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Avoid Bad Customer Service

All organizational leaders intuitively want their teams to deliver good customer service. After all, the effects of good customer service is the strongest natural force sustaining a business’s success. Still, common, avoidable problems result in countless daily examples of bad customer service. It happens even in companies with the best of intentions to help customers succeed and to add value to their customer services. As with anything accomplished in any human enterprise, training is, of course, the primary solution to improving performance in customer service.

The place to start to more fully understand the problem of customer service gone wrong is to examine the particulars of poor customer service and explore some ways to improve customer service performance and reduce instances of bad service.

What Defines Bad Customer Service?

We can all share examples of bad customer service that we’ve received. But, specifically speaking, what is poor customer service? We’ve all experienced it, but what’s a poor customer service definition that clarifies the problem and leads onto a robust solution? Is it all about rude customer service? And, how is very bad customer service defined? Is it enough to just list bad customer service examples and instruct employees not to mimic those?

To identify solutions requires a clear identification of the problem to be solved. So, here’s reasonable generalized working definition of bad customer service: Poor customer service is service that does not meet the needs of a customer, or service that does not meet a customer’s expectations, or service that does not meet the organization’s service standards.

Examples of Bad Customer Service

Businesses can’t afford to dismiss their need for their customers to have a positive experience in dealing with their representatives. Bad service impacts conversion rates, customer satisfaction, retention rates, referral business, word of mouth advertising, and ultimately, profit margin. In fact, it’s estimated that bad customer service reportedly costs the economy as much as $62 billion annually.

Poor customer service examples are easy to find on any given day, in any particular spot across the consumer business sector, often even service businesses — in which service is the product — many are generating excessive customer service complaints examples. They’re familiar to all consumers: bad customer service examples in restaurant, bad customer service examples call center, bad customer service examples at retail service counters, examples of bad customer service calls, even bad customer service call recordings, and so on and on

There are many forms of bad customer service that can constitute the bad service found in any one of the bad examples mentioned, and any one of these can damage customer relationships and cause customers to turn to competitors. Examples of bad customer service include:

  • Excessive Wait Times: It is well known that customers become frustrated and unhappy and that many eventually become angry while being left waiting in anterior rooms or on hold for long periods. Yet, keeping customers holding on the phone remains one of the most frequent forms of bad service.
  • Transferring Callers Multiple Times: Not only does transferring a customer multiple times imply that the service team doesn’t know how to solve a problem, but it also suggests that the entire service training and management structure of the company is dysfunctional.
  • Using Discouraging Language: Customers who find themselves trying to reason with service employees who are pessimistic about what can be done to remedy a problem for them leave customers feeling bewildered and even cheated by their supplier.
  • Causing Customers to Keep Repeating Themselves: When a customer service representative is not listening carefully enough to digest and retain information the customer is giving in the encounter, forcing the customer to repeat the same details multiple times instead of notating key information, people become annoyed and feel as if they’re being treated as necessary nuisances, unwanted distractions, instead of as valued customers.
  • Failure to Focus on Solutions: Even the friendliest of customer service representatives who allow the problem resolution process to run off track and fail to make progress in a time-efficient manner, force busy customers to lose valuable time and even to feel rather stranded in an encounter which they have no choice but to patiently withstand. The fine line between pleasantries and too much small talk is important to recognize.
  • Non-Customer-Centered Approach: These days, many customer service workers merely direct callers to the company’s website for answers to common questions, instead of taking time to answer questions for the caller. A customer who calls may have already been unsuccessful in finding the information they want on the site. Prioritizing the customer service rep’s convenience, or the rate of calls taken, over customers’ convenience and preference to speak with a live agent frustrates customers and makes it clear to them that their interests are not viewed as the priority.
  • Technology Training Issues: Most modern customers have, at some point, been stuck along with a struggling service rep while a slow IT system has thwarted the best effort of the worker to complete some parts of the process. That’s a service problem for management to address. When extreme technology-related delays are due to insufficient customer service technology training, that’s also a problem for management to address.
  • Displaying a Lack of Empathy: Customer service agents who stand on the letter of their protocols and stick to their scripts so rigidly that they come across as robotic, can seem devoid of any will to empathize with customers’ experience. They leave customers feeling disrespected, and in extreme cases, even feeling abused by reps who may seem to be obnoxiously resisting providing genuinely responsive, friendly, truly helpful service.
  • Rudeness: Everyone has a bad day from time to time. However, adding the total number of bad days that individual members of a customer service team may have in just a year period, can equal a shocking number of times that mal-treatment of customers has been allowed. Occurrences can soon add up to severely damage a business’s service reputation and can impact customer retention rates.

Bad Customer Service Consequences

The high cost of poor customer service is well understood by business leaders, yet the negative impact of customer complaints continues to plague a surprising number of businesses. For customers of such companies, the question becomes one of how to complain effectively and get results. If customers cannot work that out for themselves, then the side effects of poor customer service can stifle business growth and, in extreme cases can even threaten the future of an organization. Such devastating consequences of poor customer service can include:

