Wherever you work it’s likely that at some point the company you work for has let their customers down. It’s very rarely purposeful, but it is so common that many big businesses budget for customer compensation and many more have whole departments dedicated to addressing complaints.

But if we’re all so keen to make the customer happy and put great service first, why do we all keep letting our customers down? We’ve compiled a top ten, how many is your company guilty of?

1. We don’t really understand what they want in the first place

All companies profess to put the needs of their customers first, but very few know – in real terms – what their customers actually want. The vast majority of businesses are working on assumptions or out of date information.

However, if you don’t know what your customer actually wants, when they want it and how they want it, how can you design and deliver a product or service that meets their needs?

We need to spend time collecting data on our customers from a whole host of sources – complaints, questions raised in sales meetings or online, warranty issues, focus groups, surveys and more. The more data we  have the closer we get to really understanding their needs so we can satisfy them. How well do you collect, collate and analyse voice of the customer data in your company from all the sources available to you?

2. We provide poor customer service

Unintentionally, most customers will encounter a huge variation in the quality of customer service depending on how and when they get in touch, and who they end up talking to.

If customers are lucky, they’ll get through at the ‘right’ time and speak to someone who has the answers they need, giving them a great experience. However, sometimes (and most often during the busy periods) customers will have to wait a long time to speak to someone, and will then get through to an employee who is new to the role, just wants to get home or has just been shouted at by another customer. In these instances, customer service may not be up to scratch.

Variation in quality of service can be massive in a company depending on the person or manner in which you deal with them. It also changes depending upon the function; so the sales team might be great with customer service, but when customers have to deal with the warehouse or the call centre the quality vastly deteriorates. We need to have consistent customer service in all areas.

When was the last time you contacted your company as a client in order to experience what your customers do?

3. We provide a poor quality product or service

It goes without saying that if you provide poor quality products or services then you will let down your customers. Some businesses don’t care, but the vast majority intend to provide their customers with a good product or service or at the least something that meets their expectations.

Often, customers are the first to alert us in the event that something isn’t right with the product or service – which is why complaints are so important. But too many businesses respond to complaints in order to make that individual customer happy, but don’t look any further. They don’t investigate to see if this problem is a one off or if it is affecting more customers. Some don’t have any method for recording or collating complaint information.

We need to ensure that if we have problems then we know what they are and do something about them so the quality of the product or service is always improving. Do you have a really good way of recording problems, analysing them and ensuing they don’t come back?

We don't provide it when the customer wants it

We constantly let down customers by providing things when it is convenient for us to deliver them, not when the customer wants their product or service.

In the UK, most doctor and dental surgeries are only open during working hours, meaning routine check-ups require time off work. As customers, we’d prefer to be able to visit the doctor or dentist during the evening or weekend.

The same is true of tradesmen if you need something fixing in your house. And how many people have taken a day off work to wait for a delivery only for it to arrive at 6.30pm?

We need to understand when customers want our products and services and provide it to them at that point in time. Or if that is impossible, make it as easy as possible for our customers to work around their other commitments – such as providing an accurate delivery time rather than a delivery day.

5. We don’t stick to our promises

That brings us neatly to the next point. Nothing angers a customer of client more than being let down. If you’ve waited in all day for a delivery and it doesn’t show up. If you ordered five items but only receive four. If you’re told you’ll get a delivery date with your purchase confirmation when buying online, but you don’t and you have to ring up. These are all common occurrences and they’re all infuriating to the customer.

If we say we are going to call at 10am, it is essential that we do so. And if we can’t, for whatever reason, we need to inform them as soon as possible. One of the biggest bugbear of customers is not that plans have had to change but they weren’t kept informed, and so were kept waiting, getting angrier as the minutes pass.

Most companies don’t collect data on these issues so don’t know how often it happens. These moments of truth are a key reason why customers complain and ultimately leave us. Do you know how often you break your promises?

6. We overpromise and under-deliver

It is not uncommon for salespeople to promise the world and for clients to come crashing back down to earth when they finally get in front of the person who will be delivering their product or service.

Overpromising is surprisingly common, given the damage it can do to a company’s reputation and customer loyalty. It is most often the precursor to number 5, breaking our promises.

It is essential we actually understand our own capabilities in terms of capacity, quality and delivery, so that customers are given an accurate picture. And then if you’re able to do more, they’ll be blown away!

7. We provide inconsistent customer care

Do all your customers get the care they deserve or does it depend on who they get to deal with in your organisation?

Some staff will go out of their way to support your customers but can you say that about all of your employees? The ones who do go out of their way will delight your customers and you will win more business but those that don’t drag you down.

When did you last look at the skills and capabilities of your staff in all areas in terms of customer care? Even technical people have to deal with customers so make sure they have the skills to do so. We need to standardise the care that customers get to a consistently high level.

We don't talk their language

We have a great ability to get used to talking in our own language in business.

We use acronyms and terminology that we understand but is meaningless to our customers and clients. We see webpages which seem to be written for internal rather than external consumption for all the sense they would make to a layman. The same issue occurs in proposals.

We need to take a step back and remember who we are talking to. Using ‘industry-specific’ language to someone who is not in your industry and doesn’t have the level of knowledge necessary can come across as condescending or pompous: As a customer the last thing you want is to have to ask for clarification on terms you don’t understand and which are not necessary.

Tone down the language and remember to KISS it – Keep it simple, stupid. While it’s more common in B2B, this still happens in B2C. So, are you guilty of this transgression?

9. We add in features which we think are great but the customer is not interested in

This one is tricky for many businesses to grasp, but it is not adding value for a customer if they don’t actually want the extras you’re offering. And, usually, most of these extras come with a cost so price goes up, complexity goes up and it takes longer to provide.

When designing a product or service we constantly get carried away with adding features or options which engineers, salespeople or marketing teams think are a great idea, but no one has checked with the customer. They add time, cost and complexity to our products and services, without us knowing if they’ll add anything for the customer. If we add in a new feature do we know that it will increase sales?

It is only adding value if the customer thinks it is valuable, otherwise it is just an extra expense and something else to go wrong.

10. We can’t provide the product or service quickly enough

Customers want things quicker than ever, and it is a growing pressure on businesses. If they order with you and it’ll take three weeks for you to deliver, when they’ve had their goods within 48 hours in the past, they’ll be disappointed with the service.

And, importantly, it doesn’t really matter how good your communication on lead times is, if you’re up against someone who can deliver the same product in a shorter time frame, you’re likely to lose business.

Not telling your customers when they can expect their goods will only compound this as, as with number 4, they’ll get more annoyed with each passing day.

We all have the capability to let down customers. The secret is to know if you are and do something about it. We constantly come across clients who have the issues mentioned above but either don’t know they have them or don’t know what to do about it. The first step is to understand if you have any issues. If you have gone through the list above and said we do that or I don’t know if we do that then you need to do something about it.

We have helped companies all over the world to understand their current situation and to develop plans to improve it using simple approaches. Contact us today on 0800 066 3749 or email contact@100pceffective.com to find out how to make your customers happier.

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