4 Common Small Business Customer Service Fails

Disgruntled Staff

Historically, customer service has been seen as an expensive and time-consuming discipline, and one that adds little value to companies bottom line.

To many, it remains little more than a reactive, damage-limitation measure, which appeases disgruntled customers rather than building bridges and driving a positive reputation.

This has gradually emerged as a false economy, however, as the cost of inadequate customer service has become increasingly clear.

An estimated 78% of consumers have admitted to abandoning transactions as a result of a poor service experience, leading to lost sales and diminishing turnovers for brands throughout the UK.

While it is hard to place a quantifiable number on the value of these lost sales, this statistic at least offers an insight into the importance of customer service as a core business element.

Bottom line – if you want to increase sales within your business, customer service should be a top priority.

The Biggest Customer service fails and how to overcome them

While recognising the value of good customer service is one thing, however, it is quite another to implement this throughout your business. To help illustrate the best practices, here are some of the biggest customer service fails and the methods of overcoming them: –

#1 – Being Inaccessible to Customers

Telephone Customer Service

Let’s face facts, in the course of doing your daily work, the last thing that you need is to spend time constantly responding to customer queries and complaints.

This can cause brands and small businesses to create distance between themselves and their customers as they become increasingly inaccessible, driving buyers into the arms of more consumer-friendly competitors as a result.

So while you may need to employ customer service specialists and outsource responsibility for this to a dedicated team or department, it is imperative that you begin to embrace your loyal patrons and welcome interaction with them.

At the very least customers should be able to easily find your contact details (particularly email address and telephone number) online, while it is also crucial that you set clearly-defined targets for both written and verbal response times.

Make no mistake; queries made by phone and email remain dominant so you will need to invest heavily in these platforms and strive to deliver 24/7 service where possible.

#2 – Failing to Develop Multi-channel support for engaging customers

Facebook Customer Service

Of course, you may find that the goal of offering customer support for 24 hours each day is difficult to achieve with just two channels. After all, telephones can be costly to maintain and operate on a constant basis, while email is an in-depth platform that does not offer real-time communication.

In this respect, the cultivation of multi-channel support is central to excellent customer service in the modern age. A staggering 90% of consumers now expect a brand or professional organisation to offer a self-service or live chat portal for resolving issues, and consider this to deliver a more favourable reflection of the brand.

The same principle can be applied to hosting customer service portals through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, with the latter particularly popular among consumers.

Not only are these channels accessible in real-time and mobile responsive (which is another key driver of modern customer service), but they are also capable of driving higher levels of engagement and interaction.

This is of huge benefit to both parties, so it is well worth investing in the development of numerous customer service channels across variable platforms.

Not only that, but offering a high level of customer service is also likely to result in an increase of referrals via word of mouth.

That’s not a jaw-dropping statement, but what about the statistics?

Over 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influence in their purchasing decision.

That’s an incredible number!

But wait, there’s more…

A 5% increase in customer retention boost profits by up to 95%

Crazy, right?

These stats shouldn’t be taken lightly, and neither should your level of customer service.

#3 – Not embracing customer service as a Proactive Marketing Opportunity

Sam Walton Quote

The issue of engagement is an interesting one, particularly as business mogul Seth Godin once described customer service as a ‘scalable opportunity to delight’. This is an interesting insight that challenges entrepreneurs to reconsider everything that they think they know about customer service, reinventing it as a proactive marketing opportunity.

He also cites the example of Zappos, who created an exuberant and progressive customer service ethos that delighted customers while affording the brand a unique competitive advantage over its rivals.

After all, this is far removed from the deployment of customer service as a reactive measure, which ultimately achieves little other than alienating consumers and placating those who are already dissatisfied.

The theory behind Godin’s ideas is that customer service connects brands with consumers when they are at their most engaged, meaning that representatives have a captive audience when they speak.

With the right culture and suitable incentives, these interactions can quickly be turned into real-time marketing opportunities that can drive long-term growth within your business.

The delivery of such a service will also enhance your brand’s reputation, so it is well worth consideration.

If you do choose to realign your thinking and reinvest customer service as an entry-level marketing platform, you will need the right tools if you are to be successful.

See related: 6 key steps to marketing success

#4 – Failing to train your staff or create the right culture

Lazy Staff

More specifically, it is imperative that you create a suitable culture within your business, starting with the customer service department before empowering every employee with the same set of values and a similar ethos.

Without these, your attempts to create an holistic approach to customer service and marketing will fail, as too much will rest on individual reps and their ability to implement their brand’s vision.

This can lead to inconsistent customer service, which is one of the most frustrating emotions that a consumer can experience when interacting with a brand. When you consider that an estimated 35% of customers lose their temper when dealing with company representatives, the ability to deliver a consistent and positive service is crucial.

To achieve this, you will need to invest time in understanding the values that will underpin your culture, while also ensuring that all staff members are educated on these and afforded in-depth training.

These values are far easier to reinforce if they are known company wide and established as part of an over-arching set of brand guidelines, while this also ensures that customers will receive the same level of service regardless of who they interact with.

Conclusion

With these simple steps, it is possible to alter your perception of customer service and transform it into a proactive measure that actively builds long-term consumer loyalty.

These ideas can also be used as part of a process within your firm, as you look to create the ultimate competitive edge on your rivals.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.