Customer Service

Apologizing Is Not Great Customer Service, Only Fixing the Problem Is

Guest Writer
Senior Manager, Data & Analytics at Zendesk, Inc
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Excellent communication skills make a customer service team shine, but since everyone communicates differently, agents need to be sensitive to customers perceptions. Turns out, there’s a fine line between politeness and insincerity. Surprisingly, repeating "thank you" or "sorry" to customers results in lower overall satisfaction with service.

Related: Personalizing Your Customer Communications

For agents, word choice and word frequency have an impact on customer satisfaction, according to the latest Zendesk Benchmark study. Customers always appreciate an apology from agents, but when "sorry'' is repeated in a conversation it lowers customer satisfaction because it’s indicative of poor customer service, most likely from a lengthy back and forth conversation.

Most customer service studies measure the time it takes to reply to and resolve customer issues. While these metrics are key when it comes to satisfying customers, our recent Benchmark findings broaden our understanding of what makes a positive customer experience. The results might surprise you!

Saying sorry won’t save you

Repeatedly telling the customer that you’re sorry when an issue isn’t being resolved won’t help the situation. Instead, choose words that communicate the steps you’ll take to address the problem. In addition, to help minimize back and forth, it is important for the agent to fully understand the problem before they attempt to solve it.

Related: Five Ways to Show Customers You Care

Understand your customers and tailor your response

We found a correlation between customers’ email domain and their levels of satisfaction with customer service. One possible reason for this could be the varying age demographics of customers using the respective email domains, and their comfort level with technology.

People using Gmail and Hotmail have an average user base of 31 years old. People with AOL and Yahoo! email addresses have an average age range of 34-49 and reported low customer satisfaction. Customer service agents should be cognizant of each customer’s needs and how they might prefer to communicate, so be aware of these demographics to best communicate with each customer.

Choose your last words wisely

Another phrase to avoid when replying to a customer email is the sign-off ‘Best Wishes.’ According to our survey, that phrase scores lower than no sign-off at all. Go with “Cheers!” or “Yours Sincerely” to improve customer satisfaction.

When a customer has a positive experience with a company, they can be a client for life and even become an ambassador, if they’re pleased enough with the service.

Related: The Magic of Owning a Customer-Service Problem

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