bad customer service

How to Ditch Your Bad Customer Service Habits

Lola BarbierLast updated on January 2, 2024
8 min

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Bad customer service habits can take many forms. Once you’ve recognized that your customer service strategy could use some work, the next step is figuring out which steps to take. Read on to learn how to pinpoint areas of improvement, and how to switch out bad customer service habits for good ones.

How to fix a bad customer service experience

The first step to remediating bad customer service is to take a critical look at your current methods and setup. It can be difficult to be lucid when it comes to examining your own organization, so perhaps look into the impartial services of an external consultant.

Make customer interaction a breeze, not a nightmare

A sure sign of bad customer service is making the customer jump through hoops to get in touch at all. This will create frustrated customers who, on top of being more likely to churn, will make sure to share their bad customer experience with your business with those around them.

bad customer service

Give your customers options when it comes to voicing a complaint through multiple service channels, but don’t set yourself up for failure. A successful omnichannel strategy requires variety, but more than that, consistency across those various channels. Don’t offer a customer service option if you don’t have the means to man it adequately. Instead, focus on making sure the resources you do deliver are visible, relevant, and efficient.

Consider providing a self-service resource as well. This will train customers and help them adopt your product by being more self-reliant, and will also give your customer service reps an opportunity to be more efficient and useful.

Work on your bedside manner

Once you’ve made sure that your customers will be able to easily get in touch with you, it’s time to ensure that they’re met with professionalism and efficiency. One cause of bad customer service is lackluster agent engagement. This can be especially prevalent with social media outlets. Make sure these are being monitored in order to avoid a poor customer experience.

bad customer service

Customer service is a difficult job. Great representatives should display certain character traits, and customer service skills including empathy, warmth, and patience. Teach your team to listen actively, to multi-task, and to present even bad news in a way that the customer won’t respond negatively. Remember to avoid the kind of phrases which will exasperate customers.

Establish a code of conduct and set high standards for your team. For every customer that has a complaint about the quality of your service, sixteen have kept silent. This means that you’ll never see more than the tip of the iceberg of the consequences of your bad customer service. So there’s always room for improvement. By setting up a quality monitoring strategy for customer complaints, you can get an idea of how well your team is performing, and how to help them improve.

Be honest

It’s never too late to try and reverse a negative opinion of your brand. If you’ve been dispensing poor service, you’ve probably had to contend with negative reviews from disgruntled customers. Detractors are more vocal than satisfied customers,  and their word of mouth can spread quickly (especially on social media) and do a lot of harm to your image.

It’s no easy feat, but when faced with past blunders, it’s best to own up to them, apologize, and then commit to never making the same mistakes again. Embellishing the truth is a hard habit to break, but it won’t serve your business well in the long run.

When dealing with customers, commit to honesty and transparency. If you don’t know the answer to something, admit it, and do your best to find out. Don’t fudge numbers and don’t beat around the bush. Slack, the well-loved team messaging platform, has made an admirable show of transparency by setting up a page detailing every bug and minute of downtime after a long outage rankled their user base last year.

bad customer service

Likewise, resist the urge to pass a difficult customer on to another team member or to blame another person for a bad experience. It’s better in the long run if your whole team is devoted to being transparent, even when the going gets tough.

Avoiding the most common customer service mistakes

Speaking of which, dedication to moving from bad customer service to better habits is a team effort. Every manager and member of staff should be on board with your mission statement and overall goals.

Hire the right people

Great customer service reps aren’t born, they’re made. When selecting applicants for your team, look for people who display the right traits, rather than the necessary knowledge. The specifics of your product or service can be taught, so it’s important to pick people who are engaged, ready to learn, and willing to go the extra mile.

Select people who will work well as part of your team, who will fit in with your company culture. If you take care to select people you think will thrive in your company, training them will be easier, and you’ll find they deliver exemplary results sooner rather than later.

On top of aptitude tests, which are necessary, try to surveil an applicant’s personality for the traits you want to select. Give potential hires the opportunity to meet the rest of the team, to see if they’ll mesh well.

Train them

With your team assembled, you’ll need to ace their initial training. Make sure your customer support agent is confident in their abilities and their knowledge of the product. Moreover, schedule regular subsequent training, to let everyone stay on top of things after every new launch or change in corporate strategy.

