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Your customers are your company’s lifeblood. Without customers, there would be no company. Just as you need to succeed in attracting customers to your business, you must also ensure that you are able to keep them.
The main reason that people stop doing business with a company is because they have had a negative experience that caused them to have a bad opinion of the company. The more dissatisfied customers you have, the faster you will go out of business.
Regardless of whether you’re a small company or a big one, your customers want the same thing: to have experiences with your brand that are easy, transparent, and respectful.
It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on marketing or advertising if your customer experience is poor.
Businesses usually make two major mistakes regarding customer experience: failing to get feedback from customers before it’s too late, and not correcting errors quickly enough.
These mistakes can lead to the majority of customer complaints, which means unhappy customers who may never do business with you again.
The following are some common examples of poor customer service that can cause potential customers to take their business elsewhere:
Making your customers feel stupid
There’s a lot of talk about customer satisfaction these days, but the emphasis is on the wrong things. Companies spend millions on surveys and focus groups trying to measure how satisfied their customers are. But if you want to know how successful your business is, don’t ask what your customers think — watch what they do.
From a customer’s perspective, an amazing experience is one that solves her problems and makes her feel smart and respected. On the other hand, a bad customer experience is one that leaves her feeling confused and frustrated. These feelings actually have very little to do with the quality of the products or services you provide or how much money you charge for them.
A good customer experience starts with a great product, but even the best products can be ruined by a bad customer experience. If you know what to avoid, it’s easier to make sure your customers feel smart, instead of stupid.
The following are common ways you can make a customer feel stupid:
- Ignoring the person’s question or comment. When someone asks a question or makes a comment, they want an answer. If you’re ignoring their comments, questions or requests, they’re going to feel ignored and frustrated.
- Not being responsive enough. If you’re not getting back to customers fast enough, that’s going to frustrate them. Even if your business is quiet during the holidays, don’t let yourself get so busy that your responsiveness goes out the window.
- Using jargon or acronyms when talking to customers. Don’t assume people know what you mean by acronyms or technical terms specific to your industry or profession.
- Making it hard to leave feedback or get help. Customers need to be able to figure out how to get help. If they don’t see a phone number, call button or chat box, they’ll assume you don’t want them to contact you and move on (unless they’re really motivated to deal with your company). If you hide your phone number, bury your live chat link or make it difficult for people to interact with you, you can watch as potential customers walk away from your business because it’s too much trouble to talk to you.
Your customers don’t want to feel dumb. They don’t want to feel like a burden. They definitely don’t want to feel stupid. And if they do, they’re going to take their business elsewhere.
Not putting yourself in your customer’s shoes
Your customers have a certain journey they go through from the moment they become aware of your brand to the point where they make a purchasing decision. It’s important to focus on that path and optimize it, especially in the offline interactions where data is harder to capture.
A customer journey map is a visualisation of how your prospects and customers go from awareness to action. It’s a critical piece of the CX puzzle.
The customer journey is a critical concept for businesses of all sizes.
For instance, if you’re an ecommerce company, you need to know what your customers are doing when they come to your site and how they interact with your web pages. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, you need to understand how people find you, where in the store they stop and so on.
The key here is understanding the customer journey from their perspective.
If you don’t know your customer journey, you’re missing out on a vital dimension to your business. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
When you know where people drop off in the journey, you can make targeted improvements to increase conversion rates and make a stronger connection with your target audience.
Assuming that customer experience is the job of one person or department
The customer experience is where the rubber meets the road for many businesses.
The way you interact with your customers can make or break your business, and there are a lot of ways to get it wrong.
Companies may not realise that they’re making some of these mistakes, but it’s important to stay on top of them and make sure you’re not doing any of the following:
- Not understanding (and following) your rules. It’s good to have a set of guidelines for how you do business, whether that’s a set of policies, a handbook or something else. But that’s only as good as your people’s ability to follow those guidelines. Make sure everyone who deals with customers knows what those guidelines are and is held accountable for following them.
- Not being proactive enough. Take a proactive stance on customer service — don’t wait for a problem to come up before trying to solve it. Make sure the people who deal with customers know what you expect from them and why, and hold them accountable if they don’t live up to those expectations.
- Not being responsive enough. Your customers might not communicate their needs in the exact way you’re expecting, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore their needs or treat them poorly. Be helpful, even if feedback isn’t coming through the channel you expect it to.
