Stop, just stop it. You’re not perfect and neither are the people you have working for you. And don’t even get me started about how “perfect” your business is. So, you must realize that your customer service will never be perfect either. Agreed? Good, now we can move on and try to fix it.
So, how perfect can we ever expect our service to get? Good question. Our customers expect us to be perfect, right? What do we do? First, let’s look at 8 reasons why customer service will never be perfect. Then, I will give you some solutions.
1. You Don’t Have All the Answers
Today’s customer is informed in ways not dreamed of just a few short years ago. The internet allows customers to research your company, your product, your pricing, and your management team as never before. When they’re ready to buy, they’re armed to the teeth with all they need to be a worthy adversary for your sales team.
When the customer walks into your showroom or has completed an exhaustive search for an item online, they already know what they like, what questions they need to be answered, and what’s important to them to make a final determination to buy. Your showroom staff members are in for a difficult time if they aren’t knowledgeable enough to give them the answers they need.
Is it reasonable to expect your employees to be the authority of every product you sell? No, of course not. But ask the same question of your customer and she will say yes, they should be. I wonder how many sales are lost because the employee didn’t have instant access to each product tidbit and made the customer wait while they found the answer. Probably more than we realize.
When a customer enters your business ready to buy, they want all the answers and they want them now. If you don’t have them, your customer service will never be perfect.
So, how do you fix this problem?
Solution: Provide consistent and thorough training on your products and service methods for your entire service and sales team. Another option is to make your employees a “customer” and give them your product. Let them use it in their homes. They can push all the buttons and try it out just like a paying customer would.
“But Steve, how can we ever afford to give all our employees free products? Don’t you know how much this will cost us?” Sure. But how much will you lose from sales that are never made because your team doesn’t know enough about your product to sell it to the customer? Lastly, even if you do this your team will never be perfect. But you will have a noticeable advantage over your competition.
2. Your Service is Not Consistent
People are not robots that operate in the same way under every condition. At times, we wear our feelings and emotions on our sleeve, and it gets the better of us. One day we feel great, provide the best service, and don’t miss an opportunity to WOW the customer. While other days, we can barely bring ourselves to do basic tasks because we’re burdened by our own personal issues or workplace conflict.
Then, there are differences in management styles. Some are micromanagers who use a heavy hand with all operational issues and personally direct most customer and employee interactions. While some managers are free spirits and give great leeway to their team to do as they see fit to service the customer.
If your business has both types of managers, there is no way your service can be consistent. Guidelines and operational standards will vary depending on who is leading the team that day. And, that’s without even discussing the differences in the hourly employees who are interacting with your customers.
Solution: Develop clear, easy-to-understand SOPs (standard operating procedures) for all tasks. There are many ways to complete a task but only 1, or maybe 2, ways that management wishes it to be. There should never be variations in how something is done unless a change is made to service a specific customer wish a specific difficult to handle request.
All SOPs must be developed through trial and error methods to determine the “best” action for any task. Then, management must monitor, and adjust the SOPs as needed to continually adapt to the changing needs of the business.
3. You Can’t Please Everyone
There are a few similar quotes attributed to many people, that states, “The key to failure is trying to please everyone”. And it’s true. No two customers are alike in their needs, wants, and desires.
Just when you think you have your standards tweaked to their highest level and you consistently get rave reviews, someone comes along who’s not happy with your product, your service, or your problem resolution (if needed). How can that be? Everyone else is happy with it? Why not this person? Well, that’s the issue. You can’t please everyone and because you can’t, your customer service will never be perfect in someone’s eyes.
The worst thing you can do is to change your already fine service to match the demands of the “squeaky wheel” customer; especially if the few who are unhappy are far outnumbered by those who are completed satisfied with what you do, how you do it and will go out of their way to be your customer.
Solution: Become laser-focused on the customers who can’t live without the goods you sell. Market to them as if they are the only game in town. Make connections, real connections with the customer. Continue to nurture the relationship you have with them and show appreciation for their business in everything you do.
Sure, you can’t please everyone. But for the ones who matter, you can!
4. You Don’t Have the Right Team Players
SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management, states that a bad hire (warm body) could cost up to 5 times the person’s annual salary. The usual reasons behind this are that a “warm body” provides a lower standard of service, has more missed days, lower productivity, and creates morale issues affecting others; just to name a few things that cost money better spent elsewhere.
Instead of qualified candidates who excel in service, empathy, and can anticipate the needs of your customer, you hired many warm bodies over the years. Warm bodies; you know, those applicants who graced your door without the foggiest notion of what your company does, who your client base is, or what products you sell. They “just want a job” and you hired them.
Well, of course, you “had to” hire them because you had a rash of departures and had positions to fill. You figured you can train them as you go. So, how has that worked out so far? No wonder why your customer service will never be perfect.
Without having the best possible team, you will continually fight an uphill battle to provide service that makes a difference. You will continually have employees call-outs, and will continually make excuses for failing the customer.
Solution: Stop plugging holes and finally tear down that wall (your weak service team) and built it up with qualified candidates who can get the job done and bring smiles to the faces of your customers. If needed, bring in outside trainers to evaluate your management team and teach them best methods of identifying and interviewing applicants. Seek out newavenues to promote your open positions. Reward existing employees for referring a great new hire and reevaluate, and increase as needed, your compensation package so you attract the best candidates the market has to offer.
This is money well spent and goes far to prevent the hiring of a poor worker in the first place.
