It’s no secret that contacting customer service isn’t high on many people’s list of favorite things to do. In fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by Aspect, a majority (58 percent) say they usually have low expectations of customer service. As consumers continue to be disappointed by brands’ level of care, are companies thinking about what it’s really costing them?

The ramifications of bad customer service can have a costly impact on a business. Apart from losing the specific customer with a less than ideal experience, it can have a halo effect that many companies haven’t even considered. When it comes down to it, what you don’t know can hurt you.

  1. You don’t know who’s on the other line. Your customer service agents could be talking to a harmless consumer with no intentions of sharing their experience, good or bad. But they could also be talking to a social media user with a few hundred followers or a writer for a website that reaches millions of readers daily. In one example, a writer for a well known website discussed at length his bad customer service experience with Comcast. Now, perhaps I ran across this article because I am an executive for a customer service company. But I could have also stumbled across this as a loyal reader of the site or someone who Googled potential cable service providers. The effect of something as little, or what some companies think is as little, as ONE bad customer experience may be more damaging than you ever imagined.
  2. You don’t know who’s waiting in the wings. Vocal customers aren’t the only ramification of bad customer service that’s hard to anticipate. Competitors are always secretly awaiting their opportunity to poach unhappy customers at a moment’s notice. Let’s stay with the Comcast example — DirecTV is one such provider that directly compares its services and reputation, including customer satisfaction, to that of Comcast by strategically monitoring Twitter looking for dissatisfied Comcast customers. A conveniently placed advertisement, a positive customer service ranking, a well-timed mailer or direct message on Twitter are all it takes to add a new brand to a customer’s consideration set.

It’s a hard pill for some companies to swallow, but bad customer service can be as detrimental as good service can be beneficial.  The key is to empower your agents to offer exceptional experiences and providing customers the channels, issue resolution and positive attitudes to keep them coming back. Don’t get yourself caught in the trap of being associated with negative experiences because you never know who’s on the other line or waiting in the wings.