5 mistakes businesses make with their customer service (and what to do instead)

When it comes to running a business getting your customer service wrong can be catastrophic. 91% of customers will walk away from a business after a bad customer service experience. Yep, NINETY ONE PERCENT of the people surveyed said they would never purchase from a business again because of a crappy experience. 

There are lots of reasons that might contribute to a bad customer service experience. Here are five of the mistakes businesses make (and what to do instead):

They don't have a customer service process

There are two main consequences of not having a customer service process or procedure in place:

  1. It leads to inconsistency: If you don’t have a process it’s very easy to send a different email response to each new request you get. You run the risk of saying something completely different to the same enquiry. It also means that you might give one customer VIP service, and another person almost no service at all - just because you haven't got those customer service tasks on your to do list.

  2. You’re probably missing chances to communicate: If you aren’t actively looking for where your customers are trying to communicate with you, or you only respond to your emails ‘when you have a chance’ you will miss chances to speak with your customers.

What to do instead: Have a process. Sorry, it’s as simple as that. You need to start working on building a process to streamline your customer service experience.

They don't open channels to get feedback

It’s so important to ask for feedback. It’s not enough to assume that people will tell you if they like (or don’t like) what you’re selling. Not only will they not tell you, they’ll be suspicious if you aren’t actively asking for it. In the customer’s eyes, there isn’t a lot of difference between not actively asking for feedback and trying to prevent feedback.

What to do instead: Ask for feedback all the time. Make it clear how customers can get in touch with you and encourage them to do so.

They don’t follow through

This drives me nuts about online businesses - even the ones I love - they'll announce that they’re going to launch a new product or service or start doing something regularly (be it a podcast or a series of articles) and then they just...don’t. You never hear about it again. 

Or; they ask for feedback about a recent release of a product or a service with a promise to touch back in about anything they change and then you never hear anything.

What to do instead: There is no shame in realising something doesn’t work, and I definitely want to encourage people to try new things and experiment. However, there is something to be said for being more intentional with your actions - especially when you’re running a business. 

If you do ask for feedback and promise a follow-up - go and immediately put that on your calendar so you remember to come back around and provide an update. Or if you realise that a particular project isn’t working or isn’t going to get off the ground make sure to let your customers know. Don’t just hope that they weren’t interested in it. 

They don’t compromise

It is really important to have a customer service process in place (I mean - that’s my first point). You should know what your refund and returns guidelines should be. This allows you to make sure that you’re not breaking any laws specific to your country or industry, as well as providing structure to your enquiries.

You get in trouble though when you are completely inflexible and always stick to the rules. This inflexibility smacks of the “old school” way of doing business. I’m certain we’ve all been in situations where we’re talking to a company on the phone and they’ve told you, “that’s just the way it is” - even if they can’t give you a good reason why.

What to do instead: Allow yourself to bend the rules from time to time. Don’t panic too much about deciding when to do this - just follow your intuition. You’ll know when to compromise, trust me.You are not always going to get to be the “good guy” in your business, you are not always going to be able to say yes, but by allowing yourself to compromise just a little to help resolve someone’s problems, you’ll do a lot to build positive word of mouth feedback about your business.

They argue with customers

When I was researching this article (because yes I do research, what can I say, I’m a nerd) and I first saw “arguing with customers” come up as a mistake businesses make I couldn’t believe it. Surely that’s pretty obvious? Apparently not, as it turned up again and again and again.

Now - I am not accusing you of shouting at your customers - I’m certain you don’t do that. What I am saying is that sometimes your customer is wrong, and it really won’t help to argue the point with them (even if you don’t shout). 

I can honestly say that no matter how you say it, there is never a good way to say “you’re wrong”.

What to do instead: Treat your customer with respect. Calmly explain what you can do instead. Educate them on your reasoning, thought process or decision. There’s a saying in fiction writing to “show them, don’t tell them” which also applies to business communication. Don’t tell people that they’re wrong, show them your side of the story. Answer their questions before they even ask. People find it very reassuring to be brought into the process, instead of just being told “no”.