How Not to Do Customer Service

Bad Customer Service

In the midst of post holiday shopping, I've run into a few sourpuss customer service folks. It's kind of humorous to me that they are so disdainful of customers, especially when customers are scarce in this economy. If I was in retail, I'd be doing what a local retailer did at the mall this afternoon: they sent one of their employees outside with a coat and a tray of free samples of their candy to greet people in the parking lot. Sure, it seems a bit desperate, but it's also the time for Christmas gift returns, great bargains, and free treats. Vast amounts of people go to stores to enjoy these things, even if they don't plan to buy. However, one taste of those chocolates and I bought.

See, it worked!

But back to the sour puss folks who could barely contain their lack of energy when dealing with customers this year.

Above all, don't:

1. Treat your customers as if they are trying to cheat you. If a customer is returning items multiple times because the product continually breaks on first use, it's not because the person is trying to steal or cheat your company. And if an order showed up with all the wrong items in the box, that is your company's problem, not the customer's.

2. Act like it's a huge hassle that they are calling and communicating with you. Isn't that what customer service is for? To let your company know they didn't fulfill the conditions of the sale? Customers aren't really calling to shoot the breeze or find out that your customer service team is having a really terrible holiday season. It's not their fault your company can't complete a simple sales transaction without something going haywire. Perhaps that's why your sales are going down the drain.

3. Not offer them some sort of freebie or promo for their trouble. So, you ask the customer to wait thirty minutes on hold while you figure out what your company did wrong and don't even say "thank you, I'm sorry for the long wait" or "here's a 20% coupon toward your next purchase"? Why would they ever want to do business with you again?

4. Second-guess their request and continue to ask them the same questions several times. Just because a customer is asking you for help because they are confused about your return policy is no excuse to treat them like an idiot. And if they give you clear instructions about what they originally ordered, why are your customer service reps still asking "why," "what," and "when"?

5. Ignore their upset feelings and just act like an automaton with no feelings or empathy. If your customer is upset because your company messed up on their order, it is on your customer service rep to make that customer feel listened to, cared for, and supported. If you are callous and unfeeling, it is perfectly acceptable for your customers to leave and never do business with you again.

There are many outstanding customer service folks out there this holiday season. We've met them, spoken with them, and been helped by them. It's a shame that businesses let this behavior continue, especially when a little bit of customer service will go a very long way. Perhaps even gain you customers in a dire economy. Think about it. Why let one bad apple spoil your barrel?