BTW, didn’t the fact that you had a rash of departures send a signal to you that something was wrong? Hmmmmmmm…
5. You Cannot Modify Your Product in Unlimited Ways
According to Accenture, “33% of customers who abandoned a business relationship in 2018 did so because personalization was lacking”.
Think of it; one-third of customers stopped buying from a company because they couldn’t get a product or service made the way they wanted it. That’s big. So, the lesson is that you must personalize, modify, or adapt all your products to ensure every customer is satisfied. WHAT?
Tooling costs, production minimums, storage capabilities, and shipping arrangements all have associated requirements and costs that make it impossible or at least unrealistic to put into action. There are limits to what a business can do, right?
I bet the 33% of customers from this survey would also say the business’s service was poor because they couldn’t or wouldn’t modify their product. That’s not a fair assessment but it happens. They then threaten to find some other vendor who would make the modifications. In their eyes, when you fail at one aspect of service, you’ve failed at all others.
Solution: In the perfect world with an unlimited budget and capabilities, you’d be able to retain that unhappy 33 %, but the world is not perfect. Don’t fret over them. You make a fine product and provide top-notch service. Again, you can’t please everyone but wait – stop for a minute and think about what the customer is asking for.
CAN you modify your product? Is it that big of a deal? What will it cost you? How long will it take? Will this affect your other products or service? How much will it cost? What are the long-term benefits of adding a realistic measure of personalization to your business?
Sure, some customers are demanding. But they are the ones who push us to be our best. And they are the ones who give us ideas on how to grow our business in ways we may not have imagined.
Maybe you can modify your product after all…
You’ll never know if you don’t try.
6. You Are Unwilling to Compete on Price
I’m with you on this one. If your products and service are top-notch, there’s no reason to discount. Let someone else play the price-matching game, not you. But for those customers who focus on price alone, you’re not the best choice for their shopping.
They measure you against what THEY perceive the value of any item is. Because you don’t have a “sale of the month” or email discount coupons out every week, you’re not giving them the service they want. We both know this is foolish thinking but it’s real-world for many shoppers. We all know a “coupon-hawk” who only swoops down to your business when they can get something almost at cost (after steep discounts).
When you factor in all your payroll and business taxes, rent, advertising costs, and the numerous other miscellaneous costs and fees, I bet you lost money on these discounts. So why bother doing it? If you say it’s because “at least you kept your customer happy”, think again. As soon as you stop discounting, that same customer is off to another business who can. That’s what’s important to them.
In their eyes, your service will never be as good as the price you offer it at. They don’t understand the value of what you do or how you do it. They don’t understand the value-added when they shop with you. They only see how much they spend or how often you bend to their whims. Your value is not felt by these customers.
Solution: Stand your ground, I say.
7. You Aren’t Open 24/7
Ok, your business is good, maybe even really good. You have happy customers who are frequent buyers and sing your praises to their friends and relatives. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe you can’t ask for more, but your customers can.
If you’re not open 7 days a week, your business is “inconvenient” for a portion of your customer base. If you close by 6 pm or only open at 10 am, that’s inconvenient for another portion. You can’t win…
Even if you offer good products at reasonable prices you must be available when your customers want you and NOT when you want them. Convenience can outweigh quality and will usually always trump price.
Solution: This one is tough. Few businesses can be open 24/7 unless your sell online. So maybe that’s an option for you. Have you ever thought of it? Even if you don’t set up a full-fledged online sales portal that accepts credit cards and includes all the bells and whistles, you certainly can create a clear, easy-to-navigate site that displays your products, explains your services, return policy, and gives customer reviews that can help a new prospective customer make a decision.
Your site can have a “cart” or wish-list to “hold” items in it until one of your sales team contacts the customer back when you reopen. A further description of your goods can be given and payment taken.
This doesn’t replace being open 24/7, especially for a brick-n-mortar store but is a good alternative.
If that’s still not good enough for some customers, see #3 above.
8. You Don’t Have Employees Monitoring Social Media 24/7
Not that you can afford to do this anyway. But, look at this stat from Statista:
48% of consumers expect a response to social media questions and complaints within 24 hours.
And this one from Microsoft:
74% of millennials report that their perception of a brand improves when it is clear the company responds to customers’ social media inquiries.
Communicating on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et al, are considered a “way of life” for today’s generation of consumers. Businesses that don’t quickly respond to questions, concerns, inquiries, or mentions will never offer “perfect customer service” in the eyes of a millennial.
Here are some other statics to ponder:
- 1/3 of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service – American Express
- 57% of customers would rather contact companies via digital media such as email or social media rather than use voice-based customer support – Ameyo
- Men tell the most people (21 people) when they have had a poor customer service experience – American Express
- 91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will just leave without complaining – Esteban Kolsky, founder and principle of Thinkjar
Social media is here to stay (remember a time before Facebook/Twitter, et al? It seems so long ago). So what to do?
Solution: In today’s competitive market, monitoring social media mentions and online customer inquiries is a must. Find a way to either hire someone for this (I know, that’s an unforeseen added cost) or have a member of your sales team dedicate a select portion of their day to this.
Come on, I’ve been in sales, and there’s always “downtime” that can be better spent communicating with your online customers. You know it and so do I. We just need to realize social media is another part of our business needs that must be addressed.
To sum this all up; we know your customer service will never be perfect. It’s true. But take these steps to heart and implement them today. You may just get closer to perfect than you ever thought possible.