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Customer Service - Five Mistakes a Business Should Never Make

Looking at those themes, here are five key ways that businesses can get their customer service wrong – along with tips on how to avoid the pitfalls.

For small or fledgeling companies, a knock to a growing reputation through a failure of customer service can have a big impact, as clients move to the competition and spread the word about how they feel.

According to software company Zendesk, "when customers have a bad service experience, they don't just get mad; most of the time they try to get even". They quote a survey by ClickFox, which claimed that 52 per cent of disgruntled customers will "spout off" to family and friends, and 32 per cent will stop doing business with the company in question.

A stats round-up from Customer Service Manager magazine shows an even higher level of serious repercussions, with 68 per cent of customer defection taking place because customers feel poorly treated.

So what are the stumbling blocks that companies face when making sure their customer service leaves people feeling satisfied with their response instead?

Lots of surveys have tried to answer this question, and the themes are always the same: communication, solving the problem, respect for the customer and simply not adding unnecessary annoyances.

1. Ignore Social Media

Apparently, we complain about brands 879 million times a year on Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks, and ten per cent of us find something to be angry about publicly every single day. (Ironically, the most complained about brand online seems to be Facebook itself.)

And while this might not be the traditional route for making a complaint, of those respondents to The Social Habit research who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32 per cent expected a response within 30 minutes with a further 42 per cent expecting a response within 60 minutes which is certainly much quicker than the time expected for an email response to have their problem solved.

An article on the BBC about this growing phenomenon even includes advice about the best way to complain on Twitter, such as "If you do not get a response point this out in your follow-up tweet".

Not only do companies that ignore social media risk the anger of the individual themselves, the Zendesk survey also showed that more than 60 per cent of consumers are influenced by detrimental comments online.

Leaving your customer hanging can be a big mistake. According to a survey of both customers and contact centre managers by global technology research and advisory firm Ovum Research, the time taken to reach an agent is the number one customer complaint.

Our Answer for Providing a Great Online Response?

Set up notification alerts to all mentions of your company across all the social media platforms, and respond positively to any comments made – even if they are a complaint. Don’t get defensive, simply apologise, engage and work to solve the issue your customer has raised. Embrace social media and remember that people will often retweet or pass on your response for others to see. Say "thank you" if someone gives you a compliment too.

2. Play "Pass the Parcel" With Your Customer or Leave Them Hanging On

That’s backed up by the research from Zendesk, where 42 per cent of respondents said that having to explain their dilemma again to multiple agents was the most frustrating aspect of customer service. Being passed from person to person also came second in a Which? survey of 3,500 people on their customer service bugbears.

Our Answer for Providing a Fast Response That Delivers?

Track your peak times for customer contact and make sure you have the capacity in place to answer calls, provide email support, monitor live chat and other forms of contact – whether that’s through an in-house team or outsourced support. Train your staff well and empower them to deliver solutions. Integrate your customer service team with your other operational teams to ensure they can get things done without having to pass the caller around. Have policies and procedures in place for common issues regarding your product or service such as returns and replacements so that your staff don’t have to come up with a new solution every time – but allow some room for manoeuvre to meet individual client needs.


3. Disrespect Your Customers

In the Which? survey of 3,500 people, rude staff was in the top five customer service bugbears, especially those who seem too busy chatting with each other to pay attention and have the time to deal with customers.

In the US, blogger Jack Vale did his own research into the honesty of staff, by pretending to be a customer calling to ask if a particular item was in stock. The film, carried by The Huffington Post, made interesting (although unverifiable) viewing, with what looked to be disinterested staff simply making up responses to the person they thought couldn’t see them. Odd behaviour since all the examples showed that they could have provided good customer service and made a sale if they’d put in the effort, but these were clearly staff whose heart wasn’t in their work.

Our Answer for Treating Your Customers Right?

Employ great people and train them in customer support. Smaller businesses need every team member they have pulling together in the same direction to provide great customer service – their motivation really matters. gives us five examples of where the right people with the right customer service skills really made a difference to the customer experience – from surprising customers, taking advice, showing some love and playing along, to giving a unique service. There are also some pretty bad examples of where people got it wrong. Put yourself in your customer’s place and think about how you would want to be treated be it online, over the phone or face to face.

4. Be Less Than Human

Automated telephone systems came top in the Which? Round-up of customer service annoyances, and a survey by American Express found the phrases customers don't want to hear included:

  • "We’re unable to answer your question. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx to speak to a customer service representative from xxx team."

  • "We're sorry, but we're experiencing unusually heavy call volumes. You can hold or try back at another time."

  • "Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold."

Our Answer to Avoiding Annoying Automated Systems?

If you need to use an automated system, keep it simple with the minimum amount of options to choose from. Train your staff to be able to deal with all types of queries to reduce the need for segmentation of calls. And invest in enough staffing so that you don’t have to hold callers in queues. Remember that customer service is there to help your customers, not to make your life easier (although through customer satisfaction, your life will probably be easier as a result!).

5. Offend Your Customers with Bad Hold Music

According to Which?, hold music is also in the top five customer service gripes. But what decides whether the hold music will be annoying or suitably entertaining for callers?

According to, customers notice – and appreciate – when music fits with your brand, and sound levels are important, but ultimately you can’t please everyone. (That said, avoiding Greensleeves would probably help for most – voted the least popular hold music in numerous polls.)

Our Answer to Avoiding Bad Hold Music?

Try choosing popular tunes that suit the tenor of the call – remembering that loud dance music won’t help calm someone down, and upbeat music won’t cover up bad customer service! Consider asking callers what they thought to the music when it’s first introduced. You could also ask your system installer for a recommendation based on their experience. Ultimately, the answer to providing excellent customer service is to ensure you have the capacity to answer calls quickly and can find solutions to problems without having long discussions while a caller waits for your response.

Put simply, smaller companies wanting to protect and grow their business through better customer service should get busy engaging online, have the right number of staff in place at the right times, make sure they are trained, motivated, the ability to read a customer and have a sense of ownership, minimise automation and have systems in place to deliver fast, positive responses.

Customer service involves having a happy, professional team that will deliver you happy, repeat customers – who might just recommend you to a friend. Answer4u are here to help businesses of all sizes to deliver outstanding levels of customer service. Why not get in touch?

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