The importance of customer service
Customer service is essentially how you handle the problems faced by your consumers and the strategy you adopt to solve customer problems.
Now here are some crucial reasons why you should focus on good customer service and reduce common customer complaints :
- Provides good buyer experience and leads to increased buyer satisfaction levels;
- Helps in retaining customer loyalty and build lasting relationships which result in repeat purchases and reducing customer churn
- Promotes brand reputation and enhances chances of increased opportunities for sales that are a result of positive word-of-mouth, recommendations and online feedback/reviews
- Gives you the upper hand amongst your competitors as you become the “customer’s choice”
- Paying attention to customer issues helps you get business insights on how you can improve your products and your overall services
Overview of common customer service problems
Some of the common customer problems and complaints which most sellers face are:
- Product quality
- Pre-sales or post-sales service
- Shipping or delivery
- Absence of communication/timely response to the buyer
- Payment, returns or refund
- Unfair company policies
1. Communication Issues
Why do communication issues occur? What steps can you take to solve common customer problems and complaints? Let’s look at the following issues in a little detail:
A. Language barriers
Not being able to speak the same language as the customer can turn out to be the topmost communication issue; this can be a key issue when dealing with international customers. Language barriers can be of two types – spoken and technical.
These barriers arise because of the following reasons:
- Limited proficiency in the spoken or written language
- Lack of self-confidence to address customer issues
- Localization of regional accents and dialects
- Cultural differences
- Lack of technical knowledge
- Various legal and policy requirements in different regions
While there are no foolproof solutions for everything, you can use these strategies:
- Implement language support strategies such as employing bilingual staff or utilising translation services
- Invest in training yourself and your staff for being sensitive and respectful towards various cultural differences
- Encourage your customers to provide simple yet detailed description of their problems
- Listen, understand and then provide a solution – if required, ask more questions
- Simplify technical jargon by using non-technical explanations
B. Misunderstandings due to unclear instructions
Another factor that leads to misunderstandings and frustration among customers is getting unclear instructions. How to resolve them:
- Be precise and clear with instructions
- If possible, provide the instructions in a step-by-step format
- Add screenshots or images to provide clarity
- Use the language translator to provide the instructions in your customer’s known language
- If you are still not clear about the exact issue then seek more information from the buyer
C. Ineffective listening skills
Ineffective listening skills can be a roadblock to understanding common customer service issues.
This can be attributed to:
- Lack of interest
- External distractions
- Poor listening skills
- Preconceived notions
- Past experiences
- Lack of empathy
- Language barriers
Use these tips to start listening effectively to your customers:
- Letting the customer talk about the issue
- Understand the issue to find out the root of the problem
- Try to paraphrase the issue to confirm your understanding
- If something is not clear do not hesitate to ask and seek clarity
- Stay focused on the customer problem and show interest in solving the issue
- Be patient and non-judgemental
2. Long Wait Times
We’ve all been taught that good things come to those who wait – but this usually frustrates your customer when waiting a long time for your response or a solution! Long wait times, whether it is on customer service phone calls or waiting for response over email is something that customers dislike.
There could be several reasons that contribute to long wait times:
- High volume of queries
- Insufficient staffing
- Technical issues such as system downtime, network congestion, high volume of customer connects, dependence on third-party services, etc
- Lack of process/product knowledge
- Inefficient process/ lack of automation
Long wait times may be resolved if the following is taken into consideration:
- Ensure adequate staffing
- Implement self-help options such as video tutorials, troubleshooting guides/frequently asked questions, virtual assistants, etc
- Get automated processes in place
- Streamline system and processes
- Assign response times basis issue
- Monitor and analyse, in a timely manner, complaints
3. Unresolved Complaints
Unresolved complaints can be disappointing for everyone involved. If complaints are left unattended or unresolved, they will simply keep piling up.
Why does a complaint stay unresolved?
- Inadequate information
- Miscommunication and communication gaps
- Delayed responses and lack of timely follow up
- Insufficient staffing or lack of escalation procedures
- lack of accountability
- Failure to address the root cause of the issue
How are you going to tackle these types of situations?
