Customer Experience News & Trends

6 things driving your customers crazy

What drives customers crazy? 

The things that can grate on others in our personal lives — such as procrastination, communicating poorly or being messy or obsessive — are often the same or similar behaviors that drive customers crazy.

“Awareness can be the pivotal point to making a quick change,” says Dianna Booher, a communication expert and president of Booher Research. “After all, none of these mistakes are irreversible.”

Here’s what service experts say are the top behaviors that get customers thinking about ending the relationship:

1. Not listening

Customers want you to understand what’s important to them when they share information. And they don’t want to repeat themselves. When employees ask irrelevant or repeat questions, customers feel like they aren’t important.

Tip: The key to keeping customers content — and not making them crazy — is listening closely for details and emotions. Ask questions that prompt customers to clarify, not repeat themselves. Say, “When you say …, do you mean …?” Or “Can you elaborate on …?” And recognize what it means to them. Say, “I can understand why you’re (frustrated, confused).”

2. Not updating

This behavior surfaces in several forms: Not updating your website. Failing to give customers status updates. Not following up on an unanswered request or question.

One survey found that customers won’t do business with companies because websites have inaccurate, outdated or inconsistent information. And customers who aren’t updated on information they need will just stop asking for it.

Tip: To avoid information delays, one company we know created a position, “Czar of Information,” who checked and updated website pages almost daily. The czar also kept tabs on pending customer inquiries and projects, and updated customers as status changed or, if nothing changed, let them know it was still being handled.

3. Talking too much

Sure, customers contact you for answers, advice and information. But they will remember and enjoy the experience better if they do more of the talking. They’d rather be the center of attention than hear (or read) too much from an employee.

Front-line employees want to understand customers’ needs and feelings fully — and that ideal balance is around 70/30. Customers talk 70% of the time, employees 30%.

Tip: Encourage front-line employees to listen to some recorded conversations with customers to find out if they’re in the 70/30 area. Similarly, review chat or email exchanges for the right ratio.

4. Using jargon

If you manage to maintain the 70/30 ratio when communicating with customers, keep your 30% free of jargon. Using jargon and acronyms drives customers crazy. If they don’t understand your jargon, they likely don’t want to admit it. If they do understand it, they often don’t want to hear it over and over.

Tip: Skip the jargon. If you want to use an acronym, use the full name first, then ask customers if it’s OK to use the acronym going forward in the exchange.

5. Taking too long

Customers have a reasonable threshold for waiting. They’ll wait about five minutes for help, according to one study. The better part: They don’t need an answer or resolution within those five minutes. They just want you to acknowledge them or their issue.

Tip: Manage customers’ expectations. They’ll wait longer than five minutes as long as they know what your reasonable wait time is. Then give them options — such as the best times to contact you for fastest service or offering to contact them at their convenience — and a wait won’t drive them crazy.

6. Exaggerating or minimizing

You surely don’t lie to customers. But front-line employees can drive customers crazy by exaggerating or minimizing because the information they want to share isn’t ideal. For instance, they might add or cut days on an estimated delivery time because they don’t think customers will like the reality. Or they might play up a product or service that they don’t know as well as they claim.

Tip: Tell customers the truth all the time. When it’s not their ideal, offer alternatives so they can decide what works best for them.

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