Letting Enterprise Ego get in the way
The difference between a merely good customer experience and a great one is empathy. Enterprise companies are struggling to find it.
The reason? They’re looking for empathy in all the wrong places.
Most big companies think that by creating (or buying) the right technology, they can build a better customer experience. But technology is, at best, the servant of empathy, not its source.
For example, look at how many firms try to improve their customer service with chatbots or other kinds of artificial intelligence (AI). The goal is to give customers what they want without having to be bothered by another human being.
That’s the opposite of what you should be doing if you want to create an emotionally intelligent business.
The ultimate expression of AI is finding ways for machines to act like human beings — but that’s not what customers really want. Instead, they want businesses to act like real people who care about them as individuals.
Only then will your business stand out from the crowd and deliver an exceptional experience.
Ignoring the impact of employee experience
If you want to build an excellent customer experience, it has to be built from the ground up.
Your internal goal is to delight customers by delivering superior service and products, but it’s also no good if your staff aren’t happy with their working environment.
A customer-centric approach to business begins with a simple shift in thinking: the customer isn’t always right, but they’re always the customer. This shift in thinking must be reflected in all levels of a business, from the CEO to the lowest rung on the ladder.
In order to create a great experience for your customers you need to make sure your employees are happy too.
This isn’t easy in the best of circumstances, but it becomes all but impossible in a fast-paced environment where employees don’t have the tools they need to deliver an excellent experience every time.
That’s why it’s critical to make sure your employee experience is up to scratch before you even think about moving on to your customers’.
Not admitting when you’ve made a mistake
Mistakes happen. It’s an unavoidable reality of business. It’s even more unavoidable that customers will be unhappy with you when you mess up.
Whether it’s a product that doesn’t work, a service that takes too long to deliver or information that turns out to be incorrect, the best thing you can do is own up to your mistake and take steps to fix it.
After all, isn’t providing excellent customer service all about showing respect for your customers? The tricky part is figuring out what exactly went wrong and how to fix it.
Now there’s a funny thing that happens when you admit your mistake. It tends to make the person that you’re apologising to more forgiving.
Reaching out to someone who is not happy with your product or service is never easy. They’re upset, and they’re probably going to let you know it. But if you take a moment to examine the situation, chances are good that you can find a way to provide a satisfactory resolution.
Once you acknowledge your mistake and show genuine concern for the person’s satisfaction, customers will often open up and offer suggestions about how to fix things.
Making a bad experience worse
It’s an unfortunate truth that not every customer experience can be a positive one. Sometimes, customers will be frustrated, upset or angry with your company. But some companies do a better job than others at turning things around with their disgruntled customers.
Many of us have had disappointing customer service experiences in the past, but there are certain businesses that stand out for how they handle situations where there is obvious room for improvement.
There are two ways companies can turn things around for unhappy customers: how they respond to upset customers and how they communicate with them throughout the process.
Ignoring the importance of feedback
Feedback can give companies an early warning about potential problems with their product, service or customer care. It is a useful tool for companies to learn about their product or service quality.
With the help of customer feedback, companies can make necessary adjustments to improve their services and also reduce customer churn.
If a company handles negative feedback well, it can even turn a complaint into an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with customers. They might send a handwritten apology note, for example, or offer discounts or free products in exchange for the feedback.
A company can use negative feedback as a way to understand the pain points of the people who had a bad experience with them. This understanding can help them improve their service and prevent similar problems from happening to other customers.
Regardless of how well you prepare, there will be times when your customers are disappointed. But there are companies out there who’ve figured out how to use their customer feedback to improve their customer experience.
It’s all about being able to listen to what your customers and employees are saying, because one of the best ways to improve is by hearing what they don’t like. The most successful companies in the world have mastered the art of using feedback from their customers and fans to refine and enhance their products and services.
What do we mean when we say “listening to customers and employees”?
We mean that you should ask them for feedback, and then specifically pay attention to what they’re telling you — even if it’s not something you wanted to hear!
Tom is the co-founder of TRACX, a no-code marketing platform that allows local business owners to collect customer feedback and create engaging marketing campaigns. With over 17 years of experience in entrepreneurship, product development, and marketing for businesses large and small, Tom is currently responsible for developing product and marketing strategies for TRACX.