As I scroll deep into the archives of the “bad customer service” category on my blog I’m reminded that my goal in writing about customer service has always been to observe the bad experiences and use them to fuel learning and improvement. Here are some of my favorite scary customer service encounters and some tips for transforming them into scary good customer service experiences.
Scary Encounter #1: Misinform customers.
My first ever blog post was inspired by a haunting experience at a restaurant in the Salt Lake City airport. I watched a customer ask one employee for coffee. The employee signaled that the customer could walk another 10 feet or so to the cashier to place their order. When the customer made it to the cashier they were informed that the restaurant didn’t even have a coffee maker, let alone coffee. The customer was so upset that they left the other items they were going to purchase on the counter and walked out.
Scary Good Tip #1 - Get it right the first time. Customers contact support because they can’t do something on their own. Giving them inaccurate information renders customer service useless and wastes everyone’s time. Make sure you get it right and always look to answer questions customers might not know to ask based on what you as the expert know they’ll need.
Scary Encounter #2: Be unprofessional and put customers in awkward positions.
I once had a bone chilling shopping experience where the cashier was deep in conversation with a coworker, gossiping about one of their colleagues while ringing up my items. I was largely ignored for most of the experience until at one point they turned to me and tried to loop me into the conversation. It was weird, awkward, and unprofessional.
In another frightening encounter I entered a sandwich shop and one of the employees greeted me with the least friendly, most annoyed tone possible. I still laugh about this one because a greeting is intended to welcome the customer and this was anything but.
Scary Good Tip #2 - Focus on the customer and have a good attitude. Let’s steal a page from Disney on this one where they refer to employees as “Cast Members.” This means that when you are working, your workplace is a stage and you are a performer. This is the time to give your very best. When you’re on stage, give the customer your complete focus, choose a great attitude, and leave any personal issues and baggage backstage.
Scary Encounter #3: Make customers repeat their story many times.
On another horrific shopping occasion I was frustrated after being upsold by an employee for the hundredth time (at least it felt that way). I questioned how they didn’t have a record that I had said “No” the previous ninety-nine times — and yet they continued to ask. It was upsetting to know that the store was clearly not paying attention to my needs and preferences as a customer.
Scary Good Tip #3 - Track customer needs and preferences. No customer wants to continue to repeat themselves over and over again. When they contact customer service with a concern, they want to know they’ve been heard and understood. Always note what was said and promised during a customer interaction so that if they ever have to contact support again about that issue, the next person that works with them can pick up right where you left off.
Scary Encounter #4: Don’t honor your promises.
Upon entering another sandwich shop I was spooked to learn that they were no longer honoring a buy one get one free coupon. Apparently they had made a bad decision to offer that coupon in the first place and lost a bunch of money in the process. Similar to giving customers inaccurate information, promising customers one thing and then not following through is a surefire way to upset them.
Another harrowing example is this encounter where my team told a customer that they owed $400 when they really owed $9. The customer responded by calling us idiots — and they were right — we were idiots.
Scary Good Tip #4 - Meet or exceed customer expectations and follow through on all promises. Customers love to do business with people and companies they can consistently trust. This especially applies to anything having to do with time and money. If you promise to reply to a customer or call them back within a certain timeframe, it’s best to be a little early. If you issue a coupon or quote a certain price, that’s the price the customer should see when they receive their bill. Never promise anything you can’t make good on.
Scary Encounter #5: Make the customer go the extra mile.
I once was terrified after purchasing some items from the garden center at a department store. The cashier accidentally charged me twice for an item. Immediately after receiving my receipt I spotted the error. I was then informed that I had to walk to customer service on the other end of the store to have the error fixed. I was the one who had to put the effort forth to fix the problem. Any time physical effort is involved in resolving a problem, the idea of customer effort takes on entirely new meaning.
This totally reminded me of a hair-raising time when a rental car company moved but didn’t post their new location online or at their old location.They also didn’t apologize for making me walk a mile to their new office.
Scary Good Tip #5 - Take ownership for the customer until their problem is no longer a problem. Great customer service professionals are both empowered and encouraged to do this consistently. This could be an associate at a store walking the customer to the appropriate location to find an item rather than simply telling them where to go. It could be a contact center agent offering to conference in the other company that’s actually responsible for the problem. Whatever the situation, take responsibility from start to finish and don’t pawn the customer off on someone else or leave them hanging altogether.
Wow, that was scary, wasn’t it? And that was just five scary customer service experiences. If you’re a customer service professional reading this post, take a moment to share a scary customer experience of your own and how it helped you be scary good at your job.
Also, note that a thesaurus may have been used in the writing of this post. Some of these experiences probably weren’t actually as scary as I tried to make them sound.