Customer Experience News & Trends

Researchers say you purposely make customer service bad!

Hold on tight, customer experience professionals: New research says you purposely give bad customer service. And it may be right! 

Now stop gasping – and let’s get down to what they’ve found, and what you can do to shed that kind of image.

Turns out, companies often profit when they make it more difficult for customers to get what they want – especially fixes for complaints, according to the research “Why Customer Service Frustrates Consumers: Using a Tiered Organizational Structure to Exploit Operational Costs.

‘That’s a hassle!’

Intentional or not (although researchers said most organizations do it intentionally), many companies make it a hassle for customers to fully resolve a complaint by having them make a second or third contact. For instance, at some organizations front-line service pros are only allowed to send replacements or give order status. They give customers other contacts – with limited hours of operation – to get the refund they want.

That’s a hassle, customers think. Then they don’t follow through, and the company doesn’t have to replace an item, which would cut into profits.

Customers might be upset, but companies are off the hook for paying out. And customers keep coming back because 1) there are a limited number of suppliers or 2) it’s a bigger hassle to change suppliers.

“This may help us understand why some of the most hated companies in America are so profitable and why customer service, unfortunately, remains so frustrating,” say the study authors Anthony Dukes and Yi Zhu in Harvard Business Review.

4 worst service practices – and how to avoid them

Most customer experience professionals don’t try to make the service difficult. But sometimes customer service practices that were put in place for a reason at one time create hassle today.

Here are the four worst practices that make customers think, This is bad customer service! – and how you can eliminate them:

  1. Approval-laden service. Researchers specifically pointed out this hated practice: requiring customers to contact someone else to get a final answer. Customers want the person who answers their inquiry to be the person who can fix it (or even give the final denial). Fix it: Train and empower front-line employees to take care of issues up to a certain high-dollar amount.
  2. Customer equality. In an effort to “be fair,” companies create boundaries so all customers are treated equally. That practice usually doesn’t work because all customers don’t deserve to be treated equally. But all customers deserve to be treated fairly. Ill-behaved customers don’t deserve to be treated the same as loyal, cooperative customers. Fix it: Unless a rule or policy is in place to keep employees and customers safe, allow some bend so front-line employees can do a minimum for all customers and more for deserving customers when necessary.
  3. Online emphasis. Companies encourage customers to do more and more business through their website, social media platforms and email. Some companies even punish customers for calling or wanting to work with an employee directly with fees. And while those practices are cost- and time-efficient, they’re not for every customer or situation. Some people, in some situations, want to deal with another person. Fix it: Make it easy for customers to contact an employee who answers them almost immediately.
  4. Restrictive returns. Customers sometimes find a product wasn’t right for them after they used it. Or they might get a defective product. Or the service didn’t live up to their expectations. So they want to return it, only to find out they can’t or returning it is at their loss or more trouble than it’s worth. Restrictive return policies make one thing sure: Customers themselves won’t return. Fix it: Ease up. Even if you can’t accept all returns, work with customers to find another, reasonable solution such as finding a better-fit product or service or giving credit and samples.

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