“The only purpose of customer service is to change feelings”. – Seth Godin
Every business faces the challenge of customer service failure – almost daily. This would happen despite a company’s best efforts to keep its customers happy by ensuring that they receive the kind of service they expect. However, research results indicate otherwise – a report shows that about 89% customers move to a company’s competitors because they received shabby treatment and bad customer service. This means that any company that has customer service lapses could potentially be losing a very large chunk of its customers – not a great way to conduct business. Customers are saying it loud and clear that high quality service is one of their top priorities and demands, and they would leave irrespective of prices and product quality, if companies were unable to provide service excellence.
Businesses become unsuccessful or remain in the lower rungs not because their products are too highly priced or of low quality – customer service failure is the cause. While great products priced competitively may attract customers, it is superior customer service that would retain customers and make them loyal and profitable. There is no doubt that customers are the lifeblood of a company and the only way that businesses can survive today is by reducing customer service failure and elevating the standards by which they conduct themselves with customers. Despite the fact that service is of prime importance in retaining customers and making the company profitable, several companies and their representative fail at this crucial aspect. Customer service failure occurs when companies believe that problem solving is all that matters, and hence are always in reactive mode. This approach most often ends up irritating customers and causing them to leave. What do you think would constitute customer service failure? Is your company experiencing regular failure with regard to service to customers?
One of the top things that would feature in the list of customer service failure is a company’s inability to deliver on what it promises / over promising and under delivering. In daily interactions, for example, a customer service representative might promise a customer that he or she would receive a call / resolution within say 3 hours. However, the customer might not receive a call the same day or would hear back from the company way beyond the ‘promised time’. It is extremely annoying and irritating for customers to receive this kind of shoddy service, and they would find it easier to look around for a different company to take their business. Committing deadlines and then not meeting them is a sure customer service failure and a sign that the company is unable to keep pace with their customer’s needs. Market experts and authority figures vociferously say that it would be better for companies to under promise and over deliver, as receiving more than they bargained for always makes customers happy.
Providing ambiguous responses and fuzzy timelines is another customer service failure. Customers hate having to guess or wonder when a company would respond, what is happening on their issue, how much time they would need to wait, and other such concerns. A company that is truly customer-focused would provide achievable deadlines, clear timelines with date and time to customers, and would ensure that every effort goes into to achieve the timelines. We know that in today’s overcrowded market and similar offerings, it is becoming increasingly tough for companies to stand out. Great customer service and experiences would ensure that customers remember and recommend a company. Research shows that at least 71% of those customers who received great service would recommend a company and its products to others – and there is no marketing tool more potent than positive recommendations from a happy customer.
Another top customer service failure would be assuming the customer knows a lot about your company and its offerings. This is a failure because customers perceive products, service, and brands from their own perspective that would depend on their beliefs, experiences, needs, expectations, and current situation. Similarly, believing that your company already knows a customer’s problem because your company may have dealt with several similar problems is a mistake. As mentioned, each customer is unique and hence would expect that a company listened patiently to their issues and approached each problem as new and unique – receiving customized solutions and responses is what customers want, and companies that provide ‘umbrella responses’ would soon find customers leaving them for a company that would treat them as special.
With the surge in technology, several channels are now available for customers to interact with each other and with companies. Customers expect that companies would not only respond to them via the channel of their choice, but would also provide consistent and great service across all channels. Customer service failure occurs when companies set up service on all channels, but are unable to provide consistent service across each one, or fail to use the preferred channel of customers to respond and interact. Most often, companies do not have adequate or skilled staff managing the service channels. The knowledge and skills required to provide high quality service varies across channels, and unless a company is able to build teams proficient enough to deal with customers across varied channels, it would continue to fail at providing top class service. Companies must understand that every channel of communication must link seamlessly with each other, and would need to invest time and resources in integrating all the channels such that customers see ‘one face’ of the company.
Customer service failure happens when companies ignore communication from customers. This communication could be in any form – an email, a comment on social media, or any other type of communication – customers expect a response from the company. It is extremely vexing for customers when companies seem to ignore them by not responding – customers would much rather leave for a company that would treat their words as important. Even a company’s most loyal customers are sure to leave if the company ignores them or does not give their communication the importance it deserves. It is imperative for a company to answer every communiqué received from customers in a timely and efficient manner.
Customer service failure occurs often because of lack of knowledge and training of the customer service and sales personnel. Lack of knowledge leads the representatives to provide incorrect product / service information, and tall claims regarding the offerings and company. This may lead to sales, but as customers discover the offerings are nowhere close to the claims dissatisfaction and annoyance sets in, leading to returns and customer churn. Feeling cheated and betrayed obviously destroys trust in a company, and customers not only leave, but also spread their experiences to others, and post negative comments online. It is imperative for a company to ensure that its representatives behave responsibly, provide accurate information, do not make false claims, and have updated knowledge of the company and its offerings. Ensuring all this would build and sustain trust in customers, which is extremely imperative if a company is to remain successful and profitable.
Customer service failure is the shortest and surest route for a company to lose its most loyal and profitable customers, as also prospective ones. Customers now buy more for emotional reasons and if these reasons are not met, customers would most likely leave. Providing top class service is the surest way to build robust relationships with customers, ensuring that they become loyal and raving brand ambassadors.