Business Advice, People & Human Resources

Six customer service mistakes that drive customers crazy

Jaquie Scammell /

Industries across the board have experienced a decline in the number and quality of daily customer interactions. Rather than asking businesses questions face-to-face or over the phone, customers type concerns or issues into business websites and other online conduits.

Mediocre customer service is at an all-time high in Australia. Over one-third of customers surveyed in CPM Australia and the ACRS Omnibus Tracker’s The State of Customer Service in Australia Report stopped shopping at a company in the year spanning July 2016 to 2017 due to a poor customer service experience, and this number looks sets to increase.

In our haste to move on to the next customer service phone call, we are sometimes so lost in our own heads that we forget we are there to serve someone else. Our desire for speed and convenience is compromising our customers’ greatest and basic needs as humans: care, kindness and one-on-one attention — as these six customer service mistakes show.

1. Ignoring

Have you ever stood waiting for someone to serve you, being ignored by staff as they discuss so-and-so from accounts who just can’t get their act together? Or perhaps they are so focused on completing a menial task that they overlook the customer right in front of them.

Too often, customers have to go out of their way just to get someone’s attention. In the customer service sector, managers need to remember – and to teach employees – that the primary reason for them being there is to serve someone else.  

2. Over-apologising

 Spending time apologising for mistakes rather than finding solutions is a sure-fire way to make a customer feel frustrated and angry.

‘Put yourself in the customers’ shoes’ is a good basic rule to stick by. Empathy is a critical soft skill in service, yet many of us have forgotten what empathy looks like. We need to listen deeply to our customers’ needs and wants, and then get on with fixing the cause of their grief. Saying ‘sorry’ more than once is superfluous and distracts from solving the problem at hand. 

3. Passing the buck

There is nothing more frustrating than when staff pass you around like a hot potato because they are unable to fulfill a request. This is typical in a faceless customer service environment such as a call centre, where it is far too easy to transfer you (the problem) to someone else, or another department.

This is evidence of a company that leads through rules rather than values. Employees who are not empowered to create solutions have no choice but to pass the buck. And guess who suffers? Yep, the customer.

4. Unconscientious upselling

“Would you like fries with that?” is a classic example of an automatic, systemised and transactional approach to customer service. On the other hand, conscientious upselling based on human connection and understanding can make for a meaningful and personal customer service experience. 

Upselling is an art and is most successful when it is coming from a place of genuine concern for providing the best customer service possible , wherein an employee really believes that your life will be enhanced if you buy a certain product.

Genuine upselling requires mindful service from employees who are reading appropriate emotions and non-verbal queues and then making helpful suggestions.

5. Discriminating

Sarah Huckabee Sanders was recently refused service along with her seven family members at the Red Hen Restaurant in the US because she works on US President Donald Trump’s team.  

But service does not discriminate. In fact, it’s the one human interaction we should feel most confident about when living day-to-day in society, regardless of your values or political preference.

We all have the right to purchase a service or product and how you treat anyone is how you treat everyone.

6. Reading from a script

Hands up if you hate being greeted or given a response that is obviously scripted, automated or standardised.

Service requires flexibility and space to allow the interaction and conversation to flow naturally. If we ignore the feelings and intuition that arises from a conversation and continue to follow a script that does not respond accordingly, then we are simply acting as robots in a human body.

As American philosopher, John Dewey, said: “Our deepest urge as a human is the desire to feel important”. That still holds true today.

NOW READ: Secrets to providing the best customer service in the modern workplace

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Jaquie Scammell

Jaquie Scammell is a customer service relations expert, who works with leaders of large teams who want to influence their staff to love serving customers. She is also the author of the new book, Creating a Customer Service Mindset (Major Street).

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