Exposing (and Correcting) the 3 Biggest Customer Service Myths

If customers are our most valuable resource, it is our duty to serve them with quality products and helpful assistance when they need it.

We have CRM systems to manage our relationships with our customers, we have staff trained to serve them, and yet most of us are operating our customer service departments based on a set of outdated concepts or myths. To truly improve customer service to the level that our most valuable resources deserve, it is time to bust those myths.

Customer Service Myth #1:
Customers complain when they have a problem.

According to Salesforce.com, less than 25 percent of customers actually complain when they have an issue. An astounding 70 to 90 percent never complain at all. And when complaints are made, only one out of every four reach a manager.

Moreover, statistics show that instead of complaining to you, customers will tell an average of three people bad things about you. It's like the evil twin to the "pay it forward" phenomenon.

Most customers won't take the time to complain because they feel it's either too difficult to reach the appropriate representative or they are not confident in the company's ability to quell their concern.

Myth #1: Corrected

Just because customers may not seek you out when they have a problem does not mean they will all silently walk away. Reach out to them on a regular basis. After all, the best way to measure customer satisfaction is by simply asking your customers. Moreover, give them a variety of channels in which they can engage and interact with you. Having a customer service phone line is no longer adequate, as more consumers are turning to live chat, social media, and videoconferencing as ways to communicate with companies. The more options you provide, the more likely they will reach out for help.

Customer Service Myth #2:
Customers prefer automated channels; they don't want live agents.

A recent American Express survey found that 65 percent of consumers prefer speaking to a live agent via phone or in person for issues such as product assistance or returns, which increases to 76 percent as issues get more serious. Moreover, less than 10 percent prefer Web or email assistance and only one in five have used social media for customer service within the past year.

Myth #2: Corrected

Offer automated channels, use social media to engage influencers and create a stage for evangelists, and develop and improve the personal connections live agents offer your customers. Teaching customer service agents to really listen to consumers is key to customer satisfaction. Effective listening allows consumers to feel acknowledged, understood, and accepted. Moreover, it encourages them to be more open and forthcoming with their problems.

Customer Service Myth #3:
It's better to invest in marketing and advertising than customer service.

The best way to grow and sustain a business is to keep your existing customers happy.

There are many successful companies, such as Costco, Rolls Royce, Krispy Kreme, and Kiehl's, that do not advertise. According to ABC News, "for these companies, consumers' experiences with these products have been more valuable in establishing their place in people's hearts than any Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears could achieve, say marketing experts."

Myth #3: Corrected

Instead of throwing significant funds into a new marketing campaign in hopes of gaining new customers, invest in the ones you already have. Give your employees customer service tools, such as desktop and speech analytics, to help improve the customer experience. Invest in your customers and your customer service initiatives, and your bottom line will thank you.

If you thought you were on the right track by addressing the customer complaints you get, automating your feedback channels, and spending resources on marketing to new prospects, you are not alone. These are the myths that plague many businesses. By correcting the misconceptions and focusing on what your customers really need, you can improve customer service, establish a great reputation, and increase your bottom line.

Michael Nahmias is the academy supervisor at SysAid, a provider of customer-driven IT service management solutions.

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