- Do a thorough investigation of the reported issue
- Maintain clear communication with your customers
- Be transparent with your policies
- Address complaints on time
- Be accountable for the reported issues and follow up
- Learn from the past experiences and be open to customer feedback
4. Rude or Unhelpful Representatives
If handling complaints on time matters, then the way they are handled should matter the most! Rude and unhelpful representatives are a drawback for any business.
Customer support should be able to manage customer problems. But at times this support system may not function as desired due to:
- High-pressure and workload
- Lack of training and support
- Process knowledge gaps
- Personal issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, grief, physical challenges, financial issues, etc
- Lack of motivation and poor attitude
- Restricted or controlled decision-making powers
Get your customer support to become impactful by:
- Providing appropriate and timely training on handling customer issues
- Having open discussions with teams on customer problems and possible solutions
- Empowering staff for faster decision making and reducing dependency
- Upskilling staff on existing processes and customer handling skills
5. Difficulty in Accessing Support
Customers may find it difficult to access the available customer support channels which can also lead to increased complaints and negative feedback. There could be various reasons for this not limited to:
- Limited or lack of availability of support channels
- Lack of automation systems
- Technical difficulties
- Complex support processes
- Lack of required resources / under-skilled support staff
- Language barriers
- Cultural differences such as communication styles, differing proficiency in understanding technology and varying expectations regarding response times
Here are some ways you can solve these issues:
- Prioritize automation to minimize wait times
- Offer multiple support channels
- Align to knowledge base software for self help such as using training videos, informative articles with diagrams, incorporating chatbots/virtual assistants; etc
- Provide enhanced communication and process training to staff
- Keep yourself updated and informed on customer feedback
- Invest in hiring multilingual staff or partnering with translation services
6. Product Knowledge Gaps
When a customer contacts a customer service team for common customer service issues, it is with an expectation to receive a solution. However, sometimes the customer support representative is not well equipped with the right response or solution. One of the major reasons is a product knowledge gap which may happen due to:
- Insufficient or ineffective training programs
- Too much of information or rapid updates
- Lack of training sessions on product changes
- No access to knowledge database/information
- Complex or highly technical products
- Lack of motivation or employee engagement
- Gaps due to miscommunication/misinformation
But these are certainly be controlled by (not limited to):
- Implementation of comprehensive training programs on a regular basis
- Regular refreshers on product/process updates
- Easy accessibility to clear and complete documentation of detailed and clear articles, guides and tutorials that cover a wide range of topics relevant to your product or service
- Cross-team collaborations and brainstorming on issues with possible solutions
- Encouraging knowledge sharing and feedback analysis
- Providing opportunities and rewards for professional development
- Developing a culture of continuous learning and development
7. Billing and Payment Issues
There are several reasons as to why a billing or payment issue is a common customer service issue. A buyer is going to report a payment issue for:
- Billing discrepancy
- Unauthorized charges
- Incorrect or additional shipping charges
- Delay in credit or refund
- Inadequate payment options
- Delayed or missing invoices
While all reported problems may not be within your control and at times the buyer needs to connect with his/her payment processing bank; however, there are certain steps that you can take at your end to keep these issues to a minimum such as:
- When sending an invoice, make sure you review it carefully to identify the specific charges
- Compare the invoice with the actual purchase and the payment made by the buyer
- In case of any report from the buyer, make sure you request for the relevant documentation
- Ensure that your customer support data is updated with the right records and information
- Keep a record of all your communication with your buyer
- Make sure you follow up with your buyer to check on the reported issue
- Have a dispute resolution process in place to handle these issues
8. Technical Problems
Technical issues can have a significant impact on your customer service and here are some examples of customer complaints and the possible solutions:
A. System downtime and outages
Technical issues such as system outage, network failure, website glitches or crashes lead to frustration and disappointment amongst customers. Due to this, it’s possible that the support volume requests increase, leading to slow or delayed response time which negatively impacts the customers. As the customer support representatives feel pressured under the high volume, it may result in them not providing the support in the expected manner. This will lead customers to have a negative perception of the seller being non-reliable or incompetent in providing quality services or support. Negative word-of-mouth and online reviews will further damage the seller’s reputation.
