10 ways of creating a bad customer service experience

Customer service, in itself, is not quite the same thing as the customer experience.

I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. It does, however, strongly influence what happens to the customer’s experience of the organization when he or she contacts the customer service.

The customer experience becomes better or worse, and sometimes it can even cause the customer to switch to another service provider. One powerful way to improve the customer experience is to increase the customer’s trust towards your organization through customer service. Here are some of the most common factors that inspire distrust in a customer:


1. An unclear IVR menu

These days, I call customer service and/or switchboard numbers quite often. I have noticed that switchboards are a fairly fast and affordable way of finding the right decision-makers. IVR menus can sometimes be very confusing. At times they can even make me feel quite helpless because I do not really know which option to pick. This can cause a strong feeling of frustration and, on the other hand, incompetence. Feeling like I cannot be very smart since I don’t even know which option to pick is not a good start for a customer interaction. So an IVR menu should be clear, without becoming too detailed.

2. Let’s assume

This is the root of all evil. Unfortunately, the human mind tends to make assumptions all the time. We can never completely avoid this. You can, however, create rules of thumb that help you avoid making assumptions in critical situations. One of them is: ask, don’t assume! This will get you quite far, and with a bit of practice, it will make customer interactions significantly easier.

3. No understanding for the customer’s problem (lack of empathy)

At the beginning of the customer interaction, it is important to express empathy towards the customer and the problem he or she is having. If the customer’s problem is not recognized during the interaction, it is likely that the customer will not feel like he or she was taken seriously. This is an emotion that leads to uncertainty and then to distrust. It also makes the customer service agent appear extremely cold, which is never desirable.

4. Sounding rushed

This is closely connected to the two previous points. When analysing the customer’s situation or voice, we often tend to make assumptions that may lead to handling the customer contact quickly and without even solving his or her problem. Rushed customer service situations can be caused by efficiency goals that are linked to, for example, handling time or the number of contacts. Goals should be reviewed regularly, and the customer experience must be considered when doing so.

5. Failing to map the customer’s overall situation

Customers usually have one specific reason for calling the customer service. This could be a problem or question, and it should be handled during the first contact. If this is not possible, one should make a separate ticket for the issue and tell the customer when they will be contacted about it. After the contact, it is a good idea to also send this information to the customer as an e-mail or SMS. In any case, it is very important to also find out the customer’s overall situation. This gives the customers the impression that customer service cares about them. Especially when it is not possible to solve a problem immediately, there is a temptation to start offering excuses (see item 6), and the customer service agent may be hesitant to start mapping the customer’s situation because it is assumed (see item 2) that the customer is annoyed or frustrated. However, finding out what the situation is gives the agent information about the customer’s other problems or needs, which it might be possible to sort out immediately, thus significantly improving the customer’s day and customer experience!

6. Over-explaining

The customer service agent tells the customer the solution, the reasons behind this solution and, in the worst case, the reasons why more cannot be done. This is especially common when customer service is decentralized in one way or another. For example, a first-line customer service agent may not have any other options besides taking call requests and redirecting calls to other departments. This may work and lead to shorter response times, but it is important to make sure that the instructions are followed and the customer is not given overly lengthy explanations. Over-explaining makes the customer doubt whether the customer service system really works.


7. Asking the customer to repeat what they told you

This happens when the customer service agent is not fully focused on listening and is doing something else during the call. Technical call quality issues and/or the headphones used by the agent may also play a part. You need to make sure that your personnel have well-functioning devices and software and, most importantly, that listening to the customer is their highest priority!

8. Failing to review the discussed matters with the customer

At the end of the contact, it is a good idea to review what was discussed and any actions that need to be taken. This improves the odds of solving the customer’s problems during the first contact, because it gives the agent another chance to notice any oddities and the customer the chance to correct any misunderstandings by the agent.

9. Not providing delivery receipts or estimated response time for emails

These days, e-mail is a popular form of communication . Typically, people contact customer service through an e-mail or the company website when they are not in a particular hurry. This allows the customer to handle several customer service matters at once. I do this myself, as well – I like to take care of several customer service matters at the same time by sending e-mails or service requests through websites. The ones that confirm my e-mail was received and even give me an estimate of when I will receive a response really stand out. Confirming that an e-mail was received is fairly common, but the messages are often quite blunt. They do not include any estimate of how long it will take for the request to be processed, and oddly enough, there may be no information telling me where I can ask for more information on how things are progressing.

10. Call requests: no confirmation, no estimated response time or no reaction at all

When a person is not currently available, it is very common to make a call request. In my opinion, the customer should definitely be sent a confirmation e-mail or SMS. For some reason, this is very rare. In addition, if call requests are accepted, it is crucially important that the requested calls are made! Within the last couple of months, I have made about 20 call requests to people in charge of customer service. The reason I do this is usually because the switchboard is unable to redirect me or to give me a direct phone number. Only one company has reacted to my call request. This tells me two things: either the call requests are not reaching the person, or the person is not interested in contacting me. In any case, it does not give a very positive impression of the organization.

Clear-cut quality goals are helpful

Small things can have a big impact. When you have these things under control, I believe the customers will trust your organization and customer service. You should definitely monitor these and many other aspects of your customer service operations on a regular basis. For this purpose, it is a good idea to create a quality assurance process and an excellent evaluation form. It should contain the organization’s strategy and customer service goals in a crystallized form: How should you serve the customer? A clear evaluation form also acts as a guide to the customer service agents and helps them serve the customers in accordance with the company’s goals. We at QualityDesk are ready to help you with every aspect of quality assurance. We have both the tool you need and the know-how that it takes to create a diamond-standard quality assurance process! Book time for a meeting, and let’s see how we can help you!

Always at your service

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Ville Mikkonen

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