“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected.”

― Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

The terms customer, vendor, buyer and seller have been around since commerce began. Yet as we enter the Age of the Customer, we have grown more concerned – even obsessed – with how the customer is treated, and rightfully so.

Good Customer Service Is a Major Marketing Asset

Positive customer experiences can generate business growth and opportunity. Happy customers are more loyal, less susceptible to competition, and more likely to refer business. The converse is also true. Negative customer experience can bring on a host of problems for the seller or vendor. We all know this. Yet, it is astounding to see how many businesses continue to treat the customer poorly, creating unpleasant interactions. Why is it so hard to ensure positive customer service experiences? What can explain the phenomenon of poor customer service when it’s the golden opportunity to build a company’s most valuable marketing asset?

An Inside Sales View of Customer Service Problems and Solutions

My experience as both a customer and inside sales process analyst has revealed several common causes of customer service problems — and recommended solutions.

Here are 10 common causes of pain in the customer support process, and 10 ways to increase the customer’s comfort and pleasure in doing business with us instead.

  1. Lack of empathy. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Care.”Solution: If you work with clients or customers in any role, you need to care about the problems they want solved. Show it by taking positive action to help them out.
  2. Poor or missing processes and policies. We hear this all the time. “We cannot do that” or “this is not our policy.” Any strict or inflexible practices that block customer loyalty and satisfaction should be revisited and adjusted. Sometimes, you may not have any process or policy in place to help the inside sales customer service representative resolve the customer issue promptly and easily.Solution: Address policies that hinder your ability to resolve issues. If you lack such processes, work to develop and implement some to resolve customer complaints quickly. A poor policy or a lack of a reasonable process otherwise continues to degrade your customer experience.
  3. Too much automation. There are times when automation can drive buyers crazy. Extreme frustration results when an automated system can’t respond to the buyer’s needs. When I have a difficulty as a buyer, I want to speak to a human who can empathize with my situation and help me out.Solution: Automation can help a company resolve issues quickly, only if it streamlines access to live help. It can seriously undermine the goal of good customer service if it fails to connect customers with real people at the appropriate time in the resolution process.
  4. Poor or no communication. There are two key parts to good communication. These are speaking and listening. The importance of listening is too often overlooked.Solution: It is imperative that customer resolution personnel listen more than they talk when working to resolve a customer’s issue. In addition to having exceptional listening skills it is important to communicate you’ve got the message. Summarize the issue for the customer to confirm that you understand their concern. Not only is this a comfort, it promotes calm, which is a positive catalyst when resolving issues.
  5. Poor or no follow through. “I’ll call you tomorrow to see if (whatever the representative promised) was completed.” Customers hear this, and too often the call does not come as promised. Nothing is more infuriating than lack of follow-up when someone is trying to have an issue resolved.Solution: Follow up promptly according to your promises.
  6. Growing too fast. When company experiences fast growth, revenue is often re-invested in income-producing activities like sales. In some cases, customer service is seen as an expense rather than a place to invest to retain customers.Solution: Check whether your growth has outpaced the size of your inside sales customer service staff. Failing to balance your re-investment is risky. Serving your existing customers well is just as important as acquiring new customers. It’s harder to obtain new clients if you dissatisfy your current ones.
  7. Unskilled personnel. Employees need training, coaching and mentoring. This was never more important than it is now.Solution: Inside sales customer service representatives are constantly interacting with your company’s most precious assets, your customers. You may already provide initial coaching, training mentoring. But ongoing and consistent interaction with inside sales customer service representatives is imperative as well.
  8. A business culture that is not customer centric. The customer service attitude among your management shows in all they do. It will be passed along to employees, and will have a profound effect on how employees treat customers.Solution: If management builds a company culture that values the customer experience, and works to keep each and every customer happy, then that will resonate with how your representatives service your customers.
  9. Lack of problem resolution skills. Empathy is just one of the most important skills that an inside sales customer service representative must possess.Solution: Creativity and intuition are key skills to identifying problematic internal constraints. Leverage a full set of skills to root out causes and come up with the best solutions to customer issues.
  10. Lack of accountability. Many times when you need a resolve an issue you pray that one individual will take ownership and accountability for your concern. There may not be a person who steps up to do so.Solution: Resolving issues may involve multiple skill levels and a coordinated process to get customers the answers they need. For example, technology issues often require a teamwork approach to solve. Wouldn’t it be great if a person or a system could orchestrate tasks and take care of reporting progress from start to finish?

Understanding the causes of poor customer service is the first step to improving what your customers have to say and share about you.

Overcoming these risks to customer satisfaction apply whether you are selling items on a street corner, selling luxury goods from a retail store, offering goods online, selling subscriptions, enterprise software products, or any type of products or services.

Providing high quality customer support is as important as meeting your sales numbers.

Taking good care of your customers ensures that you build a team of satisfied and loyal fans who become a powerful force for growth.