Customer Experience News & Trends

The 7 worst customer service mistakes ever

You’d think the fear of negative YouTube exposure would scare most organizations into giving better service. Not so much.

Of course, not every organization can be at the top of the customer experience pyramid – such as Ritz-Carlton, where they are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”  — or the bottom — such as Comcast, which has been caught on camera and exposed on YouTube more than once.

But any organization can avoid the embarrassing mistakes or rebound when the occasional one is made.

“It’s not only possible, it is essential, and it may be easier than you think,” says Bill Gessert, chief experience officer of the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE), which will hand out the inaugural Customer Experience Excellence Awards (The CXEs) during National Customer Service Week in October. “Customers are people and people make mistakes. Therefore customers can be very forgiving if you take ownership of the mistake.”

In honor of the upcoming awards, we give you the worst mistakes and how to avoid or recover from them:

1. Withholding the right words

“I’m sorry” are magical words in many customer situations, yet many front-line employees and their leaders are reluctant to use them because they don’t want to take blame. In reality, those two words are about all customers need to hear after something’s upset them.

So use them often: I’m sorry for your wait. I’m sorry for this inconvenience. I’m sorry you feel that way. You’ll see in all those examples, it’s an apology without taking responsibility for the issue (while responsibility for the recovery).

2. Giving misleading time frames

Whether you’re late, make customers wait or give them time frames that aren’t realistic, poor timing negatively affects customers.

The best solution is to set the right expectations. Post wait times. Tell them exacts when possible, and avoid saying “soon,” “ASAP,” “later” and other ambiguous terms.

And when things are delayed, update customers on the new time frame.

3. Creating rules for the 1%

Many organizations maintain rules and policies to protect themselves from the supposed 1% of ill-intentioned customers.

Those rules affect the good 99% by making it more difficult for them to do business with the company.

If you hear customers complain about policies, review them. Toss those that make it difficult for good customers (and employees) to do business.

4. Putting a bad face forward

Customers don’t like to do business with unkempt businesses. The seemingly little things matter: tidy uniforms, clean floors, welcoming offices, as well as reliable connections and well-spoken people when customers call, and easy-to-use and attractive websites.

Best advice: Put your best face forward for customers to experience.

5. Missing the most important opportunities

People who work with customers can be the smartest, most efficient staffers out there, but if they don’t make a good impression at the outset and end of contacts, it will disappoint customers. The beginning and ending are the most memorable moments.

Train staff to open with a warm, sincere welcome, then close with an offer of more help.

6. Layers of bureaucracy

Even if companies have the best possible customer service and sales pros on the front line, they will be seen as inefficient if they have to turn to a supervisor for permission to do most things.

Train and empower front-line employees to handle most situations themselves. Encourage them to take charge by praising them when they use their training to do what’s best for customers.

7. Forcing customers away from you

It’s a great idea to offer customers a bevy of service channels. It’s a really bad idea to push them into using any one in particular because it’s the least expensive and lowest hassle for you.

Many organizations have tried to get customers to use self-service, and it’s forced many of their customers — who prefer a personal touch — to walk out the door.

Better idea: Offer all the channels you can, and let customers use what they prefer. You can invite them try other channels, but don’t force them to.

Note: For more details on nominating employees and teams for the inaugural CXEs, click here.

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