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The Top Five Worst Customer Service Practices

August 30, 2019

11:18 am

Everyone in the world has had a bad customer service experience at some point in their life. Whether it's getting stuck on hold for hours on end or enduring a store clerk that has no idea what they're doing, all of us have experienced the frustration of poor customer service.

However, while it may be tempting to blame the service reps that are fumbling through phone calls with customers, the reality is that the worst customer service practices are typically handed down from management rather than concocted in an employee's imagination. And if you want to keep customers happy, you're going to have to make customer service a priority by avoiding some of the common pitfalls.

We sat down to talk with Alex Birkett, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Hubspot, and Kenneth Tange, Vice President of Marketing for Dixa, to talk about some of the worst customer service practices and why businesses need to avoid them at all cost.

The Five Worst Customer Service Practices:

  1. Over-Prioritizing Efficiency – in the drive for faster resolutions, customers could be left unimpressed
  2. Forcing Customers to Start from Scratch Repeatedly – instead, gather all requests into one stream
  3. Making It Hard to Cancel – your retention metrics could be torpedoing long-term trust in your business
  4. Ignoring Customer Feedback – even when it's bad, it's still pretty good (to have)
  5. Foregoing Customer Service All Together – customer service done right can supercharge your business

Over-Prioritizing Efficiency

When it comes to the business world, prioritizing efficiency seems like a no-brainer. After all, you want your employees to be productive, and your daily processes to be methodical, which goes hand-in-hand with efficiency. As a result, many companies take this approach to customer service as well. The hope is that be speeding up the process, a business can address as many concerns as possible in a short period of time.

“Everything was all about optimization, about how to be as efficient as possible and to cut down on time with customers,” said Tange in our interview.

However, customer service is a unique branch of a company, as its goal is to keep customers happy, rather than directly make money. Subsequently, efficiency isn't always the best course of action, especially considering only 12% of customers cite “lack of speed” as a problem when it comes to their customer service experience. They want to be listened to, so that they feel their problem is genuinely understood and properly solved.

Driving for efficiency can have a decidedly problematic effect on your employees as well. Consider what you're putting them through to make this kind of productivity possible.

“If everything in your life only pushes you towards efficiency, then stress and unhappiness come faster and breed employee unhappiness,” says Tange.

To make matters worse, customer service is a perpetually fluctuating entity. Take Black Friday, for example. Ecommerce sites are likely swamped with thousands of complaints in a manner of hours, as opposed to any given Tuesday outside of the holiday season. Subsequently, the idea of holding customer service reps accountable for the same efficiency quotas across the board is a recipe for overworked, stressed out employees, and that's never good for business. “The ability to be flexible disappears when you make efficiency the only priority,” says Tange.

Making efficiency a priority is understandable from a business perspective, but moderation is always the key, particularly for customer service, even with the modern benefits of CRM software. As Tange puts it, “Either you become a slave to tech or a master of tech.”

Making Customers Start from Scratch Repeatedly

Customers in need of support are typically calling in multiple times, sending multiple emails, and reaching out on multiple platforms. And trust us, they hate having to answer the same question more than once.

“Our platform enables brands to have all the channels in the world that they see their customers move on, flow into a one-stream wonder. So, regardless of how your customer communicates with you, it will come up in a conversational-like methodology,” says Tange.

If you've ever been on hold, rerouted to a different department, on hold again, and then eventually sent back to the place you started, only to hear the same, “how can we help you?” on the other end, you know exactly how valuable this approach can be. And with more and more platforms becoming avenues to customer service, it's all the more necessary to consolidate how reps talk to customers.

“I mean, there are 17 different tools that everyone needs to remember where it comes to communication, and customer service needs to keep up,” said Tange.

Kenneth Tange of DixaKenneth Tange is the Vice President of Marketing for Dixa, a CRM platform that focuses on building customer friendships to improve the quality of a business's service. He believes that focusing on the needs of the customer is more important than driving for efficiency when it come to support.

Making It Hard to Cancel

Sometimes, you just have to cancel a subscription service. Whether the price is too high, the content is too boring, or the design is too “bleh,” there's no shame in ending a monthly payment for a service. Unfortunately, some subscription services don't feel that way, and employ one of the worst customer service practices in the books to persuade you otherwise.

