The Keys To Great Customer Service, Part 2: The Difference Between Good & Bad Customer Service

The quality of customer service you offer affects your organization's bottom line and can impact the overall customer experience.

Articles published October 25, 2017

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Does your organization consistently provide great customer service?

Consistently delivering great customer service can be impacted by a number of variables out of your control. You can’t prevent every issue that springs up, and you can’t predict the impact inevitable grievances will have on your company.

Everyone has problems. It could be as easy as one of your agents losing their temper. A drastic increase in calls one day could slow your response times momentarily. An irritated customer could take their anger out on your agent. Whatever the scenario, providing excellent service during every single customer interaction can seem next to impossible. Companies are realizing that when they focus on delivering better customer service across the customer journey, it creates a better customer experience (CX), and they suddenly gain more control over their brand.

It’s no secret customers will take their business elsewhere after a poor experience, but did you know that $1.6 trillion is lost in the U.S. every year due to a bad customer experience? Poor customer service can not only have a negative impact on your reputation, but also on your bottom line.

So, how do you consistently provide quality customer service? It starts with understanding what exactly good and bad customer service means, then it evolves into practical ways you can achieve great service, and adapting your services to align with what your customers want.

But to understand excellent customer service, we first must define what is bad customer service.

When Customer Service Goes Awry

I’ve found that it’s much easier to remember my negative experiences than my positive ones, and statistics back that up. Research from Zendesk indicates that 87 percent of customers who had a positive experience shared it with others, and 33 percent of them shared it with more than five people. When the experience was poor, however, those numbers increased. Not surprisingly, 95 percent of customers that had a bad service shared their experience with others, and 54 percent of them shared it with more than five people. On top of that, customers who receive bad service avoid the business for two or more years. 

While one poor experience can be all it takes to lose a customer, there is some value in talking about those experiences, because we can learn how to be better customer service providers.

1. Provide Customer Freedom

Problem: One hotel took desperate measures when it came to their customer Yelp reviews. They threatened to fine reviewers $500 if they left the hotel a negative review. So, what did their customers do? They went on the hotel’s Facebook page and posted all their negative comments there. This story was picked up by major news outlets, and the hotel’s reputation and revenues fell because of it.

Lesson learned: Don’t restrict what your customers can or cannot say or do. Don’t try to take away any freedoms. By allowing customers to post feedback, you can receive honest criticism and improve future interactions and experiences.

2. Make it Easy

Problem: A global telecommunications company was publicly highlighted for a very rigorous retention program after a customer called to cancel and was met with horrible service and an agent that tried everything in his power to get the customer to change their mind. This company ended up apologizing for the incident after the media attention gave them a lot of bad press.

Lesson learned: While customer retention is a good thing, you should set a reasonable limit on how far you’ll go and how hard you’ll try. Don’t make it so hard for the customer to cancel service that they have a bad taste in their mouth if they ever decide to come back.

3. Respond to Customer Questions

Problem: A well-known food manufacturer deleted all comments and questions on their social media pages that referred to their use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As you would expect, their customers got upset that their comments were being deleted without the food manufacturer actually responding.

Lesson learned: While it can be acceptable to delete certain social media comments that are malicious, contain inappropriate language, or profanity, it’s not okay to delete comments for no reason. Respond to questions honestly, even if you may not be able to answer them entirely.

Poor interactions have negative consequences to your organization. Ultimately, bad customer service negatively impacts your reputation and leaves a customer dissatisfied. Of course, the goal is to never provide bad customer service, but learning what bad customer service looks like helps define what good customer service is.

Examples of Great Customer Service

We all have an idea of what excellent customer service looks like. It’s going above and beyond what’s expected to deliver an unforgettable experience for the customer that makes them come back again and remain loyal.

Here are four examples of organizations that provided exceptional customer service that left an impact.

1. Helpful, Efficient Customer Service

A J. Crew customer wanted to use a one-time coupon online but accidentally canceled the order. He emailed J. Crew, and they responded, saying they would hold the order, but he would just have to call to confirm it. When the customer called, the item he wanted was sold out.

So, what did J. Crew do? They stayed on the line with him to help him pick out items that were very similar to his original purchases, and they still honored the original coupon.

2. Creative Customer Service

Netflix’s customer service is known for getting creative with their online chat support and the tone that they use to communicate with customers. One good example of this is a customer that started a live chat because an episode of the TV show he was watching kept looping the same scene over and over again. The Netflix agent started out the chat by saying: “This is Cpt. Mike of the good ship Netflix, which member of the crew am I speaking with today?” The customer responded: “Greetings, Captain. Lt. Norm here.” What followed was a lively conversation in nautical language and tone, that resulted in a positive experience for both parties.

3. Above and Beyond Customer Experience

Zappos is another organization that does great things through their customer service. One of their customers ordered six shoes for her mother, who had just gone through medical treatment that made her feet numb and sensitive, so she needed a special kind of shoe. Unfortunately, none of the shoes worked, so the mother called Zappos to return the shoes. A few days later, a bouquet of flowers showed up at her door, and they were from Zappos. The customer and her mother were also upgraded for free to “Zappos VIP Members,” so that they won’t have to pay for shipping on any of their future orders.

4. Taking Time for Customers is an example of a wedding registry company that goes the extra yard for their customers and provides exceptional customer service. Not only do they provide this support for the bride and the groom, but also for their guests who are buying them presents. With their motto “Anything for Love,” their customer service agents work with customers to help support any issue they are having. A guest was having a hard time finding and picking out a gift for a bride and groom, so the Zola customer service agent worked with the guest for over an hour until they felt the perfect gift had been picked out.

Great Customer Service Providers See Benefits

Putting in the effort to create a great customer experience pays off. Access Development reports that 65 percent of consumers say quality of customer service factors into where they make a purchase. Additionally, 57 percent of customers would pay more for an item or service if they know they will receive good customer service.

All in all, ensuring that you’re giving your customers fantastic service has major benefits for your organization, including customer retention, increased customer loyalty, and gaining new customers. But how do you get there? Read Part 3 in the Keys to Great Customer Service

Would you give your own organization a five-star rating for customer service?

How customer service impacts your bottom line