The 6 Deadly Sins of Customer Service

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Many companies preach a good game of customer service, yet are really signaling right and turning left. They have all kinds of signs and slogan around stating that “The customer is number one.” But what they actually do is not customer friendly. Mother was right when she told us, “Actions speak louder than words.”

What about your organization?

Are you guilty of any of these customer service deadly sins?”

  1. Putting your customers through “phone hell.”

You know this one. I’m sure you’ve experienced it as a customer many times. You call, only to get an automated response system that is not customer friendly. You have to wade through 10 options, three or four times and you never have the choice to talk to a real person. You are caught in a trap.

2. Closely related to this is the “voice mail jail”.

What was once meant to be a boost for employee’s productivity in that they could work for a time uninterrupted by the phone is now being misused.  I know of several people who never answer their telephone. Everything rolls over into voice mail so it can act as a shield from their customers. Then there are the people who never change their message. Why should they bother to tell people they will be out of the office for a week, for instance? Just let them call again and again. Who cares that it is wasting the customer’s time?

3. Then there is the sin of lack of responsiveness.

The maximum amount of time you should allow to pass before you reply to something is 24 hours. Any longer than that and people are wondering what has happened to you. This goes for voice mail, e-mail and faxes. If you don’t have the answer to the question they asked or are still looking for the information they wanted, let them know the status of their request.

4. Making the customer go through too many channels and wait too long to resolve a complaint.

Research shows that 95 percent of complaining customers will return if their complaint is settled quickly. Quickly means on the spot or a short time later. It does not mean five days later after making the customer go through two levels of management to get their complaint resolved. It does not mean sending a form letter that the customer will receive in two weeks.

5. Having discourteous employees.

Customers often judge the quality of the service you sell or how good a product is by how courteous your employee are. It’s “no-brainer” stuff like a sincere smile and eye contact that says, “you are important to us.” It’s listening to the customer and showing that you are listening through your body language. It’s taking you to the item you want instead of an employee grunting “over there.” Discourteous is also not acknowledging the customer when they walk in the door. You know, you’ve experienced this scenario. The salesclerks are all talking about what a great weekend they had and consider you an interruption in their day.

6. Employees that are not trained properly.

They don’t know how to work a register or the steps they need to take to serve you. I experienced this recently at a rental car agency. It was the agent’s second day on the job and she had no idea of the procedures she needed to follow to rent me a car. A co worker (also very busy renting cars) had to help her while helping other customers. Obviously they had not given the new employee enough training and figured she would learn as she went along, therefore wasting the customer’s time.


So what are your favorite customer service sins? Is your organization committing any of them?

trevina broussard head shotAbout Trevina Broussard

I share valuable Customer Service tips and insights for front line managers and employees on how to deliver customer service to keep your customer coming back. The name of the game is customer loyalty and it’s not just about satisfaction. It’s about a willingness to be a repeat buyer, willingness to recommend you to others, and resistance to switching to a competitor. Fortunately I learned this lesson through my 15-year corporate career. Poor service is an all-too-frequent experience for us all. I provide a framework for implementing ongoing processes that can build customer loyalty.