10 Common Misconceptions about Customer Service

Customer Service MythsExcellent customer service is the mark of most successful businesses, and the goal for the rest of us.  Without great service, your customers are up for grabs and it's more difficult to attract new customers (remember your competition is ready to snap up anyone that starts looking around).

Everyone seems to know this, yet many businesses still provide poor customer service.  Perhaps it’s because they’re buying into these customer service myths…

1. The Customer is Out to Screw You

Some people approach customer service thinking that if they give an inch, the customer will take a mile.  For the vast majority, this is untrue, totally unjustified and this belief will sabotage your business.  Test it for yourself – give an unreasonably good guarantee and see how many customers take advantage of it (we do this).  Some businesses are even letting customers decide what their service is worth – and many people are paying more than the business would have charged!

2. The Customer is Always Right

If you've ever worked in customer service you'll know that this is not true.  However, if you want to keep that customer (and it's possible that you may not), you'll do well to ignore this and not argue your point.  The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer.  An argument about right and wrong is the wrong discussion to be having.

3. Customers Always Want a Cheaper Price

It's tempting to think that a simple metric like price is what's driving customers, and it certainly plays a part.  But a recent research study found that 86% of Australian consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.  In fact, they’re willing to pay an average of 8.5% more for a superior customer experience (StollzNow Research).  When times are tough, you shouldn't necessarily think about dropping prices, think about adding service.

4. Customers Always Want Faster Service

Speed is sometimes important, but often it's not.  Just because it's easy to measure, doesn't mean it's necessarily valued by your customers.  For a fast food restaurant, speed is probably important.  But to a dining restaurant, the time it takes for meals to arrive may not matter – particularly if their service provider is pleasant, offers drinks, explains the likely wait time, and the ambience is nice.  For a mechanic, turn-around-time might be a significant factor, but much less so if you provide courtesy cars.

5. Policies and Processes are the Most Important Thing

There's no doubt customer service policies and processes can give great guidance to staff, but following these to a tee will not necessarily result in good service.  The most important factor is the attitude of your staff.  Do they seem to genuinely care about the customer, or are they just going through the motions?  Believe me, customers can tell the difference.

6. Customer Service is just about being Friendly

It's not as simple as a nice smile and a pleasant attitude.  Customers need competent people that can actually solve problems.  They purchased from you for a reason, and they want that need met – whether that's a nice meal, a great hairdo, or a re-landscaped backyard.  Unless you can get them the result they're after, they're going to be unhappy.

7. Great Customer Service Develops Unrealistic Expectations

There's a myth going around that the higher the service you provide, the higher customers' expectations will be – which can only end in disappointment at some stage.  While there is an element of truth to this, it's certainly no reason to keep your service levels anything less than your best.  Great businesses can continue to evolve and improve their customer service and so this is not a problem anyway.  Plus, you can always take steps to manage your customer's future expectations while still delivering great service now.  Great customer service will deliver you loyal customers and your best prospects for growth – do not avoid it!

8. Front-line Staff are Responsible

Many business owners and managers think that customer service is somehow removed from them.  They sit in their offices groaning about their staff and perhaps their team leaders.  But customer service is a culture – and an organisation's culture starts at the top (ie you!).  You hire your staff, train them, manage them, and most importantly, set the example.  So make an effort to put customer service on your radar, take customer complaints extremely seriously, and give a big reaction to positive feedback.  Let staff know that customer service is a skill you value dearly, and is the most important measure of the business.

9. Big Companies provide the Best Service

Yes, bigger businesses might be able to offer longer opening hours, or better return policies, or more staff, or whatever.  There's no need to whinge because smaller businesses have the advantage of being more in touch with their customers and staff, which often results in them providing a much better service.  Reviews sites like WOMO help customers find these businesses – so customer service is in fact, a great leveler.  Smart small businesses will use this to their advantage and promote those aspects of service where they're stronger.

10. Happy Customers Don't Tell Many People

This is one of the biggest myths of all.  Comments like "a happy customer will tell 2 people, but an unhappy customer will tell 6" are thrown around like they've been proven beyond doubt.  At Word Of Mouth Online, we can see that this is simply not true.  In fact, only 9% of reviews are negative, with 13% being neutral, and the vast majority (76%) is positive.  And guess what?  People aren't searching for businesses with bad reviews, they're searching for the ones with great reviews – so the impact of those positive reviews is often quite amazing.

How many of these misconceptions are subtly (or overtly) embedded in your business' approach to customer service?


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