You Are Probably Guilty Of These Customer Service Mistakes

August 26, 2010 Business and Management 4 comments

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Customer experience management is the new marketing. While the world swoons over the impact of digital technologies on customer experience, it is often basic customer service which determines if a company swims or sinks.

While listening to Harvard Business Review’s excellent Idea Cast during my commute a couple of years ago, I picked up some important ideas on how customer service and experience should be considered.

The latest on “Why Delighting Your Customers is Overrated” was quite a revelation.

Presenting findings from a study of some 75,000 people by Matthew Dixon, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice, it unveiled startling revelations that tended to defy conventional wisdom.

First, let’s look at the 3 common myths about excellent customer service.

Myth 1: Heroic Service Is Valuable

We love to be impressed by outstanding examples of customer service. However, these are often few and far between.

While customers may repeatedly visit a business after being impressed, this tends to be the exception rather than the norm.

On the contrary, most customer defections result from a company’s inability to provide “standard” customer service.

Common examples were telcos keeping their subscribers waiting for hours, airlines losing their customer’s baggages, or restaurants failing to fulfill orders expediently.

Myth 2: Customers Don’t Like To Serve Themselves

Believe it or not, people don’t mind self-service – say on a company’s website or through a kiosk.

The problem arises when they cannot find what they want. That’s when they have to make that phone call to a call centre or a hotline.

And nobody likes to speak to a customer service agent to sort out their service issues.

In fact, doing so on the phone is often rated quite poorly as a way of solving service issues. This often gets exacerbated by telephone tag (“Press 1 for English, 2 for Chinese….”).

Myth 3: Customers Want Speedy Service

Another myth about service is speed.

Customers don’t necessarily want their problems to be solved quickly. Doing so in a short but curt manner which doesn’t address the whole issue may be worse for your organisation.

You need to also consider the different categories of your customer complainants.

Some may need more human touch. Others have a need to air their frustrations and be heard. Yet others simply need a quick fix.

Fewer Bad Encounters > More Wow Encounters

When I consider my own encounters with service providers, the above points resonated rather soundly with me.

How many times have I felt frustrated in having to wait for at least half an hour or longer when calling a telco’s service line? Or vowed not to return to a retail outlet with rude and inattentive staff?

And then you have the event management company from hell. The one that fails to identify your Guest Of Honour (GOH) despite a comprehensive briefing (with photos) and manage to get his name and designation wrong.

On the flip side, “WOW” experiences which leave memorable impressions (ones that I occasionally blog about), may not necessarily lead to increased patronage.

While being served by an attentive restaurant waiter who anticipate that your six-year-old needs unbreakable child-sized cutlery is great, it may not be a strong enough factor to trigger frequent transactions.

In short, the risk of customer defection from companies which fail to meet basic service standards will always be greater than the potential gains of companies which provide heroic service encounters.

Four Sensible Ways To Improve

How then should companies prioritise their limited time, energies and manpower resources?

#1 Eliminate Obvious Pain Points

First, you should look at solving all of the “pain” points of your customers.

Examine what the common complaints of your customers are, and focus the organisation’s attention on resolving them.

While the frills are important – especially for luxury oriented businesses – you mustn’t ignore getting the fundamentals right.

#2 Tap on DIY Service Solutions

If resources are limited, these solutions could be offered through a DIY manner.

A very simple example I know of are the self-service check-out counters at hypermarts like Woolsworth in Melbourne, which has a staff or two ready on hand to help any struggling shopper.

#3 Train Staff on Product Knowledge and Solutions

Ensure too that all your staff are trained on product knowledge and problem solving.

While up-selling is a necessity for any company looking to widen its profit margin – and which company doesn’t – it is even more important for them to identify negative customer scenarios and resolve them.

#4 Read Your Customer’s Body Language

Learn to also adapt to what your customers are telling you by reading their body language and vocal cues.

If they appear to be in a hurry, you shouldn’t try to keep them hanging on at the line. If however, they do want to talk at length, allow them the opportunity to air their grievances before you get the first word in.


Getting your customer basics right can be far more profitable than trying to score home runs each time.

Spend your time, energies and expertise on reducing pain, and you’ll win over more customers in the long run.

Do you agree with the above ideas – that it is far more important to get the basics right? How will such strategies influence a company’s “branded service”?

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. What a cool blog you have. I agree with you on how customer service have really become these days. There are good and there are bad. Every company must have their own way and own style on how to really take care of their customers and how to give them the best customer service. Other food chains actually has call center hotline just in case they have concerns like you do.

    Well anyways, thanks for the very informative post!

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