Customer Experience News & Trends

5 customer service fails you need to avoid

You don’t have to fail to learn hard lessons in how to make the customer experience better. Take lessons from other companies’ major customer service fails.

Social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their stories of botched experiences. When word gets out, anyone involved in the customer experience can use it as cautionary tales in what not to do.

Here are five recent fails and what you want to avoid:

1. Making it difficult

No one wants to see good customers leave. But it’s their right — especially if they’re frustrated with a company and its experience — to leave.

Comcast has been known to make it extremely difficult for customers to part ways. One customer reported that Comcast wouldn’t allow him to cancel his service after he lost his home to a fire because he didn’t have his account number. In another incident, a frustrated customer requested a final bill. When it arrived, her name had been changed — apparently by a disgruntled rep — to an unbecoming expletive.

Lesson: You can ask customers why they want to cut ties for the intent of making things right. Offer to rectify what’s gone wrong, and ask if they’ll reconsider canceling.

2. Not listening

A Bank of America customer was asked to leave a branch’s property after he’d written anti-foreclosure messages with chalk on the sidewalk. He did, then went to Twitter to share his story. And others chimed in.

The financial institution responded with generic phrases, such as, “We’d be happy to review your account with you to discuss any concerns.” It wasn’t truly listening to its customers’ concerns.

Lesson: If you’re going to be on social media, you must truly listen to customers. If you don’t have the resources to provide real-time, personal interaction, don’t offer it.

3. Losing track

Special requests and out-of-the-ordinary situations happen in business. Customers appreciate — and will stay loyal — when you can make them go smoothly. On the other hand, if things don’t work out, they won’t be happy.

Southwest Airlines “misplaced” an 85-year-old passenger for several hours in the Newark Airport. The airline said a “processing error” was the reason no one assisted her to the gate and get her checked in. Her family took its story and complaints to local media outlets, and it hit social media.

Lesson: Special circumstances need special treatment. Follow up on anything that’s out of your normal operations and customer experience routine. A second lesson: Southwest is much more well-known for its outstanding service. This situation shows us that any organization can have a fail. Be ready to respond if it happens.

4. Making judgments

Lululemon made a series of judgments about its customers that have proven bad for business and customer loyalty. First, when it recalled a line of yoga pants, and invited customers to return them to the store, some employees made customers try them on and bend over to prove the pants were transparent.

Later, the founder told a media outlet that “some women’s bodies just don’t actually work” for Lululemon’s clothing. Finally, it banned customers who sold its products on eBay from buying merchandise from its website, blacklisting their IP addresses.

Deciding who should use your products, how and under what circumstances is not the way to build lasting relationships with customers.

Lesson: You can give customers suggestions on the products and services that will meet their needs, but they should ultimately decide what they want and how they’ll use it.

5. Ignoring them

There will always be some customers who will complain or have concerns. The worst thing you can do is ignore what they have to say.

Case in point: Smucker’s deleted and didn’t respond to comments and questions on social media about its use of GMOs in products. So, customers found other outlets to complain about the issue and Smucker’s lack of concern for them.

Lesson: You can’t ignore or delete criticism and negative comments. Customers will find ways to keep their ideas alive. The better bet is to acknowledge customers’ feelings and experiences, and take steps to make the situation right in their minds. If it’s complex or emotional, offer to handle it offline.

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