Consumers losing interest in brands with customer service black holes

Nothing travels faster than bad news. Even in the pre-internet days, poor customer service experiences could be shared with enough people for a small business to lose a few customers. But now, if a business makes too many customer service mistakes, internet and social media sites make it possible for disgruntled customers to share their story with thousands of people in minutes.

Leading brands that have become complacent are being caught out all the time, not only for poor customer service but they way they deal, or fail to deal with customer service issues.

Customer Service Average is Unacceptable

In March 2008 eGain published research on the state of customer service in North America. The research involved six industries, consumer electronics, communications, financial services, retail, insurance and travel. Each was scored for customer service on a scale of 0-10, and all six sectors received a final score of less than 5, which indicated below average customer service.

on a scale of 0-10 […] all six sectors received a final score of less than 5, which indicated below average customer service.

eGain concluded that, “Survey after survey of consumers and business customers have confirmed that “me-too” customer service is no longer enough to create customer loyalty. Today’s leaders dominate their markets by out-innovating and out-doing competitors in customer service, while adding to top-line growth through point-of-service sales and marketing.”

Consumer Backlash to Bad Service

When consumers are let down by companies and they don’t get the response or help they need, they share their experience on websites like “Pissed Consumer”. The site contains consumer complaints against many major brands. For example, Best Buy, which is a Fortune 500 company, has 981 customer service complaints on the site. Complaints include grievances like failure to honor warranties, failure to deliver and schedule notification, deceptive warranty etc.

Some consumers have become so unhappy with the customer services of leading brands that they have set up sites to enable other consumers to share their disappointment in a particular brand. Dell Hell is one example of this.

Many well known brands with customer service issues have been caught out through their own social media marketing efforts. McDonald’s is just one of those companies that learned that social media can harm just as much as it can help, if your customer service is not up to scratch. According to an article in The Independent, McDonald’s used a paid service on Twitter, to promote their posts using the hashtag #McDStories. But the campaign backfired when disgruntled customers used the hashtag to share their McDonald’s dining horror stories.

These are just some of the signs that consumers are no longer prepared to tolerate poor customer service. They won’t just stop using the products and services of offending businesses, but they will share their experience with the world, and once a business is exposed, there is little that they can do to hide their mistakes.

Things to look for?

For a business to be successful online, they must provide better customer service than their competitors. Although some companies provide a knowledge base, few customers will spend time researching when a knowledgeable rep can simply provide a quick answer. For online companies – especially those selling higher priced items and those dealing with comfort – there are some best practices emerging consistently in companies that place increased importance on the service experience of their customers:

  • Easy access to service contact information
  • Knowledgeable and available reps
  • Trial periods
  • Clear and hassle-free return policies
  • Chat function with live reps
  • Short hold times, if any
  • Social media presence for Q&A
  • Real customer product reviews

It is clear that bad customer service is something that consumers will no longer tolerate, and even the biggest brands can’t afford to become complacent. In a world where information is shared freely and quickly, even average customer service is just not enough.

PARTICIPATE: What do you look for in great customer service?

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