10 barriers to effective customer service

National Customer Service Week is an excellent way of highlighting Britain’s customer service heroes. However, there are still many companies that are clearly getting their customer service efforts wrong.

Paul Clark, CEO of complaints and feedback management firm Charter UK, reveals the top 10 errors companies are making.

1. Failure to resolve a complaint at first point of contact

We are increasingly becoming a self-serve generation, which means we only contact an organisation when we have a problem. With complaints becoming more complex, the ability to solve complaints or immediately route them to the people who can help is a key issue for companies to overcome.

2. Realising that ‘wow’ is out, ‘easy’ is in

More often than not, pleasing your customers comes not from rolling out the red carpet but from reducing the effort it takes for them to do business with you.

3. Inability to connect the dots

In order to understand a customer’s wants and needs, firms need to have a comprehensive view of their customers – across different product lines and sales channels. Integrated customer feedback systems are now a need-to-have, rather than a nice-to-have.

4. Not defining what constitutes a ‘complaint’ effectively

Modern businesses need to teach their employees that the real definition of a complaint is any expression of customer dissatisfaction. Employees should be trained to identify and address any customer concerns straight away, even when not plainly stated by the customer.

5. Restricting the channel that customers can use to make contact

Organisations must make it easy for customers to get their complaint resolved via the channel of their choice. Companies that force their customers to use cumbersome web forms or expensive phone lines to contact customer services are discouraging customers from accessing the help they need to resolve any problems quickly, before they escalate.

6. Introducing the human touch where needed

Even in today’s 24/7 web-enabled world, customers still value the human touch. Introducing some human interaction at the right time can turn customer from annoyed to advocate in seconds.

7. Responding to customer complaints via social media

Not getting their complaint or enquiry resolved at the first point of contact is one of the biggest drivers of dissatisfaction and why many customers turn to social media. Trying to resolve a complaint in such a public forum only magnifies the exposure a single complaint garners. Businesses must be willing and able to give disgruntled consumers their immediate attention, rather than waiting for a social media firestorm to spur them into action.

8. Treating new customers differently from existing customers

Whether it is a special offer that is available to new customers only, or an online chat facility that is only available during the sales process, tactics like these are sure to alienate existing customers and prevent them from engaging with the company.

9. Identify the cause, fix the problem

A lot of businesses are happy to conduct polls and surveys in order to understand the perception of the brand, how to improve, what products need to be changed, and so on – however surprisingly few businesses really take any action with this information.

10. Using customer feedback to drive improvements

Customer satisfaction aside, the other key benefit of customer feedback is the insight that it can provide to businesses. This information can be used to improve customer service in the long term and in a meaningful way.

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