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4 Common Customer-Service Obstacles (And How to Fix Them) Customer service can make or break a company. Don't fall into the trap of delivering sub-par service, which could result in your company's future going down the drain.

By Laura Fagan

This story originally appeared on Salesforce

While a ton of advice exists on how companies can provide outstanding service, few talk about why it doesn't happen.

That's according to customer-service consultant and author Jeff Toister. In his book Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with CUSTOMER SERVICE and What You Can Do About It, Toister unlocks the mysteries behind poor service by explaining some of the obstacles agents face everyday.

Below are four of these common customer-service hindrances and the solutions to correct them:

1. Obstacle: There's no consistent definition of service. A lot of companies like to claim they have a customer-focused culture. But according to Toister, it's actually quite rare in reality. At most businesses if you go in and start asking employees what putting the customer first looks like, you will probably get a lot of random answers.

Related: The Real Reason Customers Buy From You

Solution: Create a clear definition of service. This definition should focus on what the company is trying to do for their customers. It needs to offer real ways on how to implement the strategy -- not just live on a piece of paper. Toister says that employees tend to understand how important something is based on how often it's brought up, so talk about your service vision regularly.

2. Obstacle: Difficulty paying attention to customer requests. In today's multi-channeled environment, things move so fast service agents can miss what customers really need to be satisfied. Toister says that most contact centers use at least five different software programs to serve customers. The problem with all this multi-tasking is that there is plenty of evidence that human's brains can only process one thought at a time.

Solution: Promote awareness of multi-tasking. Try to focus agents on one channel at a time. In addition, train employees to spot subtle signals from customers. Those seeking service have rational needs, such as a billing problem, as well as emotional needs, like being frustrated they had to wait on hold.

3. Obstacle: Broken customer service systems. Most customer-service failures aren't the fault of an employee but rather the result of poor products or a bad process. Toister says it can be extra frustrating for agents to get blamed for bad service, often because a legacy system hasn't been integrated properly -- even though they don't have the power to fix the error.

Related: 3 Ways to Grow Your Business By Focusing on the Customer

Solution: Fix the broken systems. Your customer-service reps can offer great feedback on which systems need improved. Toister says that often they won't volunteer this information, because they don't believe it will result in a solution. Be sure to solicit their suggestions and implement ones that will lead to a fix. This will re-engage your agents and allow them to provide better service.

4. Obstacle: The customer is always right. For his book Toister did research to see where the idea of the customer always being right came from. From what he could find, no one ever actually said that. The closest example is an idea attributed to hotelier Cesar Ritz, who state "the customer is never wrong." An example of this is if a steak is cooked to perfection, but the customer doesn't like it, you don't try to convince them otherwise.

Solution: Make it easier for the customer to be right. As a company, Toister suggests thinking of ways you can make it easier for the customer to be "right," such as eliminating bad policies. This gives employees the opportunity to say yes more often. Plus, there is no need to focus on whether the customer is wrong or right. Instead, simply correct any service issue and make them happy again.

Imagine the loyalty and return business you could build by delivering customer service that exceeds customer expectations every time.

Related: How to Deal With the Customer Who Isn't Right

Platform and sales brand journalist for Salesforce blog.

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