  • Damaged Reputation: Today’s consumers have abundant options, usually just a few mouse clicks away, and they often take their purchasing cues from social media and personal referrals. They quickly adapt to skim past vendors with too many negative social comments and bad reviews, regardless of how high on the first Google SERP they may appear.
  • Low Customer Lifetime Value: When a customer moves on to a company’s competitor due to poor customer service, all the marketing and sales investment put into capturing the initial lead, and all the passive internal marketing that has been maintained in order to generate repeat sales and referrals is out the door. The CLV drops, and along with it, the strategic planning potential around this important business performance metric.
  • Employee Churn: Customers aren’t the only ones who abandon a company that becomes notorious for apparently not caring about service quality. Talented workers across all departments can become frustrated, anxious and even hopeless feeling about the security of their futures with the company when budget cuts due to service issues begin to affect their departmental goals and their paychecks.
  • Loss of Profits: A company that cannot overcome persistent service quality deficiencies naturally loses current customers as well as the referral business and powerful positive word of mouth that goes with them. Worse, the unhappy customers are more likely than happy customers to share their opinions of a business they’ve spent their money with. New customer acquisition becomes more difficult too, as qualified leads become harder to attract, and closing wary prospects become more challenging, as the company’s general reputation declines.
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How to Avoid Bad Customer Service

To avoid the impacts of delivering bad service requires first getting to the real causes of poor customer service. To accomplish that, it helps to consider the traits of the best customer service agents in organizations that are famous for their reliability to deliver consistently good customer service. There are many great examples of good customer service across large businesses. These are among those that stand out:

  • McDonalds Restaurants: When approaching a McDonald’s restaurant drive-through service window, customers know just what to expect in prompt and courteous service and accurate order processing.
  • Walmart Stores: Customers can enter any Walmart store with confidence that employees will be found busily attending to well-organized shelves and will eagerly direct them upon request to any items they can’t find. Electronics customers know that department staff will provide knowledgeable help, and cashiers can be trusted to quickly and accurately process transactions.
  • AAA Auto Club: The AAA auto club gives customers peace of mind, from the knowledge that every single time they need emergency roadside service, a service technician will arrive within a short time, will knowledgeably advise and efficiently guide them, and will administer an effective solution to their predicament.

But how do these major service providers do it so well? How do they avoid diminishing effectiveness in service quality controls across such vast organizations with so many thousands of points of service? The answer, of course, starts in the training commitment. Consistently providing thorough customer service training and following up routinely to reinforce learning is the bedrock service quality practice of the world’s best service businesses.

Effective customer service training will address the causes of bad customer service. Those causes can include: poor organization of information, lack of access to histories of customers’ communications, insufficient training, infrequent or no follow-up training, insufficient management skills in cultivating effective practices in the customer services department, ineffective departmental leadership skills in employee motivation and engagement, poor communication skills of customer service reps, or insufficient product or service knowledge of customer service department employees, among others.

On the upside, there’s plenty that can be done to turn around customer service quality and get the team back on track toward building for the company a reputation as a caring, efficient, highly professional organization that does what it takes to deliver a great customer experience.

These are the areas in which businesses should focus, in order to trend customer service operations in the direction of increasing success for the company’s customers, the customer service team, and all other stakeholders:

  • Product/Services: Evaluate relationships between products and service complaints. Identify needed development work to correct product issues that are associated with a disproportionate number of serious complaints about insufficient resolutions by customer service.
  • Ability to Learn: Rely on the capacity of under-performing customer service workers to improve with proper training, and be willing to provide additional training sessions, side-by-side coaching, and workshops for willing workers who are struggling.
  • Coachability/Receive Feedback: If customer service rehab is in order, bring the considerable talents of Customer Service Managers, Sales Managers, Marketing Managers, and C-suite leaders, as needed, to the task of providing constructive feedback, encouragement, and coaching for customer service workers. Allocating such top-tier coaching resources in these critically important front-line company representatives is a practical business decision that can help significantly elevate service performance quickly.
  • Clear Communication Skills: Identify HR issues, and emphasize hiring only customer service employees who have strong communications skills. It costs more to replace lost customers than to pay more for top talent, when making a pivotal decision on customer service staffing.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Hire only customer service employees who meet reasonable standards for critical thinking, in terms of the degree of difficulty in providing effective solutions for customers purchasing and/or using the kinds of products and services the company offers.

The Final Solution to Bad Customer Service

Constant striving to deliver the best customer service is sure to be found as a shared obsession inside any business with a good reputation. After all, at the point of service is where everything happens between a company and the customers who sustain it. So, customer service is the business’s point of opportunity to build its all-important customer relationships. This means that management must maintain a system for ensuring that all customer service agents are consistently performing up to very clear standards. Initial new hire training cannot be expected to guarantee the same good performance of freshly-learned service principles and methods months or years later.

Letting the effects of even the best training wane over time can cost a business far more from customer attrition and employee turnover than from providing appropriate periodic reinforcement training and skills validation testing of core service principles and practices. Management must further provide frequent monitoring and coaching, to identify emerging service quality issues, and should collaborate freely with employees to find and implement lasting solutions.

As the overall solution to bad customer service naturally lies in training, organizations looking to correct service problems and associated bottom line issues, should make more frequent customer service monitoring, additional refresher training, increased coaching, and more robust collaboration between customer service employees and management to resolve issues their way of doing business.

To achieve and sustain the best possible reputation, reach growth goals, and build a strong brand, a company is well advised to prioritize its strategy for generating a more competitive level of consumer confidence in its target market. The way forward in that objective is always through cultivating a customer-centric culture that is grounded on continuous reinforcement of commitment to pride in superior care for customers. The way to enable the company’s team to deliver on that commitment is through an effective program of ongoing training for every employee involved in customer service in any capacity.

Avoid Bad Customer Service with Lessonly

Lessonly is a highly intuitive, simple employee training platform that guides employees through learning and practicing, to improve job performance. Lessonly software is used by 2.5 million learners in over 750 companies, such as Cisco, Jostens, Trunk Club, U.S. Cellular, and more. Lessonly’s powerful learning tools allow users to develop skills, share knowledge, and habituate best practices. Companies find remarkable results in streamlined onboarding, stronger NPS scores, increased sales, and improved customer experience. Learn more or get a demo today.