Learning Reinforcement

5 Phrases to Guarantee an Unhappy Customer

By Susan Hall

5 Phrases to Guarantee an Unhappy Customer

The other day I went to a large tech store –to remain unnamed- to buy a printer that I had researched online. I had called ahead and it was in stock, so I anticipated a relatively short and uneventful trip. The service person behind the information desk directed me to “Charlie” in the printer section. Charlie was no where to be found, so I asked another service person for help. Long story short, 32 minutes, 3 service people and 6 paging announcements later, I was waiting in the back of a now long register line reading all about how CUSTOMER SERVICE IS OUR #1 VALUE –which was prominently displayed on the wall in front of me.

Hmmmm. Hasn’t some version of this happened to us all? And what’s really concerning, is that it happens so often. Look at any company website and it will describe how customer focus ”is our goal, and top differentiator.” So why is it that we so rarely experience great service?

In today’s hi-tech world, what we truly crave is High Touch – personalized attention that demonstrates that the person cares. Think of a great customer service interaction that you have had. Great service doesn’t mean giving away the store and breaking company policy. All of us just want to know that someone cares about our issue and is trying their best to solve our problem. Even if they have to say “No, we can’t do that, but here’s what we CAN do”, we leave the conversation feeling at least okay about the company and the interaction knowing that they have tried. We may not like the answer but we understand the reasoning and appreciate the service provider’s concern over our problem.

Here are 5 phrases that we hear too often and trigger that immediate, negative reaction. They should be eliminated from our vocabulary immediately because they communicate lack of empathy and compassion, the exact opposite of what we are looking for. Instead, we must change the way we interact to make sure that we display the attitude of a Problem Solver.

1. "I don't know." Period. As in, that's it.

Better response: “That’s a good question, let me check and find out.”

  • Be willing to help
  • Go the extra mile

Customer churn is caused by customer feelings of poor treatment 68% of the time.Source: TARP.

2. “I can’t do that.”

Better response: “I can help you in this way.”

  • Use a positive No. Don't tell customers that can't do, tell them what you can do.

It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one negative experienceSource: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner

3. "You'll just have to."

Better response: “You’ll need to …” And then offer to help where you can.

  • Don't be confrontational
  • Don't give orders to the customer

86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% 4 years ago.Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report

4. "Just a second."

Better response: “This may take a couple of minutes, are you able to hold/wait while I check on this?”

  • Be truthful to the customer. Give the caller a visual picture of how long your will be away from the phone or where you need to go to get the information.

Attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing oneSource: Lee Resource Inc.

5. "That's not my job." or "It's not company policy."

Better response: “What you’re asking is usually done by …, let me introduce you.” Or “we can’t do that because…. But here’s what we can do….”

  • Identify who, or what department has the responsibility for the task being requested or needed.
  • Offer to contact the individual/department yourself to explain the need instead of transferring the caller.

Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience.Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC

Great customer service is often in the details. The small things that people do to communicate that they care about us and that they are truly listening to understand. The best service providers see themselves as interested problem solvers and are passionate about helping. Ultimately, customers take notice and remember.

81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition. Source: Peppers & Rogers Group, Customer Experience Maturity Monitor

Can you afford an Unhappy Customer?

Published: May 13, 2021

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