Beware the Fallout of Bad Customer Service

By Norma Duenas

A recently released Harris Interactive study confirms that a bad customer service experience is enough to make the majority of consumers run for the hills. The study reported that 80 percent of 2,049 U.S. adults surveyed never go back to a business or organization after a bad customer service experience. The study indicated that an organization’s customer service level is one of the defining factors that will make or break a company.

Consumers have increasingly higher expectations of businesses, and they are willing to walk away quickly from a majority of businesses if these expectations are not met. Although a business may be attracting new customers, the key to growth is being able to retain existing customers while attracting these new customers; this is especially true of outsourcing call centers. The Harris study reflects how great customer service can significantly contribute to a company’s growth. Its findings indicate that 51 percent of consumers cited outstanding service as the reason that they continued to work with a company.

Many businesses fail to appreciate the value of customer loyalty and word-of-mouth exposure until it is too late. Interestingly, 74 percent of U.S. adults said that they would file a complaint as result of their negative experience or tell others about their bad experience. In addition, 60 percent indicated that the main reason for recommending a company was “outstanding service.” A customer’s negative experiences with a company’s customer service can quickly turn a pool of potential customers into a dry well.

An especially important population that customer care departments should be looking at is Hispanics. A First Customer Rage Survey from Language Line Services and CCMC revealed that 90 percent of Hispanic customers who had a problem with a service or product were extremely upset with both the problem and the way it was handled. In addition, Hispanics were more likely to threaten to contact the media or seek revenge. The tremendous growth of the Hispanic population and their current buying power represent a significant potential customer pool that companies should address when developing their customer service strategies.

How do you avoid becoming one of many companies whose customer numbers dwindle from bad customer service experiences? Here are several suggestions that will help make your customers’ experiences with your company better:

  • Have incentives in place when things go wrong. Undoubtedly, things will go wrong for some customers, no matter how much you try to make sure that every customer is pleased. The key to making sure that these customers remain and even become loyal to your company is to offer incentives that quickly resolve the problem and compensate for any inconvenience the customer has experienced.
  • Build a knowledge base of the problems that most frustrate customers, and build solutions that can get the issues resolved on the first contact with the customer. Although this might seem like a huge investment for some companies, this knowledge will pay for itself in the form of continuing customers.
  • Make it easy for customers to deal with you. The harder you make their life, the easier it will be for them to let you go and never come back. Most consumers lead busy lives with little time to deal with problems that they have with a company. The more ease with which a problem can get resolved for a customer on first contact without having to take additional steps, the more likely they will continue to work with your company.
  • Respond to concerns and questions quickly. The longer you take to respond to a customer’s concern or questions, the less positive their impression will be of your organization.

Norma Duenas handles business development for NomKa UK Communications, an inbound call center and answering service.

[From Connection Magazine December 2007]