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September 30, 2015

Six Customer Service Mistakes That Will Cost You Money

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles via

Research shows that 83 percent of companies believe that customer service is very or moderately important to their financial performance. Companies spend a lot of money on customer service, and yet it doesn’t seem to work in satisfying customers. Statistics show that 86 percent stop doing business with the company because of a bad customer service experience. Are they doing it wrong?

Here are some customer service mistakes that could cost you money.

1. Letting the machine talk when YOU should

Agreed, automated responses are an efficient and cost effective way of categorizing the problems customers have. However, a 70 percent automated response until they reach a human is just going to annoy the customer.

When business expert Bernard Marr wrote an open letter to IKEA about its terrible customer service, the most unnerving problem was how long the company took to respond to his grievances – two weeks to answer an e-mail! Trying to use its virtual assistant Anna for help led nowhere. She didn’t understand him and tried to sell him more IKEA products instead. Hence, automated responses aren’t always useful.

What you should do: Keep a balance between automated and human customer service. Nobody likes to talk to a machine.

2. Never leave your customer wondering, follow through

Be transparent in your approach. Recent statistics show that 71 percent of those who experience positive social care are likely to recommend the brand to others. If you want your brand to stand out, a good customer service experience is necessary.

Give them the low-down on what can and cannot be done to fix the problem. Empty promises and vague answers are for rookies. Tell them that you’ll take an X number of hours to fix the problem. If you cannot, call them and tell them what happened. Do not leave them wondering whether you have a solution — this is when they start thinking of your competition.

What you should do: Communicate that you are trying all means possible to help them out, even when you do not have a solution.

3. Forget your customer, or previous interactions with them

In the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, a really inefficient company called Sirius Cybernetics was good at making really bad quality products. It literally required an entire planet to keep the number of complaints received. In real life too, companies get a mind-boggling number of complaints on a day-to-day basis. This is why it’s important that company’s data entry system for all grievances should be up-to-date.

If a customer calls the company helpline, and the service rep is able to quote the comment that the customer had posted on Twitter six months back, it’s going to leave a lasting impression. It’s a great way to communicate that you are listening, that you care. It builds trust.

What you should do: Keep an up-to-date data entry system. Customers shouldn’t have to give their personal details, and quote the problem each time they call. This point might seem redundant, but you would be surprised how many customer service reps fail to execute it. Even better if you can do it across channels.

4. End a call without ending the problem

In an article for Inc, American Jordy Leiser points out that the Japanese culture is the ideal customer service culture. Drawing parallels between how they live their daily life and how good customer service should be, he says that the Japanese put their whole heart into their work. No matter how small the work, they treat with value.

Customer service reps need to learn that them doing their job well makes a customer’s job easier. The customer and the customer service rep need to reach a consensus on the problem. Asking them “has the issue been resolved?” just to get them to hang up is a no-go.

What you should do: If a customer has a problem that couldn’t be resolved by the company, the service rep should explain to the customer why this is. When a customer contacted Netflix saying she would like to see more of her favorite show called ‘Lucha Underground,’ the service rep informed her that Netflix doesn’t have it at the moment but she will definitely relay the suggestion to the content team.

5. Questioning the customer’s point of view

There is a trending meme with a chameleon and a dog. The green chameleon says, “let me show you a magic trick”, and turns red. “Ta-da!,” says the now red chameleon. “What magic trick?” the dog asks. The colorblind dog is confused. This is a great example of perspective. Questioning the customer’s perspective or blaming them is just not done in good customer service.

Have an empathetic response. Steer clear of giving a defensive response. Instead of telling the customer, “This is your fault,” say “I understand you are having some difficulty, let’s try to fix it.” Phrasing things in a certain way makes a whole lot of difference.

What you should do: Don’t argue with the validity of your customers request or problem. A game of shifting blame is a lose-lose situation. We can learn a thing or two from FitBit, which is known for its marvellous customer service. This company offers product replacements almost hassle free. They ask you for your shipping information and send the product along. In the process, they gain customers for life.

6. Letting your interns handle social media

Granted, the 19-year-old intern probably eats, breathes and sleeps Facebook. However giving him/her full access to your social media channel wouldn’t be very wise. Seventy-two percent of Internet users actively use social media, would you want to alienate so many potential customers? The urgency of getting the right social media response can put too much pressure on the intern. The Internet never forgets, and one wrong comment or update by the young turk could make your company the butt of jokes or worse. Even if they get all social media posts approved by you first, do you really want to baby-sit your social media handler?

One great example of social media done right is the Twitter account of coffee giant Starbucks. Even though it has 9.9 million followers on its Twitter page, it is very responsive to questions, comments, and complaints. The company even has a separate Twitter handle, @MyStarBucksIdea, that lets customers suggest improvements. It even had some a witty banter on Twitter with Taylor Swift last Valentine’s Day about her lyrics, which everyone mistakes to be “Starbucks Lovers.” Fans appreciated the quick response.

What you should do: Ensure that you respond to every customer on social media at the quickest. This is one area where 24-7 is a must. They have reached out to you on say Twitter because they want a quick response; had they not been wanting a quick response, they would have sent an e-mail.

Is there any other customer service mistakes you think should be on the list? Tell us in the comments!



Niraj Ranjan Rout is the founder of Hiver (formerly GrexIt), an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He’s a fusion music aficionado and loves to play guitar when he can.