Customer Experience News & Trends

6 reasons good service turns bad — and how to avoid those problems

If 90% of companies aspire to be customer experience leaders in their industries, why do so many fail at providing great service?

The reason often is companies expect great service will just happen once they train employees and make them available to answer questions and fix problems.

But great service doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a constant process that includes planning, communication, training and benchmarking. Then companies that do those things well take steps to turn up service one more notch.

Why do most companies only aspire, like the Oracle study found, instead of actually becoming leaders in the customer experience? They often get in the way of their own good intentions, says Shep Hyken, customer service expert and author of Amaze Every Customer Every Time.

Here are six of the biggest reasons good customer service goes bad — and how you can prevent them from happening:

1. The vision is lost

Most companies define their vision for the customer experience. In fact, the message usually comes down from the top. And that’s the same place where it starts to get lost in the shuffle — due to wanting to make shareholders happy, keep profits high or deal with growing demand.

Tip: One of the best way to keep all employees focused on the customer experience vision or an initiative is to keep it short and simple. One sentence, not a paragraph, on how you want to make customers feel is short enough to post throughout the company, tag on correspondence with customers and remind each other to do.

Some examples of focused missions, mottos and goals:

  • Southwest Airlines: The Mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.
  • American Express: We have a mission to be the world’s most respected service brand. To do this, we have established a culture that supports our team members, so they can provide exceptional service to our customers.
  • Nordstrom: Our goal is to provide outstanding service every day, one customer at a time.
  • Ritz-Carlton: We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.

2. The hiring is hasty

In a hurry to fill positions because of unexpected turnover or a spike in demand, some companies hire when they find people with good attitudes and decent skills. But they forget other critical factors, Hyken says: culture fit and personality.

Tip: Let prospective employees shadow an employee a day or two so you can both find out if the fit is right. They have to feel comfortable in your culture, delivering your flavor of customer service, as much as you need to see if they really do fit in.

3. The soft training is thin

Some companies continually train employees on the software updates, product changes and the newest problem-solving techniques, but they don’t cover soft skills that are essential to creating memorable customer experiences. Leaders sometimes rely too heavily on the fact that they hired people with the right attitudes, and assume they don’t need to be trained on how to be nice.

The truth is, customer facing employees need soft skills training from time to time.

Tip: If you can’t do regular training on soft skills, ask front-line employees to share tactics they’ve used to get through difficult or complex situations with customers (that’s when soft skills are most critical and seen in action). Pull their tips and successes together and share them throughout the company.

4. Good service starts and stops on the front line

Providing an outstanding customer experience has to be a priority for everyone in the company, from the top down. But managers and executives sometimes forget to set the example of putting customers at the center of their decisions.

Tip: What happens on the inside of the company at all levels is felt on the outside. The experience will suffer if everyone from the front line to the CEO isn’t focused on doing things right for customers. Make everyone accountable for the customer experience by linking customer satisfaction scores to some cash benefit or perk that will make everyone want to delight customers.

5. Success isn’t celebrated

The more often customer experience victories are celebrated, the more likely everyone will understand how important it is to make the experience even better. Problem is, many companies don’t share successes, much less celebrate them. So there’s little positive reinforcement to keep up the good work.

Tip: Let employees know every time things go well with customers. Circulate regular email messages — daily, if possible — that highlight employee, department and company successes with customers. Include deals made, projects completed to customers’ satisfaction, kudos messages from customers, successes customers have realized in their businesses and lives, etc.

6. They think they’re doing better than they are

Customers aren’t complaining so things must be good, right? That’s a poor way to view the success of a customer experience strategy. Yet, many companies do it that way.

Many studies prove that there’s a big disparity in what companies think of their service and what customers think of it.

Tip: You need ongoing surveys and regular conversations with customers to understand what they really think of their experiences. Encourage front-line employees to tell you what they hear — the complaints, candid feedback and praise. If you’re meeting expectations, good. That means you may still be able to do something to exceed expectations. If you aren’t meeting them, there’s a lot more work to be done to your customer experience.

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