7 Customer Service Basics

Customer Service Basics

Simple mistakes too many businesses make 

Here at WOMO, we see all kinds of feedback for all kinds of businesses and while only 7% of the reviews are negative, there are some common themes that recur time and time again when customers are unhappy. We've written previously about 5 surprising things that piss customers off (excuse the language), but it's also important to get the fundamentals right. 

There are plenty of businesses that miss these more foundational principles – which of course, results in customer dissatisfaction. (Leading to a less than ideal online reputation for the business and eventually, less customers.)

If your business is striving to provide customers with a good experience, make sure you don't commit any of these basic blunders;

  1. Failing to set appropriate expectations
    Many unhappy customer experiences are a result of expectations being out of line with the service the customer receives. Sometimes, customers come with their own (unrealistic) expectations, but other times, these are a direct consequence of the sales and marketing messages from the business. Remember, if you hype up your business in an unrealistic way, it might get you the sale, but it's a short-sighted strategy as customers will end up disappointed – and ultimately your reputation will be damaged. So what to do? Remember the saying; "Under-promise, over-deliver" and explain exactly what customers should expect at the time of purchase, and if possible, include something extra in the service that they weren't expecting.
  2. Not listening to customers
    Often poor experiences can be avoided simply by taking the time (and directing your attention) to listen to your customer. This means really listening when they say they’ve just had new carpet put down (so don’t tread your dirty boots through the place), they don’t like their hair cut too short (so adjust your usual style), or maybe they’ve asked for an extra-hot coffee (so let the barista know). When a customer tells you key information like this, simply paying attention and delivering on that request will go a long way to making them happy. Remember, you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in that proportion!
  3. Off-loading customer service to junior staff
    If you believe that the customer service function in your business can be done by anyone, your customers will bare the brunt of that thinking. It’s true the business owner (or manager) can’t do every function, but it’s important to recognise that customer service is the face of your business and should be given the respect it deserves. You need to use every opportunity possible to build a customer service culture and truly demonstrate that customer satisfaction is your highest priority. Make sure the staff performing this function have the training and authority required to treat your customers well.
  4. Not being upfront about costs
    One particularly sore point for customers is unexpected charges. Giving a customer a bill for a higher than expected price is a sure way to put them off-side. Although this is similar to setting appropriate expectations, it deserves separate mention due to customers’ sensitivity to any changes in cost. Always be upfront with your pricing and explain exactly what customers should expect. If there are changes, let the customer know immediately and give them the opportunity to select a different option so that they’re still in control.
  5. Service staff that don't like customers
    Even if you’ve got the best processes in place, if your staff don’t genuinely like customers and enjoy the interactions, customers will smell this a mile away! Rude staff is high on the list of customer complaints and can take the form of staff seeming ‘put out’ or inconvenienced when a customer requires some kind of service. Don’t they realise that it’s the customer that pays their wage? When recruiting, select people that actually like customers and make other people feel good.
  6. Providing a sub-standard product or service
    If you’re a hairdresser, you need to provide great hair cuts, if you’re a carpenter, you need to provide a high level of carpentry workmanship, if you’re an accountant, you need to provide a proficient service. Defining ‘quality’ is something that is difficult to do and varies greatly for each industry, but think about whether you’d be happy to receive the outcomes that your business provides. This can relate to the freshness, timeliness, workmanship, cleanliness, results or however your industry measures success.
  7. Forgetting to check in with customers after the service 
    Despite your best efforts, there will be some customers that aren’t immediately satisfied with your service. But if you take this simple step and actually ask customers if they’re happy with the service received, you give yourself a second chance to put things right. Remember, the sign of a great business is not one that gets things right every time, but one that responds well when things don’t go right. (Plus, customers are actually happier, just because you asked.)

Remember, customer service is the backbone of your business and a good reputation can be driving force behind your business’ growth.  Once you’ve got these 7 customer service basics right, move on to the slightly more advanced level and avoid these 5 somewhat surprising customer service sins.

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