Whatever Happened to Good Customer Service?

Have you noticed that even-tempered Fred is arguing with callers, and sunny Nancy seems disengaged and snarky in Zoom meetings with clients?   If so, you might have a service problem! Don’t overestimate the tolerance of your customers.  Take these steps today to ensure that your clients and customers are customers for life!   

Step One:  Review your customer service measurements.

Despite pandemic-caused ups and downs skewing many a company’s quantitative and qualitative sales data, you should keep up with key success metrics to identify customer service problems early.  One important metric is examining the % of customer churn or a decline of repeat customers.  The goal is to keep loyal clients happy and coming back to avoid the huge expense of getting new ones.  If you are losing customers, find out if you have a people problem.  It could be low employee morale, or an individual service member could be driving customers away.  

Step Two:  Monitor yours and your competitors’ social media comments daily.

Another critical review is to make it a priority to consistently stay abreast of service comments in social media apps like Yelps, Instagram, and Facebook. Don’t turn a blind eye if you are getting posts like these:

  • I get that she’s remote, but Judy has not followed through on any of the things she promised to do.  I sent her an email describing the software problem three weeks ago, and she has not even opened the email.  
  • Our first experience was friendly and positive; our second experience, not so much.  Why should I spend $500, when the salesclerk can’t even greet, make eye contact, or otherwise engage me?  Very disappointing.

Though tempting to dismiss such complainants as whining trolls, don’t ignore posts like these!  Negative reviews should garner an immediate apology for service that did not meet expectations, along with an invitation to get in touch.  When the customer is happy, write a follow-up post saying that you care about every customer experience and thank them for allowing your company to make it right.  

Step Three:  Web-based best practices to create a stellar service response.

With the pandemic has come varying levels of disorientation and disorganization.   Stressed managers had to work hard to figure out how to re-orient service channels for home-bound employees.  So, it is no surprise that prompt customer service response times and deliveries are suffering.  However, the key to fix this is the power of connection through enhanced communication. 

The best service managers use tech tools to send out customer email communications and place web alerts about impacts like COVID-related delays in service or delivery.  Web sites direct customers toward faster service access via web chats rather than waiting hours on hold for a live person.  Some have installed automated call-back systems on phones reducing wait times.  

Many customer care systems are very affordable.  Setting service teams up with a remote help desk system will allow customers and service workers real-time dialogue to provide customers an exceptional care experience.  

Most importantly, empower your teams to offer a range of solutions to dissatisfied callers.  Nothing sours a day quicker than customers offloading their irritation all day long with no power to fix a problem!  A modest credit, free shipping, or order cancellation for a late delivery goes a long way toward customer retention and long-term loyalty.  Your people will thank you for reducing the stress they feel when they cannot offer their customers an immediate solution.  

Step Four:  Attitude is everything.

After ‘not getting a human on the phone,’ the second most irritating customer service complaint is ‘rudeness and condescension’ according to a 2015 Consumer Reports survey.  After eight months of pandemic pandemonium, workers are showing less resilience in dealing with angry or frustrated consumers, but your people should know that it is never ok to be rude to a customer!  

Stay in constant communication with your service teams.  Remind them that 68% of customers don’t have a problem posting bad news about your brand and that 82% of customers will leave if they think the company doesn’t care about them (CRM Charts, MacDonald, 2020).  Tell them that they are the brand.  If their attitude is harming the customer relationship, the brand suffers.  While you won’t necessarily have a magic fix for Sarah’s life, who juggles clients while supervising home-schooled kids, you can listen and show empathy, act as a sounding board, and direct her focus more clearly on the customer experience.  

Be transparent about expectations but encourage open dialogue so you can gauge and manage worker stress.  Make it clear to workers that when they are working with customers, you expect attitudinal standards to be high, but that it is ok to escalate a situation to a supervisor if necessary.  

Though COVID can be blamed for supply chain and other operational problems, you should not be blaming it for poor customer service!  We are genuinely all in this together, service providers and consumers.  These roles are interchangeable, so remind your service teams to treat their customers the way that they would wish to be treated:  with empathy, compassion, and patience.


Six Ways to Support COVID-Weary Employees, Forbes