It can be easy to focus on the process of finding new customers, generating leads, or marketing efforts. New business keeps many companies alive, and resting on one’s laurels is a fast path to failure. Just because you have existing customers, however, doesn’t mean that you can take them for granted either. A recent survey of more than 1,000 customers indicated that more respondents told people about their bad experiences with companies than their good experiences, and many of those customers used social media to extend the reach of their negative stories even further. Negative customer service experiences don’t just drive away existing business: they can poison the well that new business is drawn from as well.
Issues like these don’t have to be inevitable, though. Here are a few blunders that companies make in customer service, and some tips to avoid them. Some of these are applicable to any business, while others are recent developments that are a product of the rise of social media and technology.
Don’t take avenues of communication away from customers. It drives them off.
Sometimes business realities will force you to shutter a previous method of support or service, but generally you want to avoid making customers feel as though they have lost their voices. Social media pages are particularly susceptible to this, and while moderation should remove offensive or irrelevant posts, removing posts that indicate other problems with customer service will often leave customers feeling voiceless in addition to their previous issues. There is, however, a point at which customers need to understand that a business cannot function at all if they do not give it time to grow and develop based on feedback.
Don’t make it difficult to find support for your product. Your customers will find an easier one.
Though it can be tempting to offer support primarily through an online help file or during narrow hours to minimize the costs of customer support, customers will often lose patience with these options. Many customers may lack the technical knowledge of the product to find the answers they seek without guidance, and accordingly will end up walking away frustrated and ultimately losing interest in products or services.
Don’t make your customers put forth effort when you aren’t willing to.
In theory, support efforts can be supplemented with a community forum, in which users help each other by sharing product knowledge and advice. Unless a company’s customers are a relatively tight-knit group, however, this can backfire, leading to a lot of unhappy customers with the same question and no answer in sight. The possibility of customers helping customers sounds pretty, but more technical problems need the expertise of live support staff.
Don’t try to shift responsibility somewhere else, even if it’s true.
If a customer ends up having a problem with a product or service, it can be tempting to offload the responsibility onto another involved party, such as a credit card company, banking partner, or shipping organization. Even if the other involved party is the one at fault, though, a company can earn much more respect and goodwill from customers by owning the mistake to the greatest extent possible.
Don’t treat customers like numbers.
Work to personalize every interaction a customer has with the company — but be realistic, too. While some forms of mass communication are inevitable as part of sales and marketing efforts, when dealing with customers directly, focus on making each one feel distinct. Avoid form letters unless a problem is extremely common, or as a means of assuring customers that more detailed feedback is on the way. A good CRM solution can make this process a little easier, ensuring that company representatives take past interactions into account and tailor services to a customer’s needs.
What do you think?
By strengthening your customer service initiatives, you can build brand loyalty and cultivate customers who come back time and time again, eager for more products. Have any customer service trends that ultimately led to lost business cropped up among your team? Have you had to correct your organization’s course on customer service matters? Let us know in the comments.