How To Start & Grow Your Business

The Cardinal Sins Of Customer Service—And How To Fix Them

John Goodman
Jan 7th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 3 min read
  • Hummy's
    Highlights

    1Keep it simple. 2Technology can hurt or help. 3Empower your representitives.
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Customer Service

A recent projectable national study confirms much of what you probably suspect—that even though many companies claim they are emphasizing service, service is actually getting worse. Why? Companies often spend money on technology and staff that in effect pour gasoline on the fire, further inflaming customers.

I have researched customer satisfaction starting with a 1976 study of consumer experience sponsored by the White House. More recently, I worked on the sixth replication of the Customer Rage Survey. Among the most interesting findings of this study are:

  • Serious negative consumer experiences are 50 percent higher now than in the 1970s. Cable, telephone and computers are now the biggest sources of frustration.
  • More people complain but are less satisfied. Of those who complained, 56 percent of complainers reporting they got no resolution and no compensation.
  • More consumers get angry and upset—68 percent were very or extremely upset and over half yelled at the company representative (interesting trivia: Independents curse the most and Democrats curse much more than Republicans).

On average, respondents told 27 friends and acquaintances (not counting social media) about their negative customer experience.

After working with over 40 Fortune 100 companies, my diagnosis is that companies are spending money in the wrong places. They implement technology that is hard to use and does not provide immediate solutions. Further, many company executives do not empower staff, frustrating both customers and employees, putting at least $76 billion in revenue at risk annually.

Check the list of cardinal sins below—your company is probably committing at least two of them.

1. Phone trees with multiple layers of confusing options

Solution: Simplify the menu and print it wherever the phone number appears so customers are not forced to listen to options and decide on the flyTell the customer on hold that their call is important to the company.

2. Tell the customer on hold that their call is important to the company

Solution: Cut the statement that they are important and substitute educational messages and offer “virtual queue technology” where you call back the customer when their call reaches the front of the queue.

3. On-hold phone messages telling callers to go to the website for faster service

Solution: Never use such as message. The customer is calling because the answer was not on the website.

4. Website searches for basic questions that say “no results found”

Solution: Analyze search failures and assure that the top 20 searches have clear believable answers.

5. Customer service reps who do not solve your problem but end the call with, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Solution: Empower reps to end with an apology if they could not help.

6. Requiring multiple passwords and user names for a single account (like one of the largest wireless phone companies)

Solution: Single sign-on has existed for years. Make it happen.

When service is properly delivered, it is actually a profit center. The average complaint call, if effectively handled, usually retains revenue equal to three to six times the loaded cost of handling the call.

There are four actions companies can take to move from firefighting to prevention and improve customer service, while reducing unnecessary customer attrition and negative word of mouth:

1. Ensure the front-line reps are empowered and have the tools to handle the top 10 issues without intervention of a supervisor.

2. When a problem has occurred, assure that the rep provides both empathy and financial—this doubles success.

3. Provide easy self-service for the top five issues on the website because almost all customers start problem solving by going to the website.

Only when you have improved the first three of these areas should you do the fourth.

4. Aggressively solicit complaints with a message of “We can only solve problems that we know about!”

This article was written by John Goodman and published on the Salesforce blog.

John is one of the original trailblazers of the customer experience industry and has personally directed some 1,000 customer experience studies for clients worldwide.

With 100,000+ customers, salesforce.com is the enterprise cloud computing company that is leading the shift to the socially connected businesses.