5 ways to eliminate bad customer service

Think about your last engagement with customer service. How’d it go? Did the conversation influence your decision on whether to continue using the company’s services?

As you look at the impact customer service has at scale, you’ll find that it significantly influences companies’ bottom line results. For example, according to a study done by the Harvard Business Review, customers who give a perfect ten rating on a customer experience survey are likely to spend 140% more than a client who selects the lowest rating. Even moving up a single point in satisfaction increases the client’s average revenue with a business by over 25%.

Given the financial risks associated with a bad customer experience, here are five common issues that cause bad customer service, and what your organization can do to address them.

1. You have the wrong people on your team.

How would you characterize the colleagues who engage with your clients? Patient? Empathetic?

As customer support reps are constantly tasked in dealing with difficult personalities and situations, certain character traits will enable the rep to thrive while others may cause them to flounder.

Micah Solomon, a thought leader in the field of customer service, asserts that the top traits for customer support are empathy, conscientiousness, optimism, and the willingness to be a team player.

In the context of customer support, here’s how you can think about these traits:

Empathy: Putting yourself in the client’s shoes and sympathizing with them when appropriate.

Conscientiousness: Understanding which projects/issues should be prioritized, and your ability to complete them both thoroughly and on time.

Optimism: The ability to pick yourself up from a negative customer engagement and jump into the next conversation in good spirits.

Willingness to be a team player: Your willingness to offer advice and feedback to other reps that can lead to more formal training and mentorship opportunities later on.

So how do you make sure that your current staff displays these traits in their day-to-day work?

The short answer is to survey your customers and see how they view your customer service. 

2. A lack of consistent training leads to bad customer service.

Even with an empathetic, optimistic and conscientious rep, the need to solve client’s problems efficiently is still a necessity. According to a study done by Nielsen-McKinsey, only 33% of consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick but ineffective response.

To prevent your team from providing insufficient value and to empower them to stay on top of the constantly evolving needs and demands of your clients, aim to schedule consistent training sessions.

The training can cover any of the following items:

  • Introducing new product features and services
  • Refresher training for utilizing key aspects of your offerings
  • Addressing common issues/objections and discussing best practices in solving them
  • Building interpersonal skills, such as small-talk and active listening

Pro tip: Use customer feedback as guidance in choosing and prioritizing training topics. After all, the reps’ ability to improve in areas that matter most to clients are more likely to prevent bad customer service experiences and can increase the rep’s resolution rate by as much as 31%.

3.  The wrong incentives promote bad customer service.

How are your customer service reps compensated? Is it by the volume of calls completed per day? The number of cases resolved per week?

Support reps are normally tied to a base salary, with a small percentage awarded as a bonus. Without taking performance into consideration, reps will ultimately struggle to find the motivation to go the extra mile for clients and may even begin to perform tasks at a level that’s considered bad customer service, but enough to keep their jobs.

Increasing the proportion of a rep’s compensation to their performance is the logical step, but first, aim to understand how your customers want to be treated through a one-off survey. Their responses will help in defining the specific variables that go into the rep’s bonus.

Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • How would you define ‘great’ customer support?
  • What are the criteria you’d measure as success from using our product(s)?
  • How quickly do you expect to receive answers?

Lastly, once changes to the support rep’s variable pay are made, make sure that the reps are fully on-board and aware of them. Complete transparency is crucial, as it pushes your customer support reps to pursue the most highly valued activities and prevents confusion regarding future compensation.

4.  Not everyone’s a people person.

Let’s face it—not everyone wants to connect with a support rep. Some people just want to quickly figure things out themselves.

For these clients, it’s imperative that they’re able to access a resource or help page to get their questions answered.

Not to toot our own horn here, but we’re pretty proud of our revamped Help Center.

You’ll notice that we put methods to browse and search for the content you need on the very first page. We’ve found both of these elements to be invaluable for helping users get the answers they need efficiently and painlessly.

As a side benefit, your support reps will save time. An effective help center leads reps to receive 5% less calls from clients than before. This allows them to focus on more pressing client issues, proactively reach out, and participate in more training sessions.

5. Your product isn’t working.

If your support reps find themselves searching for workarounds, or plainly tell the client that there’s a shortcoming in the product, the support experience falters.

The support reps have limited influence when it comes to resolving product flaws. And yet, they’ll inevitably receive blame for providing bad customer service, disengaging the rep from their work and making the client’s experience worse.

Luckily, this issue can be addressed. The product team can survey support reps on a consistent cadence to align with recent product issues and prioritize areas for improving the product. By opening up clear lines of communication, the product team understands where to allocate their time and the customer support reps feel supported and valued in their role.

Bad customer service isn’t inevitable. By hiring the right reps, investing in the appropriate types of training, providing the right compensation, and ensuring that your product remains customer-centric, your organization will be in a position to delight customers.

Looking to dig deeper into customer satisfaction? Try SurveyMonkey CX and take your customer experience to the next level.