Be it sales or support, your employees will benefit from having clear objectives for performance. In fact, there’s a correlation between displaying objectives for everyone to see and higher performance. Don’t hesitate to incentivize performance and draw a clear link between exceeding expectations and a rewarding consequence.

Foster the right atmosphere

Once you’ve selected your team carefully for a positive attitude, it’ll be easier to establish an atmosphere of “positive peer pressure”. Empathy, kindness, and helpfulness don’t start and stop with the customer. Positive reflexes on the part of management will trickle down to the staff, and when you find yourself with a room full of people trying their best, results will be amplified.

Encourage your whole team to be cooperative and to give their best effort; you’ll notice that both team morale and customer appreciation will rise. Likewise, if your team notices that management has stopped trying, they’ll become disinvested and start dishing a negative experience to your customers which will eventually result in customer churn.

Use the right software

Your bad customer service habits could be partly due to your tools. Business software (CRMs, help desks, communication tools, etc.) has become increasingly popularized with time. A few years ago, only enterprise-sized businesses could afford these solutions, which were costly and slow to implement.

Nowadays, SaaS vendors offer every possible declination of the software you need to successfully run your business. This means that it’s easier to get lost in the shuffle, and perhaps use tools which hinder more than they help.

Clearly identify your business goals. Do you wish to improve your customer interaction? Keep better track of support tickets? Streamline your sales funnel? Know what you want before you set out to pick the right tools. Your business software should be intuitive, flexible, tailored to your activity, goals, and size. It’s also a plus to be able to integrate various programs with one another, for the benefit of your internal cooperation.

Don’t hesitate to take advantage of free trials, and to involve your team. After all, they’ll be the primary users, and should feel at ease using the software you pick for them.

Focus on sustainability

It’s a well-known fact: it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. So if you have ingrained bad customer service habits, you’re expending a tremendous amount of energy chasing new business to mitigate the loss of your customers. If you’re committed to bettering your customer service strategy, then the logical course of action is to focus on customer retention as well, and building a sustainable relationship with loyal customers.

Accompany the entire customer journey

Bad customer service often means abandoning a customer as soon as you’ve closed a sale. This is a huge obstacle to product adoption and customer success, which means that you’ll have a hard time retaining customers. Moreover, it set up your support team for failure further down the line, and is a sign of poor internal communication.

Improving your customer service means accompanying the customer throughout their entire life cycle with your business: closing the sale, encouraging adoption during the onboarding process, and taking the customer from one success milestone to the next. Committing to customer success is striving for sustainability in your customer relationships. If you manage to make your business an integral part of each customer’s success, you’ll find that your retention improves and you’ll be presented with opportunities to sell additional services to existing customers.

Don’t forget to follow up regularly with customers, either after a support interaction or after an additional sale. Don’t crowd your customers, but make them feel that you are invested in their successful use of your product.

Listen to your customers

In order to successfully accompany your customers, you’ll need to stay close to their expectations and habits.

Give your customers an option to tell you what they think. Surveys will give you valuable information, but they can be invasive. So add them at strategic moments of the customer journey such as after a purchase, an upgrade, or a chat with support. Keep them short and intelligible, otherwise customers won’t bother to answer them.

Voluntary surveys can help you calculate relevant customer satisfaction metrics or let clients leave suggestions and comments. They’re extremely versatile, but have their limits. For instance, customers who don’t feel strongly one way or the other about your service tend not to answer; so you’ll mostly hear from outliers. Nevertheless, these outlier opinions will give you valuable ideas on how to refine your service strategy.

Set up a feedback loop so your standards don’t slip

The last link in the chain is to organize the feedback from your customers and from your quality monitoring. Let it continuously influence the decisions you make for improvement.

Both kinds of feedback will highlight areas of success or of failure. This allows management to make data-driven decisions on where to zero in. Once you’ve implemented those decisions, monitor how they affect customer opinion and your team’s performance. Then, start all over again.

A commitment to excellence is a never-ending effort: once you start slacking, you’ll find yourself back at the same bad customer service habits again.

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Published on January 13, 2017.

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