Customer service has the power to make or break relationships. When a company shines its social spotlight on someone, helping him or her through an issue shared on Facebook or Twitter, it can turn an irate loose cannon into a customer for life.
Or not. Because when customer service reps misinterpret a situation—or worse, fall back on shelf-stocked lines to placate angry customers—they can wave goodbye to that customer for good. See ya! In fact, there’s a whole ouch-worthy subdomain on the Fail Blog exploring customer service fails.
But there’s help. Below we’ve compiled some of the worst one-liners customer service reps have used, plus suggestions on how to avoid them in future.
1. “You did that wrong.”
It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for that one unresolved bad one, according to “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner. So if a customer takes the time and effort to get through to a customer sales rep and the first thing they hear is, “This is your fault,” how likely do you think they are to come back?
Instead, try using an empathic response such as, “I understand you’re having some difficulty; let’s go through it together.” Empathy is the easiest way to help a frustrated customer feel less like gauging someone’s eyes out.
2. “That’s not something I can help you with.”
News of bad customer service reaches twice as many ears as praise for good customer service, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. So telling a customer that you can’t help is guaranteed to get passed around to friends and family – otherwise known as potential customers.
If a customer is asking a technical question that’s beyond the agent’s understanding, the agent should explain that they are not an expert, and then help the customer get directly in touch with someone who can solve the problem.
3. “I know the answer” — when they don’t.
According to a recent study carried out by Harris Interactive, service agents fail to customers’ questions 50 percent of the time. What compounds that number is when a customer service agent feels like they have answered the question—or pretends like they have.
It’s okay to let a caller know that you need to contact the right person for them to get the needed answer. Customers connect to honesty far more than to a fudged answer, so be truthful and be as resourceful as you can.
4. “I promise we’re adding this new feature.”
They say an elephant never forgets, but customers have long memories too. Promising to add a new feature may make a customer feel heard in the short term, but if that same customer comes back (whether it’s in a week, a month, or a year), they’re going to feel like your feature promise was just a platitude to get them off the phone. And let’s be honest: It probably was.
Instead, explain to a customer that you’re listening to all suggestions in regards new features and that their specific request has been noted, although it might not be acted upon immediately. This can make them happy without putting you under pressure.
5. “Sorry (or sorry-not-sorry).”
A customer service rep in another part of the world apologizing because they can’t solve a customer’s problem doesn’t fix anything. In fact, it can make a problem seem a lot worse, as sorry could imply guilt.
It’s also unlikely that the person in customer service was the cause of the problem, so a customer will always feel that it’s not a genuine response. What customers want to hear is, “I can try to fix this problem.” Being solutions-focused makes them feel like you are genuinely trying to help.
6. “I’ll have so-and-so call you back in 5 minutes.”
Saying you’re going to have to call someone back isn’t itself a bad thing. But by casually dropping in the ‘five minutes’ promise means that customer is going to be sitting next to the phone waiting for an immediate call back.
If you do need to call someone back, don’t offer a time, so at least a customer can get on with the day. Ask the customer what time works for a return call, so your agents can call back at their earliest convenient time.
7. “Thank you for your feedback.”
Customer service centers like to ensure consistency in how agents talk to people by using scripts. Which is fine… most of the time. However, when thanking someone for their contribution, many of us have become over familiar with the stock sentence, “Thank you for your feedback.” It sounds robotic, and dishonest.
“The impersonal tone and risk of poor information are formidable. And more importantly, merchants are missing an opportune moment to connect with current and prospective customers,” according to the Annual Mystery Shopping Study by the E-tailing Group. Use the chance to connect by making it unique to you.
An agent should never say nothing. Ever. Even during that moment when he or she has to go and research something or pull up your account. That dead space can make a caller feel anxious, and can lessen their opinion of the company.
According to the Touch Agency, 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated. Instead, rather than letting the customer sit in silence, use it as an opportunity to chat informally. A customer will feel more like they’re talking to a person than to a script, which will help make the decision to stay with your company that much easier.
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