To handle these issues, it’s important to:
- Regularly monitor your systems and infrastructure to detect and address technical issues;
- Keep your website updated with notices of downtime or outage
- Ensure that your customer support staff is well equipped with information to handle these issues
- If there is an issue, let your customer know about it well in advance
B. Incompatibility issues
These issues are quite common in customer service which are a result of:
- Improper data integration of customer data across the systems
- Lack of omni-channel support that offers multiple modes of communication to customers
- Incompatibility on the various software applications or tools or customer relationship management (“CRM”)
- Website not compatible with customer devices or browsers
To address these issues, you may want to consider:
- Investing in integrated systems that enable seamless flow of data
- Enabling synchronisation of customer data from different customer support systems and platforms
- Enable support across multiple channels to meet customer preferences
- Provide ongoing support and training to customer support representatives
- Conduct regular tests of applications, software, CRM, etc. to check compatibility issues
9. Inconsistent Service Quality
When we talk about customer service, it all drills down to the quality of service provided to customers – whether they connect for a simple query or report a major issue. Customer service has different levels depending on the queries or concerns but in the end it’s all about the experience and satisfaction levels. But there are certain factors that contribute to an inconsistent service quality such as:
A. Discrepancies in service across channels
It’s always good practice to offer various support channels to your customers. However, customers may have different experiences depending on the channel of support they choose to connect with the support team which leads to discrepancies and customer dissatisfaction. These could happen due to:
- Different response times
- Difference in knowledge and expertise
- Different process/problem resolution process
- Different communication styles and service approach
- Non accessibility to customer data or interaction history
- Incomplete/unsynchronized customer data
In order to address the discrepancies across the various service channels, as a seller, you should consider the following steps:
- Establish consistent service processes and guidelines that apply across all customer service channels
- Equip your customer support with the necessary access to customer data/information
- Provide continuous training for support staff to handle customers to provide consistent experience across all channels
- Regularly monitor and assess performance of different channels to analyze and identify areas of improvement
B. Failure to meet service level agreements
Service level agreements (“SLAs”) refer to meeting the pre-defined agreements on performance targets and timelines on service commitments. If these are not met, it can impact the experience of the customer such as:
- Delayed response/resolution time
- Difficulties in reaching out to the support channel
- Lowered customer satisfaction and bad experience
- Loss in company reputation and customer loyalty
To get these issues addressed you need to:
- Study the reasons behind the failure to meet set SLAs
- Assess the existing SLAs to set realistic and achievable targets
- Streamline processes with workflows and enhanced training
- Establish collaboration between teams for smooth flow of information and efforts to meet SLAs
- Encourage feedback to implement continuous improvement
C. Inconsistent service training
Training is of utmost importance in customer service as it aims to address the different aspects involved in service such as quality, content and delivery of information.
Here are some of the consequences related to inconsistent service training:
- Knowledge gaps in understanding processes, company policies and product knowledge
- Ineffective communication resulting in inconsistency in information being provided to customers
- Variance in the quality of experience received by customers depending on the support channel
- Misunderstandings or ineffective solutions leading to customer dissatisfaction and escalations
To address these issues, you need to get the following implemented:
- Invest in effective training programs to cover important topics such as product knowledge, company policies, customer service skills and issue resolution techniques
- Set up standardised training processes to ensure consistency in resolution
- Build up processes for ongoing knowledge sharing and collaboration
- Establish quality assurance processes to monitor and evaluate customer interactions
- Provide customer support representatives with the necessary tools to deliver efficient customer service
10. When the Customer Gets Transferred from One Department to Another
Customers prefer being assisted by a single point of contact with whom they had connected previously and were provided with a solution in the past. They do not appreciate being transferred from one contact to another – that too with no assurance of the problem being solved.
