The Dangers of Poor Customer Service

“Sh*t happens” – is an unacceptable excuse for poor customer service.’ – Bill Quiseng

Poor customer service is a metaphor for bad business practices. The pitfalls of such service are many and include the very real prospects of customer migration, the loss of business reputation, and lost sales. We could say that a business that does not take care of its customers forsakes its right to stay in business. For instance, a bakery that cannot deliver up to customer expectations or offers fickle service standards may lose the customer’s faith and trust. Indifferent service and fluctuating product standards can cause the said business to lose customer goodwill. The resultant scenario may see customers using the services of a different bakery, negative comments from regular customers, and the flight of customer dollars to competing businesses. In short, poor customer service can sound the death knell for a business enterprise, unless the said business initiates urgent remedial actions to reverse the damage.

When we analyse the reasons behind poor customer service, a sense of complacency in business emerges at the top. A business enterprise may have expended significant resources, time, and effort to build a stable customer base. This effort was sustained for a period of time, but the business failed to motivate itself and its employees to deliver top rate customer satisfaction. Over time, standards may have slipped and the business began to take its customers for granted. This was the point at which the said enterprise lost its grip on reality and started to disintegrate.

Poor customer service is one of the manifestations of a deep malaise in business operation. Consider this: an internationally reputed confectionary and chocolate maker that has operations in more than one country was found to have less than optimal product standards. The firm had a superb marketing and distribution network, enjoyed high brand visibility and brand loyalty, and used celebrity faces to endorse its products. However, certain items of doubtful provenance were discovered in the chocolate bars that were part of the chocolate maker’s range of popular products. This created a scandal in the markets, followed by government intervention in the interests of preserving public health. The corporate enterprise responded by unleashing heavy investments in new packaging machinery, instituting higher product standards, and refining its product preservation techniques in a concerted effort to save its reputation and its market share. This case study offers an instance of the negative outcomes of poor customer service, the fallout thereof, and the remedial measures that can arrest the damage.

In modern national economies, the services sector often attains much larger proportions than the manufacturing sector. A vibrant services sector may be said to be the hallmark of an advanced economy; this impression is correct because services have the potential to generate much higher returns than manufacturing. Poor customer service in the services sector can be manifest in the pervasive use of automated technologies to greet customer inquiries, suggestions, and complaints. This use of automation can be viewed as an attempt to denigrate the customer because interactive voice recordings operate on the principle of excluding the human element from a customer conversation. The use of such technologies often confers valuable cost savings to an enterprise, while creating long wait times for the customers. Similarly, the use of inexperienced or ill-trained human agents can actually prolong a customer interaction without yielding the desired outcomes. The business enterprise should realise that such poor responses can aggravate the situation and irate customers may actually decide to shift their custom to a different services provider. This is a classic example of a customer ending a business relationship due to poor customer service.

Globally, enterprises lose billions of dollars of business because of sub-optimal customer service standards. The modern business enterprise must do a holistic analysis of these significant losses and must consider assessing how to stop the said losses. The beginning point of such losses must be an analysis of customer behaviour in the aftermath of poor customer service. Most customers would tend to be loud and vocal in their denunciation of the business, and a higher number of customers would actually decide to end business transactions with the said enterprise. We must bear in mind that all customers are human beings and sloppy treatment will invite ire of no mean magnitude. In addition, aggrieved or unhappy customers may choose to vent their displeasure on social media platforms. The detrimental comments may actually acquire a life of their own and may translate into a public relations disaster for the said enterprise. We have to bear in mind this situation poses a challenge to the very survival of the business enterprise and may provoke a backlash from investors and other stakeholders. This is the ideal recipe for a disaster in the corporate domains.

To counter such a scenario, a business must ideally move before the public relations disaster strikes. Ongoing training programs for staff members should be a norm, rather than an exception. The business must seek to train every level of its servicing and support staff to extend courteous behaviour to all customers. The training should hinge on sensitising operations personnel on the importance of servicing and retaining every individual customer. Customer service knowledge and skill sets should be constantly honed so that every employee that interacts with a customer is empowered to craft a stellar customer service experience. In addition, employee motivation and an optimised organizational structure should be useful in dealing with customer complaints and grievances. Employees should also be sensitised to measure customer expectations so that they can always deliver above expectations. The whole firm should appreciate the fact that bad poor customer service experiences can create negative consequences with the potential to inflict serious damage on the reputation of a brand. The danger extends to the fact that even hitherto loyal customers and clientele may stop dealing with a company that takes its customers lightly. In light of the above, it is very important for a business enterprise to safeguard its reputation through top-of-the-line customer service standards.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have surveyed the various dangers that threaten a business enterprise which offers poor customer service. Market research indicates that a sizeable segment of every customer category is willing to pay extra dollars for stellar customer services. This should be a big motivational factor for businesses to improve their customer service standards, while ensuring that product standards and service delivery remain unaffected. Customer service standards can be enhanced by hiring competent business agents, being proactive about responding to the customer’s requirements, providing multi-channel support, and personalising the customer experience for every individual client. The business enterprise should make it a habit to entertain every customer such that he or she becomes a brand ambassador for the business and helps to create a positive aura for the said enterprise. These intelligent actions should be accompanied by a firm wide commitment to value the customer above everything else. In addition, customer service standards should be overhauled regularly such that the business stays synchronous with the evolving business landscape and emerging customer requirements. These thoughts, actions, and paradigms should be ongoing exercises because they can help a business to carve and retain its own distinct identity in modern competitive markets.

 

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