“A lot of companies now are trying to go cheaper, and they have to make up for that somehow. So, their attention optimization is based on tricking you to stay – basically, making it difficult to cancel,” said Birkett.

If you've ever had to Google, “how the hell do I cancel my subscription?” you know exactly what Birkett is talking about. From additional pitches to impossible-to-find cancel buttons, this practice has become all too common in the subscription service industry. Fortunately, there's no way it's going to last much longer.

“I do think that it's probably going to die out in the next couple years though, because it's clearly the antithesis of the good customer experience,” said Birkett.

With studies showing that 70 percent of customers reduce their commitment to a brand because of a single bad customer service experience, Birkett is right to assume that this practice is decidedly unsustainable for the businesses of the future. Don't wait for regulation to force your hand, either.

Ignoring Customer Feedback

Considering it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience, it's safe to say the importance of getting customer service right is significant. However, in a world where data reigns supreme, customer service offers the unique opportunity to glean information from your customers in a way that, for once, doesn't creep everyone out.

“One of the main values of respecting customer service as an investment is that you get a ton of feedback. So, you can improve on your process more quickly, and really understand what your customers' pain points, motivations and hesitations are,” said Birkett.

From user surveys to basic interactions, customer complaints are an invaluable tool for discovering exactly what people don't like about your service, giving you the data you need to fix it. By pushing customers through an endlessly unhelpful funnel in hopes they'll simply give up, you're not only creating a user that hates your business – you're also leaving information on the table about how to improve your company.

“When companies actively avoid customers and customer service, they tend to distance themselves from the problem they were trying to solve in the first place,” said Birkett.

It's hard not to look at your business in dollars and cents when it comes to investing in different aspects of the company. But, in regards to customer service, there are dozens of non-monetary benefits that come with making it a priority.

Alex Birkett Hubspot

Alex Birkett is the Senior Growth Marketing Manager at Hubspot, a popular marketing, sales, and service software platform that helps your business grow without through customer-focused help. He believes that customer support is about more than helping customers; it's also a way to improve your business.

Foregoing Customer Service All Together

The problem with customer service is that, from a business owner's perspective, it doesn't appear to make any money. Particularly for startups, it can be seen as an added cost that doesn't have a great ROI, which often leads to a woeful under-investment. And when that happens, your entire customer service approach is going to be fundamentally one of the worst.

“The whole process of where you want to go [with customer service] will be broken,” said Tange. “You'll be coming from the wrong angle, and the methodology by which you try to fix problems will be just off.”

The reality is that customer service is invaluable to businesses, particularly when they're just starting out. From the countless statistics showing how seriously customers take it to the ability to establish yourself against your competition, foregoing customer service altogether is not a smart move. The key, though, is to change the way you think about taking care of your customers.

“Treat customer service like an investment rather than a cost,” said Birkett. “In a world where specific products aren't that different, the way to differentiate your business is through the customer experience.”

And an investment it is, as $1.6 trillion is lost by American companies due to customers switching to competitors as a result of experiencing poor customer service.

How CRM Software Can Help

For businesses large and small, CRM software can be the difference between good and bad customer service practice. The best CRM platforms can help you to analyse patterns in how, when and why customers get in touch, and help your agents make the most effective resolutions to queries, requests and complaints.

By driving your customer interactions through a CRM platform, you can gain powerful insights into your customers themselves. This can help your business to better understand what your customers most want from it. In turn, it can help you to deliver a better customer experience.

You don't have to spend big to get started with a CRM platform, either. Hubspot, for example, has a generous free tier which lets you try out many of its features at zero cost.

Remember, though, no matter how slick and modern your CRM software may be, it's all for nothing if you fall into the worst habits of customer service. Always think back to how it feels to be a customer yourself, dealing with a company or trying to get a resolution to a problem. Think of how you were treated, and how it made you feel about that business. How your customers feel about your business really can dictate its long term success – so treat them well.

Read more about CRM software to improve customer service on Tech.co:

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Conor is the Senior Writer for Tech.co. For the last four years, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His extensive background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host tech-centric events like Startup Night at SXSW and the Timmy Awards for Tech in Motion. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.