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Top-5 customer service mistakes and how to avoid them

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Yaneek Page BUSINESSWISE

When was the last time you received exceptional customer service? Hopefully it was more recent and happens more frequently for you than has been for me of late.

Bad customer service is still so pervasive in this country that I often wonder how some businesses manage to keep their doors open for so long.

I've come to the conclusion that the problem is not just with the companies that dish it out, but also the customers who lap it up and keep returning for more.

If you've been following my television programme, The Innovators, now in its 4th season on TVJ, you would have noticed a new segment called 'The Secret Shopper'. It's where we go undercover and use the services of the companies featured on the show to see how they really treat their customers when the cameras aren't around.

As you can imagine, it's been a huge eye-opener and shocking for me and the crew. Sometimes it is quite embarrassing for a few show participants who fall very short in the service department.

Ironically, the idea for the segment came from a viewer who tried to patronise one of the businesses featured on the show and was very disappointed with the poor service she received.

Her criticism on our Facebook page - "You people need to investigate the people you putting on the show before yuh promote them to the public. I called 'XYZ company' and they were very unprofessional" - was enlightening and helpful. It's proof that complaints from customers are really gifts that can lead to valuable improvements if organisations are prepared to listen.

Like the participants on the show I'm sure there are many small businesses that would do better if they were aware of how to deliver good customer service and better handle complaints.

For that reason, I've sought the input of the president of the Jamaica Customer Service Association and managing director of Professional Training and Occupational Services, Yanique Grant, to identify some of the top customer service mistakes and strategies to create a culture of service excellence.

These are the top-five mistakes:

1. Not Understanding the Impact of Customer Service on Your Bottom Line

According to Grant, many businesses still don't realise how customer service is linked to revenues. Not only is it expensive to attract potential customers, it is even harder to convert them.

In fact, the probability of a business selling to an existing customer is 60-70 per cent, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is a mere 5-20 per cent.

Additionally, customers are four times more likely to leave if they have unresolved service issues than if they are asked to pay higher prices for goods and services.

Great service makes price increases easier to swallow. The fact is that the better you treat your customers, the longer you will keep them, the more they will buy and the cheaper it will

be for the company. More revenues, lower costs.

2. Believing Customer Service is for Front-Line Staff

Grant believes that the single biggest mistake businesses make is believing that customer service is the responsibility of the front-line employees or the employees who deal directly with customers.

She noted that customer service isn't really about having a department, but establishing a culture. It must therefore start with management initiating, cultivating and being faithful to service excellence as the only way of doing business.

3. Hiring the Wrong People

Another mistake companies make is in hiring decisions. Grant recommends hiring people who love your customers and love what they do and ensuring that your team is enthusiastic about serving customers.

If your people lack the ethos for service, no amount of training can transform them.

Also, while hiring the right people matter, employing user-friendly technology that creates more convenient and simple experiences for customers is also essential.

4. Not Investing Enough in Continuous Training

When it comes to customer service there's no such things as too much training. A common fallacy is that training or orienting staff once is good enough.

It's important to invest in continuous training - not only as a refresher, but for them to understand your customers' changing needs and evolving expectations.

As cost is a significant factor for small businesses, Grant suggests it maybe more economical for business owners to do a series of customer service courses and in turn train their staff.

5. Not having Set Policies and Procedures

Without policies and procedures in writing it is difficult to establish and maintain an internal control framework.

Policy in writing provides clear guidelines for staff to operate within and be guided by. Grant stressed that these policies should address meeting and exceeding your customers' emotional needs, listening and asking quality questions, and demonstrating that your company appreciates them so they feel their business is valued.

One love!

Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship and workforce innovation.Email: info@yaneekpage.comTwitter: @yaneekpageWebsite: yaneekpage.com