There are several reasons why this happens:
- Knowledge gaps
- Complexity of the issue
- Specialization of departments
- Lack of communication skills and customer handling skills
- Various escalation matrix
- No access to certain resources
All this impacts the customer’s experience which in turn also impacts your business performance. Set out below are some measures to improve customer experience:
- Ensure that the customer support representatives are well trained on communication and handling of customers
- Create an escalation process and get it uploaded on your website as self help for customers
- Empower your customer support team with access to necessary tools/software/information that is required to provide solutions to customers
- Create a CRM/knowledge base/training library to clear knowledge gaps
- Conduct continuous cross-functional team trainings and meetups
- Activate a feedback system to monitor and analyse customer feedback to turn them into learnings and best practices
- Train your support teams to apply empathy and active listening in their customer interactions
In the global marketplace, customers and their problems are inevitable. It’s essential that as a business you address these issues and decide how you are going to manage common customer service problems.
We discussed the commonly faced issues and the possible solutions – however, there could be many more solutions beyond what has been described here. Since, you know your business best, it is you who can accurately anticipate possible problems and work out solutions.
Start by adopting the measures discussed above to let your customers know that they are valuable to you and your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How can language barriers affect customer service?
Language barriers can affect your customer service in many ways such as difficulty in understanding the exact issue and thereby making it challenging to provide a solution. Customers may find it difficult to understand the solutions which can also lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. One of the important factors is incomplete and incorrect information which can result in misunderstandings.
2. What can businesses do to improve communication and reduce misunderstandings?
In order to understand what are the problems faced by consumers and to improve communication as a business you need to invest in comprehensive process/product training programs on a regular basis, providing customer support representatives with access to complete and clear documentation, training on communication skills and customer handling etc.
3. How can companies address long wait times in customer service?
You need to ensure that you regularly monitor the performance of customer service staff to understand the exact issues causing the long wait times. Train your staff to handle issues efficiently within the expected handling time. Try to offer self-help options to your customers to reduce the contacts for common issues. Offer multiple communication channels for customer support, such as phone, email, chat, social media, or chatbots. Streamline your processes with the right technology and simplified workflows.
4. How can businesses tackle rude or unhelpful representatives?
Emphasize the importance of handling issues with professionalism and empathy amongst your customer service representatives. Make sure you clearly define service expectations by providing the necessary tools and trainings. Do not forget to monitor and provide coaching and feedback. Implement disciplinary measures for repeated instances.
5. What are the best ways to enhance accessibility and support for customers?
The best way to enhance accessibility and support for customers is to provide multiple ways to connect with your support teams. If required, provide multilingual support (the channels can be decided by you). Make sure that your customer support representatives have access to customer data and all the required information to provide the necessary support to customers. And above all ongoing and continuous training for customer support staff to improve the service.
6. How can businesses overcome technical problems in customer service?
To overcome technical issues faced by customers make sure you are investing in a strong and reliable infrastructure of hardware, software and people. Of course, additionally, it is also important to keep on regularly monitoring to detect possible technical issues and proactively solve them. Make sure you do have an alternative solution in place which will help customers during this time.
7. How important is it to address these common customer service problems promptly?
It is of utmost importance that as a business you address the common customer service issues promptly. Customers are just not the backbone of your business but also the marketing channels that promote your business through their experience. If not addressed with promptness it will lead to a negative experience thereby also impacting your business reputation.
8. What are some strategies to improve communication with non-English speaking customers?
- Hire customer service representatives who are fluent in multiple languages that may be spoken by your non-English speaking customers.
- Utilize language translating tools available online.
- Create a document with commonly asked questions and upload them on your website with easy accessibility for your customers.
- Invest in visual aids, since these help customers understand difficult concepts easily.
9. How can sellers enhance empathy among their customer service representatives?
Customers are not just looking for a solution of their problem, but they are affected by the manner in which the solution is provided to them. Train your support staff on the importance of empathy in customer service, how to understand and relate to customers’ emotions, and techniques for demonstrating empathy in their interactions. Role plays and case studies can help in illustrating how a positive and empathetic interaction can foster customer satisfaction. It’s also important that as a business you keep an open forum for sharing feedback and experiences which will encourage an open and healthy communication.
10. What measures can be taken to improve product knowledge among customer service teams?
Product and process trainings are very important for customer service representatives – these should be conducted on regular basis. Make sure you share timely updates on changes or improvements or issues with them along with the possible solutions. Set up a regular meetings between the customer service representatives and product/process specialists so that they can address the former’s issues. Your customer support representative has to be well-equipped with all the required information that will help them to answer customer queries.