5 Shocking Customer Service Mistakes You're Making Every Day (And How to Fix Them Right Now) Follow these steps so your organization is fondly remembered by customers long after they have experienced your iconic customer service.
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The problem with great customer service is that everyone seems to think they know how to do it — it's a piece of cake, right? Wrong. That's why, as a customer service transformation expert, I get down to brass tacks with my clients right away — the companies that have engaged me to transform their level of customer service — clearing up the misconceptions that so often get in the way of delivering not just great, but truly iconic—legendary—customer service, the kind of customer service that will build a brand and sustain a company, customer by customer and year after year.
Here are five of the most frequent customer service mistakes I encounter in my work.
1. Failing to empower employees to meaningfully assist customers
Exceptional customer service requires room for interpretation, with talented, well-trained and fully empowered employees serving as the interpreters — those who decode and manifest what exceptional customer service looks like in action. And if they aren't authorized to deliver exceptional customer service, they won't.
The thing is, a supervisor or manager can't be there at every moment to guide customer interactions. However, the person who can be the employee is working with the customer in front of them. And if that employee is empowered to assist the customer creatively and wholeheartedly, you'll build lifelong customer — and employee — loyalty faster than by any other means. It's a win-win outcome every time.
Related: 5 Tips to Win Back Lost Customers
2. Delivering reactive customer service rather than anticipatory
I'm sure you're very familiar with the baseline customer service equation: when a customer asks for something, you provide it. That's being reactive. And while there's value in this approach, it's not enough to make a customer feel special, mention it to a friend or give a shout-out on social media.
Iconic, loyalty-building customer service occurs when you also seek out and take care of desires, needs and questions that a customer has left unexpressed. That's anticipatory customer service, which involves hearing more than what a customer says out loud. It's giving the customer what they want before they ask for it — before they even know they want it — and even if they never get around to asking for it.
Uncovering and taking care of unspoken needs and wishes, and answering unasked questions, is a master principle of customer service that will raise your company to a much higher level. It's a destination full of delighted customers who provide you with customer loyalty and enthusiastic referrals that will enable your company to grow and prosper in the long term.
3. Trying to convince customers that they're wrong
All too often, I see customer-facing employees trying to convince customers that they're wrong — that they're wrong to try to check into their room early, wrong to request an upgrade and wrong to tell a waiter that their steak is overdone.
While customers aren't always right (who is?), there's rarely an upside to convincing the customer that they're wrong! If they're wrong about something trivial — they think Lennon and McCartney wrote "Taxman," and you know it was Harrison (duh!) — don't correct them! But if you do need to correct a customer (for example, the customer doesn't understand how to turn on the air conditioning in their hotel room), don't lead off with the correction. Get there gently, and make it seem like a mistake anyone could have made and that even you have made in the past.
4. Abusing (or neglecting) the use of language in interactions with customers
Don't ever think using the right language with customers is no big deal; it's practically the whole ballgame in some situations. Getting the language right at your business is crucial; words are our primary communication. (In this case, "right" means brand-appropriate, non-judgmental and empathetic.)
I call this "language engineering," and it's so central to customer service success that one of the first steps I take when kicking off a customer service transformation initiative is to work with my client to build a small "Say this, not that!" database of good language and bad — phrases and terms that are likely to make a customer bristle and the ideal replacements to use instead.
For example, instead of telling a customer, "You owe $45," it's better to get there much more gently, as in, "We're showing a balance of $45," or "Our records indicate a balance of $45." Same sentiment, happier customer.
I don't even like to hear my clients tell a customer, "You need to do X." Customers, by and large, don't need to do anything — you're supposed to be serving them. So instead of, "You need to fill out this intake form," you could say, "Could I get you to fill out this intake form?" Such a tiny change but such a different feeling.
5. Thinking that customer service training is a one-size-fits-all proposition
Every company and context is different, and you can't reliably apply just one off-the-shelf program of customer service training and expect that and expect everyone to fully understand and retain the information you're providing to them. When my firm provides customer service training, it is always customized to the team, the department, the company, the industry and the context. This is true whether the training is in person via a customized eLearning program. (eLearning has become more common with an increase in people working from home and in different time zones and with the desire to keep the training going after, as my staff jokingly puts it, "Mr. Solomon has left the auditorium.")
Whichever approach you take, an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all curriculum just can't deliver the value you expect. So, if you're going to invest some serious time and resources in a customer service training program, make sure it's customized to your needs — and the needs of your people. Before you know it, your organization will be fondly remembered by customers long after they have experienced your iconic customer service.