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The Wrong Way to Help a Customer - Low ResCustomer Service Fail

Last week a major cable and Internet provider made “headline” news when a customer recorded a call to the company’s customer service center.  All the customer wanted to do was terminate his service. The customer service agent proceeded to ask questions as to why the customer would want to disconnect.  The agent made statements about this company being the best at what they do and providing the best price. Essentially, the agent wouldn’t accept that the customer simply, for whatever reason, wanted to terminate the service.  After a few minutes, the customer put the call on speakerphone and recorded the conversation with his iPhone. In total, the call went on for over 15 minutes. The agent wouldn’t let up.  The call was a disaster. The customer posted the recording of the call on social media and the incident went viral. This isn’t about that specific company or incident; it is just an example of a problem.  It could have happened to any company, not necessarily in a call center. It can be on the front line of any type of business. So, let’s not focus on the company but rather the incident and what we can learn from it.

There are a number of reasons this type of customer service fails.

  1. Lack of clear objectives.  If you have followed my books, articles and videos, I write about getting into alignment. The question is, “Does the employee understand our goal when it comes to customer service?” It’s more than being nice. It’s very definable, easily articulated and simple to understand. It could be tied to a brand promise. For example, my friends at Ace Hardware want to be the most helpful retail stores on the planet.  All an employee has to do is ask him or herself, “Is what I’m doing now helpful for the customer?
  1. Lack of training. I’m amazed at how certain companies put their employees in customer-facing positions without the proper training – and not just technical training; relationship training.  While some companies complain about the high cost of training, what is the cost of losing a customer because you didn’t spend the time or money to train properly?  Some of my clients put their employees through weeks of training before they let them work on the front line. It is hard to imagine that a properly trained person would have handled the customer support call as the cable company’s agent did.
  1. The lack of balance between making money and providing a positive experience. Revenue is the lifeblood of a company until it costs you the customer.  Putting revenue over a customer’s needs can cost more long term when the customer realizes they were overcharged or sold something they didn’t need and chooses to find another company that is more customer friendly. In the cable company example, perhaps there was an incentive tied to retaining defecting customers. You can’t keep every customer. Not that you shouldn’t try, but there is a time that you have to let go. Obviously, the cable company agent didn’t know when to let go. Treat the customer with dignity and respect, even if he or she chooses not to do business with you.  Finish strong!
There are certainly many more reasons that customer service can fail, but these three reasons are a good springboard to a more in-depth conversation with your team. See what other reasons you can think of and feel free to leave a comment sharing what you came up with.

Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn.

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