Customers’ expectations are higher than ever. With instant, worldwide communication now a part of our everyday lives, research suggests that over 50 per cent of customers expect complaints made over the phone to be resolved in a single day, despite an industry average turnaround of ten days. But turnaround time is not the only area of inconsistency. Here are 10 more customer service mistakes SMEs regularly make
1. No response
If you can encourage your customers to voice their complaints, you have a chance to resolve the problem and to turn them into an advocate. Our research found that 90 per cent of consumers who have a complaint satisfactorily resolved go on to actively endorse the company. So why do so many businesses not even acknowledge complaints or feedback? It’s not surprising that many customers turn to online forums to vent their frustrations, and that’s interaction you cannot control.
2. Expensive and robotic phone lines
Although most organisations do publish an obvious point of contact for their customers, it is frustrating when the only phone number provided is premium rate. It doesn’t make good business sense to charge customers for their thoughts. Customers who make an effort to provide feedback should be rewarded rather then punished.
You should also make the communication between your customers and your company as personal as possible. It is not fair to force customers to navigate automated call systems. Offer a direct number and make sure the call is answered instantly by a real person.
3. Telling lies
Many customers claim to feel deceived by SMEs because they are seen to be going back on their word. It is a fairly common occurrence, especially at Christmas time, for a customer to have purchased a gift after being told it is in stock, only weeks later to find out that is not actually going to be delivered until after Christmas. Make sure sales staff have access to accurate, real-time stock data and are aware of the pitfalls of over-promising and under-delivering.
4. Rudeness and insensitivity
From market stall traders to high street shops, rudeness is one of the most common complaints from customers. Look out for your customers by training staff to be courteous and polite. Pay special attention to transient employees who may be less engaged in their work than more longstanding members of staff.
5. Passing the buck
Empower all of your customer representatives to deal with problems themselves. This will give the customer instant confidence that you are actually going to do something about their complaint. Pro-activity is known to improve customer satisfaction. Train all staff to treat every incoming complaint as their own responsibility, rather than passing it on to a colleague. Take responsibility for your actions, and don’t try to pass the blame to suppliers or third party businesses.
6. No empathy
One thing that continually frustrates consumers is dealing with poorly trained staff who show a lack of empathy. Many customers will spend their free time providing feedback, from which switched-on companies can learn plenty. They do not want to be greeted by a junior member of staff who, not only doesn’t want to show any understanding of a customer’s problem, but also doesn’t have the authority to deal with it.
Inaccurate or inconsistent advice is a major annoyance. Avoid aggravating errors by promising a solution only to withdraw it once the point of contact is changed. Ensure you treat all customers the same by logging each complaint and the action taken as you go.
8. Hidden charges
Overcharging is a real bugbear. Some of the most common complaints include hidden charges or fees lumped on at the end of the purchase. Handling fees, booking fees and credit card charges are all hidden costs to the customer and a source of great irritation.
Have a nice day, how’s it going and is there anything else I can do to help? These are all throwaway comments that only aggravate when combined by an underwhelming service experience. If you operate a customer service function, don’t tell a customer their call is important unless you stand prepared to defend that statement. A customer providing feedback wants to hear that not only is their call important to your business, but that it helped to identify new problems that will definitely be fixed.
10. No complaint log
Customers hate having to repeat themselves, especially if they have something to complain about. It is essential that you record all the steps you have taken to fix the root causes of a problem. Technology can be used to influence the intelligent routing of complaints, ensure service level management and agreements are followed and procedures automated. As soon as a complaint is logged, a customer should instantly be told who is taking care of the complaint, what process will be taken and how long it will take.
Andrew Aldred is marketing manager for Managemycomplaints.com a customer service management company