How to Eliminate Customer Service Issues that Annoy Customers

Every year, the customer service industry is treated to a ‘Worst of’ list of companies – typically banks, airlines and cable or cell phone providers – who have received recognition for delivering astonishingly bad customer service.


In fairness, these companies are sometimes the victims of misguided customer expectations – though that often indicates a failure to properly communicate what realistic expectations should be to the customer.

In many cases, however, they are…well…simply delivering really bad customer service. While the extremes are usually well-publicized (being dragged off a plane by your foot comes to mind), it is the more routine blunders that tend to get companies branded as bad purveyors of customer service.

And more importantly, these actions lead to customers who don’t want to do business with a particular company.

A recent article at MarketingProfs - The Customer Service Issues That Annoy Consumers Most – explored the data behind some of the customer service behaviors we most dislike. Topping the list: uninformed agents, long wait times, unfriendly agents and complicated automated systems. 

It is interesting that two of these ‘most disliked customer service issues’ are agent-related, and two are technology- or policy related. The good news is that all of these are largely addressable issues.

Training & Coaching: Making Half of Your Brand’s Problems Go Away

The agent-related actions – unknowledgeable or unfriendly agents – can be easily overcome with proper training & coaching. Uninformed agents, which tops the list of most disliked behaviors, is particularly vexing for me as a training- & coaching-focused Quality Assurance pro…mostly because these issues are completely avoidable.

If your agents need some assistance with these two behaviors, give us a call.

How Long Should Wait Time Be? Well, How Important is Your Brand Reputation?

The other two challenges among the top four – long wait times and difficult-to-use automation – are driven more by company policies relating to call center staffing and IT. With wait times, brands need to weigh the long-term value of losing a customer against their agent staffing budgets – and they need to factor in the impact on brand reputation.

That’s a key consideration in the era of social media sharing and instant global communication - brand reputation is easy to lose…and much more difficult (and time-consuming) to recoup.

[By the way, wait times are subjective. How? Check out this article from a few years ago: Wait times and patient satisfaction: Perception is reality.]

Phone Automation That Demands a PhD
Be honest: how many times have you decided that you “still own a rotary phone” in order to get to an agent faster?

While most customers would prefer to speak with a real, live human being, the sheer volume of calls can make automated phone systems (interactive voice response systems, or IVRs) a necessity. Some of these automated phone systems work better than others, to be sure. But in many cases, the complexity of menus makes them almost unnavigable. At best, they are a time-wasting gatekeeper that delays callers from reaching an agent.

How much do callers dislike them? From an April, 2017 Huffington Post article:

“When we asked respondents their opinions about IVRs being the most common entrée to customer service help, the results were almost uniformly negative. Only 10 percent were satisfied with their experience and approximately 35 percent of respondents found the systems difficult to use. Just 3 percent actually liked using the IVR service.”

Don’t Make Me Repeat Myself.
Another customer service automation blunder is systems that repeatedly ask the caller to repeat themselves. It’s something that has happened to all of us: one or two minutes into a call, you find yourself shouting, “Talk to an Agent!!!” into the phone for the thirteenth time, only to be told “Thank you. We’re now transferring you to the Technical Engagement Office.”

If these systems could hear and measure the frustration in your voice, they’d be smart enough to know the time is right to get you to a live person, stat.

In both of these cases, companies may want to revisit how their IVR decision trees are set up, and look for ways to trim or restructure their menu in order to simplify the process for callers.

The Future of Customer Service?
One really interesting takeaway from the research (and a topic I discussed in an earlier post)  was the increasing prominence of chat as a customer service channel:

“Consumers rate online chat as the easiest-to-use customer service channel; email ranks second, followed by phone.”

You can read the full article here.