I can’t think of many (if any) businesses or professions that don’t have customers or clients. They are consumers of our products, users of our services, or may just be people or groups within our own organisation that rely on us in some way.
Most of us don’t need convincing of the importance of keeping customers happy. I’m sure you’ve heard the stats about customers being more likely to share bad experiences with their friends and contacts than good experiences. (If you haven’t, read my article on the topic: The customer is always right… right?)
And testimonials and reviews from delighted customers are even more valuable in this day and age where social proof and authority rule.
Businesses generally know the basics of good customer service… Provide them with a product or service that delivers on its promise, whether that be to solve their problem or provide entertainment. Easy peasy! Sometimes… (For more detailed tips, read my 3 secrets to exceptional customer service.)
But what shouldn’t they do? What are the biggest customer service NO-NOs?
Here are the worst ones I’ve personally seen and experienced. In my opinion, if a business does any of these, they can almost guarantee unhappy customers.
1. Told me I’m wrong or didn’t acknowledge my issue
In 2017, I travelled with a tour company to Central America. Whilst the trip was wonderful, I struggled with the tour guide who I felt was very irresponsible and behaved in a very unprofessional way throughout the tour. Many of us on the tour felt the same way and registered complaints with the tour guide as well as the tour company. Nothing was done for three weeks… by anyone.
At the end of the tour, I provided detailed feedback in writing. The reaction I received was a letter from the company, neither acknowledging the situation, nor providing any form of explanation or apology. I was simply told they could not believe the tour guide acted in the way I described and that I must be mistaken.
Needless to say, I will never travel with that company again and I tell anyone who asks about the whole situation. Big NO-NO.
What they should have done: I would have been satisfied if they apologised for the difficulty I’d experienced, committed to talking with the tour guide and perhaps providing further training/counselling for how to deal with such situations in future, and offered me some form of compensation. It didn’t have to be much. Just a gesture to show their commitment to customers. Not difficult. Satisfied customers are returning customers, which are essential to long term business success.
2. Never answered the phone or never called back… like ever
This has happened to me on a few occasions, which I found both surprising and not so surprising. On the face of it, you’d think they want your business, so they would be super keen to answer or return your call.
But as a busy small business owner, I can understand that sometimes there is so much to do that returning a simple enquiry can feel like an insurmountable task. However as a customer, you are well within your rights to expect a return call… at some point. Clearly the onus should not fall to the customer to do the chasing and following up.
What they should have done: If a business is too busy to answer calls, they should remove their phone number from their website/online listings or invest in an answering service. Automated messaging for email enquiries are useful if they don’t expect to respond within 24 hours. Prospects who have made contact with a business are often close to conversion as a customer (they are already aware of the business and their product/service, and probably are already convinced of how that product/service can help them), so losing these by not replying to their call/message can be damaging.
Want some more tips on how to keep client promises? Read my article on the topic.
3. Heard what I had to say but gave me the cookie-cutter solution anyway
As businesses grow, often they will look for efficiencies by creating a standardised set of products or services for all customers. This can work well in some industries to bring costs down and improve the delivery to customers, but when you are talking about tailored services, this can be exactly the wrong thing to do.
If the business is offering tailored solutions to customers’ problems, they must provide tailored solutions. Not simply listen and then offer them the standard service anyway. Some customers may go along with this begrudgingly and the only time the business realises is when the customer provides feedback at completion stating that the business “didn’t really understand what we needed” and “didn’t really tailor the options to us”.
What they should have done: In these cases, businesses need to be clear about the type of service they are providing – standardised or tailored? If it’s the former, then communications with prospective customers must be clear that tailoring is not available. And if it’s the latter, these businesses should really listen to their customer’s needs and deliver according to those needs. In addition, regular feedback sessions and check-ins with the customer are important to make sure that the business is consistently achieving (and hopefully exceeding) the customer’s expectations.
* Feature image sourced from Pixabay
Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Managing Director of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations advice to startups and SMEs. Angeline also publishes a regular blog which provides research, advice and tips on key issues facing businesses.