Lessons to Learn on Great, Terrible Customer Service

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providing better customer service

There’s a lesson to be learned from everything — even from horrible customer service experiences.  What can your small business learn about providing better customer service from the worst customer service mistakes other businesses make? The 2016 24/7 Customer Engagement Index has some answers.

The company 247-Inc.com polled consumers, ranging from 18-year-old Millennials to seniors aged 69 and up, to find out what makes for a great, or terrible, customer service experience.  Here’s what customers want.

Providing Better Customer Service

1. Have It My Way

Customers say the number-one factor in great customer service is being able to contact a company however they want to.  Some customers may want to call you on the phone, but others may prefer to go online, email you or use a mobile app.  Don’t forget about SMS messaging and social media, either.

Takeaway:  Even the same person may prefer different channels depending on the situation or time of day. For example, someone contacting your business from work may prefer to email rather than use the phone.  Offer a wide range of customer service contact points, and make all of them as simple to use as possible.

2. Anticipate My Needs

Customers love it when they contact a company and the customer service rep already knows what the problem is without them having to go through a lengthy explanation.

Takeaway:  Maintaining detailed data on your customers will help you anticipate potential problems.  Make sure this data is easily accessible to your customer service reps so they can quickly tap into the information when starting a call.

3. Don’t Make Me Repeat Myself

Customers appreciate continuous interactions — that is, being able to start a customer service interaction on one channel, such as online, and finish it later in another channel, such as phone.  Repeating or re-inputting the same information over and over just leads to frustration.

Takeaway:  Use customer service software that enables your reps to record and review information from prior interactions in all channels.  For example, being able to take notes during a phone conversation can be helpful if a call needs to be transferred to another representative or picked up later.

4. Just Let Me Talk to a Real Person

Customers’ number-one pet peeve is being trapped in an automated, self-service phone system and not being able to reach a live person.

Takeaway:  Don’t make customers guess how to get ahold of a customer service rep by frantically pushing buttons.  Make the live-person option available after they have entered one or two self-service choices, or better yet, from the beginning of the call. (“If you’d like to speak to a representative at any time, please press 0.”)

5. Hurry Up

As I mentioned in last month’s post, having to wait too long to speak to a customer service rep is a hallmark of terrible service.  This applies to both phone calls and live chat.

Takeaway:  Sometimes, long waits can’t be avoided, but there are ways to make the time pass as painlessly as possible.  Be sure to let customers know an estimated wait time and/or how many other customers are ahead of them; this gives them the option to stick it out or come back later.  On the phone, play hold music. Some companies still don’t do this, making it impossible to tell if you’re still on hold or have been cut off.  For live chat, use automated standard responses that post every few minutes so customers know they’re still “in line” for service.

6. Can I Speak to a Manager?

Customers’ third-biggest service gripe is when customer service reps don’t have the skill or knowledge to answer their queries.  This can tarnish your business’s image and brand. After all, how competent are you if your staff doesn’t know what they’re doing?

Takeaway:  Take time to train your customer service reps thoroughly, and have new reps work with trainers until they get accustomed to the job.  Create a knowledge base or database of common questions and responses that your reps can search.  Teach representatives to be alert to signs of frustration, both verbal and written, and make sure they know when to escalate a customer to the next level up.

By paying attention to this data and to your own customers’ feedback you can ensure that your business ranks at the top of the list for good customer service, not for bad.

Service Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.