Customer Experience News & Trends

5 signs your service secretly stinks (and how to fix it)

Customers know bad service in an instant. But to those of us directing the customer experience, bad service can be harder to spot.

That’s mostly because sometimes we don’t see the tiny moments when the good service processes start to break down. That can happen during back-office tasks, interdepartmental meetings, through social media and when little things slip through neatly hidden cracks.

The good news is that customer experience professionals can eliminate many bad situations by knowing the signs that service is slipping.

Here’s what to watch for:

1. Service doesn’t know what Marketing does, and vice versa

164007424Customer service and the people who deliver it could be every organization’s top marketing investment, says business expert Jason Brick. The people behind service are the key to keeping customers (which costs much less than acquiring new customers) and usually are the people responsible for getting existing customers to buy in larger quantities.

Yet, they’re often not even on Marketing’s radar. And, truth be told, Service probably doesn’t think about Marketing until they’re slammed with questions and requests from customers about a new promotion or program.

Those are the cracks that open for customers’ issues to slip through.

To head off this issue: If you’re in Customer Service, get on Marketing’s list. Many customer service managers have themselves put on the marketing mail list — including snail mail, email, text and any other customer correspondence lists that exist. That way, if they miss a meeting where new promotions are discussed (meetings they should always be invited to, anyway), they at least know information as soon as customers do. Then they can prepare to help customers with it.

If you’re in Marketing, keep in close contact with service professionals on the front line. They have daily valuable insight into what customers understand, like, dislike and find complex. It’s valuable insight that should be sought before every marketing move. For instance, customer service reps at Avon take a look at catalogs and promotional materials before they’re printed to find any copy that might be confusing or unclear to customers, according to Tracy Wright, director of North America customer care, at the Springdale, OH-based corporation.

2. Complaints are low

108708885You’d think not hearing complaints from customers would be a good thing, right? Wrong. Quite wrong, actually.

If you don’t have complaints, it likely means one or several things:

  • It’s difficult for customers to find an avenue to complain
  • Customers don’t feel you’ll do anything about their complaints (probably because nothing was done prior)
  • Employees aren’t telling you about the complaints they hear, and
  • Customers walk away without saying a word because it’s easy to quit you.

“If you’re not irritating somebody, you’re also not pleasing anybody,” says Brick.

Because customers have varying expectations, you can be sure you’re disappointing at least one person, but probably many, at the same time you’re delighting others.

On the bright side, you probably are delighting more than you’re disappointing, but you need to hear from the unhappy folks because they’ll tell you what really stinks about service — and help you improve.

To head off this issue: Do something to address why you’re not hearing complaints.

Four ways to properly manage customer complaints:

  • Make it easy for customers to complain. Make it clear across communication channels how customers can give you feedback. Put a “Tell us how we can improve” tab on your website’s “Contact Us” page. Add a prompt on your phone system for customers to complain. Have reps ask at the end of phone conversations, “What could we have done to make this experience even better?” Encourage sales reps to ask customers for criticisms outright when they visit them. Print contact information — including the specifics for submitting complaints — on all written correspondence to customers.
  • Tell customers what you do with their feedback. Use the same channels where you received complaints to tell customers what you’ve done in response to their feedback. Regularly tell them about improvements you’ve made — or explain why something wasn’t viable and that you appreciate the feedback anyway.
  • Keep employees talking. Create an environment where front-line employees are encouraged and empowered to share what they’ve heard from customers — and never fear harsh consequences for doing something that caused a complaint. Give them the tools to either handle all complaints immediately and report them, or pass them along quickly to the powers that can help.
  • Build a net. Instead of letting customers walk away for reasons unknown, create opportunities for front-line employees to ask customers what’s gone wrong and look for ways to make it up to customers.

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