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The 6 Customer Service Mistakes That Annoy Customers Most

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You might be making one or more of these support mistakes without even knowing it.

If you read this blog, then I have a high level of confidence that you love your customers.

You know that the success of your business relies on you to make your customers happy and successful, and you want them to know how much you care.

But sometimes, we might do things that make our customers angry or annoyed, even if we don’t mean to.

The six mistakes below are the things that annoy customers most, and if you want happy customers, you’ll want to avoid these.

1) Phrases That Sound Canned

Saving common replies in your help desk software is a great way to save time on typing the same thing over and over. But they should always be personalized for the customer.

And they shouldn’t sound canned.

In 2011, American Express ran a survey that asked respondents which common customer service phrases annoyed them most.

The winner?

2) Long Wait Times

Speed is not the most important factor in support.

But it is a factor.

One survey by Forrester found that 41% of customers expect a response to a customer support email within six hours, but that only 36% of businesses studied actually responded within that timeframe.

Speed becomes even more important in social media, where 32% of users who contact a brand expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within 60 minutes.

3) Being Passed Around

Another study that asked customers what annoys them most saw 37% of respondents mention “being passed around.”

That is, being transferred from support agent to support agent.

If you’ve ever had this done to you, you know how frustrating it is.

This happened to me recently. A flight I was booked on had a schedule change, and I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the airport in time for the new flight.

When I called the airline, a recording told me that the hold time was more than an hour, so I asked their Twitter team, via DM, for some help.

Their reply?

Good customer service isn’t always about knowing the right answer. Often, it’s about finding the right answer so that your customer doesn’t have to.

“I dont know, but I’ll find out for you” is one of the most powerful phrases in customer service.

4) Perceived Rudeness

We all hate it when people are rude to us, but what we rarely think about is that sometimes, the way that we say things might come off as rude, even if we don’t mean it that way.

That’s why using the right tone in customer service is so, so important.

For example, a Software Advice survey tested various customer service scenarios on respondents, comparing a formal tone to a casual one.

While 65% of online customers — across all ages and genders — prefer a casual tone in customer service over a formal one, the numbers change significantly when the customer is being denied a request.

78% of respondents said that an overly casual tone (like using slang or emoticons) has a negative impact on their experience when the agent is denying a request.

By being too casual when you have to say no to a customer, you imply that you’re not taking their request seriously.

And that’s just rude.

5) Bad Upsells

Upselling can be a very good thing.

It deepens your relationship with the customer, increases customer lifetime value and helps you grow your business.

But it only works when you do it right; that is, in circumstances where the customer is already feeling like they get great value from doing business with you, and that they can get even more value by buying your upsell.

Take Chris Yeh’s example:

After providing GEICO with my location and arranging to wait for the tow truck, the GEICO dispatcher told me, “From looking at your account, it looks like you’re now eligible for a big discount on our comprehensive coverage. Since you’re going to be waiting for the tow truck anyways, would you like to hear more?”

15 minutes later, I had agreed to add $1 million in additional coverage for my car and home, at a cost of right around $100 per year.

I’ve been a GEICO customer for 16 years already, so it’s not much of a stretch to speculate that I might be a customer for another 20 years. That means that GEICO turned a costly customer service call into an incremental $2,000 in lifetime revenue.

Now, what if Chris had called and was angry about something that GEICO did? Would an upsell have been a good idea.

Definitely not.

NEVER upsell an angry customer.

And never try to make an upsell that doesn’t actually add value to the customer’s life.

Jeffrey Gitomer explains the customer’s perspective in an upsell situation like this:

Tell me how I win. When I win, you win.

If the customer doesn’t clearly win with your upsell, then don’t even try.

6) No Apology

When a customer is angry at you, you can give them a refund.

You can throw free products at them.

You can comp their account for a year.

But don’t forget the incredible value of a simple apology.

Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still be sorry about the way the customer feels… I always hate it when customers aren’t happy, so I’m genuinely sorry to see them upset, whether it was my fault or not.

Let them know that.

In one study at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, 37% of customers were satisfied with service recovery when they were offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit). But when the business added an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubled to 74%.

Treat Your Customers As You’d Want To Be Treated

Nobody likes being made to wait, dealing with rude people or being made to feel like they’re not important.

While most of us do our best to ensure that our customers know how much we appreciate them, it can be easy to slip up.

Use the examples above as a reminder to stay vigilant about the things you say – and how you say them – to keep your customers happy.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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