocrity is ubiquitous. Not all customers demand more all the time – they have no expectation and are emotionless with regard to poor customer service. Most companies do not treat their employees well – in fact, employees most often are treated as a means to an end and this behaviour is heightened during the time of crisis. This results in lack of connection and loyalty between the company and its employees and this reflects in the kind of service meted out to customers. Since customers very often do not say anything and accept that poor customer service exists, companies and their employees stop valuing service excellence – they are satisfied by doing the bare minimum. Employees do not get proper treatment from their companies, so why would they be bothered to deliver good service to others?
Research has proven that most companies rate from poor to average in the realm of customer service and even though some companies have spent huge sums trying to raise their standards, very few have been able to create the impact. Does your company display ‘symptoms of being sick’ from poor customer service? The symptoms of such service as specified by customers would include no one greeting them when they enter the doors of a store or an establishment. Such behaviour makes customers feel unvalued and not important – detrimental to a company at the end. The customer service team does have a stressful job and part of that job does include being at the receiving end of a customer’s anger. The fact is that if the company has messed up, customers have every right to vent. If the service representative yells back at the customer and or disconnects the communication, this would constitute poor customer service. Even if the customer is abusive, the unspoken customer service code suggests that a senior person is asked to handle the customer – cutting the customer off is a complete no-no.
Imagine, as a customer you are face to face with a representative of the company and instead of being served, you find them chatting, socializing and possibly even eating – this is surely a put-off and would constitute poor customer service. Customers connect with a company for their own needs and must not have to hear private conversations, or what someone is having for lunch and other such personal things. In addition, there are a number of instances when as a customer you would have experienced being put on hold without being asked or even told. The worst is that you are unaware of whether you are on hold or there is a problem with the connection and the wait time seems endless. It reflects poorly on a company when customers are subject to such service and with time could force a customer to stop doing business.
During face to face interactions, the demeanour of the customer service representative becomes even more important. Avoiding eye contact, folding one’s arms, looking bored are all non-verbal signals to the customer that no one cares about them. Such behaviour is rude and makes the company representative appear dishonest – traits of poor customer service. In addition, it is common courtesy to use words like please and thank you – extremely vital in the realm of customer service. However, despite their importance, these words are not used as often as they should be reflecting the lack of professionalism and adherence to common customer service standards.
When customers connect to get answers to queries or solution to problems, it would be self-defeating to use industry and or company jargon to explain to them. This gives the impression that the company’s representative is trying to either talk down at them or mislead them through the use of hard to understand language. This also makes the customers feel foolish and inadequate and is clearly poor customer service. The language used should be one that customers can easily understand.
Under no circumstance is it okay to bad mouth the company to customers. It reflects negatively on the company and news of this internal strife is likely to damage the reputation of the company and result in loss of customers. Poor customer service could have many other traits as well and none of them are acceptable. They will ultimately lead to loss of customers and business. The truth is that poor customer service is everywhere but companies that are keen on doing away with it, would take time to put in place certain corrective measures and strategies.
Customer service – good and bad, is a result of the skills and training of its employees. Companies must dedicate time and invest resources into training and coaching its staff on the importance of providing consistently high levels of customer service. It is the responsibility of the company to provide the necessary environment, tools and guidelines to their staff such that they know exactly what is expected of them and how they can meet those expectations. It may seem costly to train employees on an on-going basis. However, the cost of poor customer service will outweigh the training costs and could cause permanent damage to the company.
It is important for companies to build and sustain a culture of service by hiring people with proven capability of providing top class service. There are some people who are inherently better at interacting with people and managing stressful situations – the kind that customer service demands and these are the kind of people that should be recruited for the service function. Companies must ensure that employees within this function have – able leadership, avenues for open communication, ability to vent, regular performance reviews and suitable reward and recognition programs designed specifically for them. Ensuring that employees are happy at work includes making sure that their personal lives are happy and stress free too. If a person is stressed out at home, it is unlikely that they would be able to produce high quality work and may even take out their frustration on their co-workers and customers. It is the responsibility of the company to ensure that employees are able to speak about and get a solution for any personal problems they may be facing. This is possible by promoting open communication and training the managers and leaders to be more intuitive and empathetic to employees exhibiting negativity.
Service employees will dish out poor customer service if they do not have adequate product knowledge and updated information about the company. Customers connect with them to understand the offerings and how the company can help them succeed – unless the customer service representatives have this knowledge, they would not sound convincing enough to turn the query to actual business.
The harsh reality is that poor customer service exists even in this time when customers have so many options. There are several reasons for this situation but unless companies are careful, they might not be able to sustain their business and success for too long. Poor customer service would eventually catch up and destroy the reputation and connection between customers and the company.