Bad Customer Service

Bad customer service experiences are sometimes the only way we can learn what constitutes good service.  We all have experiences that linger in our memories of how we were poorly treated or overlooked.

Take your worst experiences and you have the potential to examine what kind of service you want to provide by first identifying what makes bad service.  It does not take long to recreate that experience in your mind and ask yourself "what would have made me really happy in that situation?"

Now you have a clear idea of how you would handle the same, or similar, situation and provide your customers with a resolution that will meet their needs. I admit I have made some customer service mistakes along the way, but for the most part I give to my customers what I want for myself.

First let's look at some bad customer service mistakes and examples.  I will share some of my own experiences as a customer and what I would do to solve these issues.

5 Bad Customer
Service Mistakes to Avoid

1) Not resolving the customer's issues or skimping on the fix

This is a common one where the customer has an issue with an order and rather than give the customer options to resolve the issue, you go the easy route for what turns out to be a cheap fix.

Bad customer service example 1#

I made a first time purchase from a well known supplier online. I ordered one gross French barrette clips to solder some hair clips.  The order arrived short one piece. I emailed the company to let them know the order was short.  They apologized and said they would credit me for my next order.

Okay... so you may be thinking how is that bad customer service?  While the company wasn't rude to me they made a big mistake not going the extra mile.

The first mistake is that when someone orders for the first time they are still in the stage of establishing trust.  This is the time to make sure their experience is as flawless as possible.

Their second mistake was making the assumption that I would place another order. The third was not going over their practices to better understand what works and what doesn't. Overall the result was bad customer service.

Although the cost of the barrette clip did not amount to much, unlike a bead among many beads, it was a functional item that I needed.  A credit to my Visa would have made no real difference to my account and a credit with a company I may never order from again is absolutely useless.

On the other hand, having the missing clip would be useful.  When I finished soldering all the barrettes, I certainly could have used that clip. Think of what it would really take to package that clip and send it off.  It might cost the company two dollars to send it, but what would they gain?  The trust of their customer.

Essentially the company was telling me that it wasn't that important and that it didn't matter if I would not be a returning customer, however, the only way I could get my money back is to order from them again.  This is a common customer service mistake because the company does not understand that is not about the dollar amount it is about garnering trust.

Had they treated my issue with some level of care they would have won my trust.  If they had, I can say without a doubt that I would gladly shop there again.  As it stands I still have that dissatisfied feeling that prevents me from ordering from them again.  I am left with the feeling that the company sees a missing item as a petty complaint.

When it comes down to it, many people will not complain about small problems with an order.  Even though the feelings are strong, often times, people will talk themselves out of complaining because it makes them uncomfortable. They feel that the problem has to be "substantial" or "justified."  But, that won't stop them from feeling disappointed.

So, they don't complain, but they are left with a strong impression of your business and that prevents them from ordering again.  When a customer complains treat it like an honour that they have had the courage to come forward no matter how small the complaint may seem.

In my business I guarantee my work one hundred percent and when a customer has an issue with one of my pieces I take care of it right away.  If I have made a mistake, or inconvenienced the customer in any way, I often send them a small gift along with fixing the issue as my way of saying they matter.

When you are building trust it's important to go the extra mile.  For the little it will cost you, in the end you will have a loyal and happy customer.  At the very least give your customers options such as a refund for the item, sending a new item in the mail, or a credit for the next order... whichever they want. The important thing is that the customer chooses what will make them happy.

They feel empowered because the choice is theirs and there is no battle to fight. Spending a few extra dollars to keep a customer happy is all part of creating customer loyalty. Losing a couple of dollars to make things right is far better than losing sales because of bad customer service.

2) Not Showing Appreciation

This is a simple one on the bad customer service list, but it is surprising how many people get this one wrong.  It is the attitude that says "You need us. We don't need you."  What does it take to look someone in the eyes and say "Thank you?"  It is surprising how many companies do not train their employees to thank their customers.

I have been shopping at my local grocery store for over 25 years and, eight times out of ten, they don't bother to thank me for my purchase.  The store was recently taken over by new owners.  Sometimes I just remind the cashiers that it's nice to say thank you, but this one day I had just had enough and I asked to speak to the owner.

He was a nice young guy and I told him how long I had been shopping there and asked how much would it take to get a simple thank you.  He took the time to hear me and thanked me for my input.  After that, eight times out of ten, the cashiers still don't say thank you.

This is the local store and many people in the neighbourhood shop there because it's convenient.  The prices aren't great, the service is marginal, and the store is not huge, but it's convenient.  Just think if the store actually showed appreciation for their customers how much more they would sell.

My guess is that, like me, most of the people in the neighbourhood do not buy all their groceries there.  They just buy a few things that they need until they can get out to a larger store with better prices and selection.  However, if they made a concentrated effort to eliminate some simple bad customer service mistakes I'm sure that their sales would increase.

When I serve a customer I make sure to make good eye contact, give them a heartfelt thank you and I wish them a good day.  When customers visit my booth and return later to my booth to make a purchase, I make sure to say "Thank you for coming back." 

This way I have also acknowledged the effort they made to find my booth again and I let them know that I remembered them from earlier.  It's just a nice thing to do.

3) Not Giving the Customer What You Promised

When a customer visits your website what they see is what they should get.  Having fabulous photos is a must, but the product should equal the photo.  If there are substantial changes to your product then the photo should be updated to match the new product.

If the stones in the earrings vary in shade then it's important to make a note in your product description, clearly stating, that the natural stone may vary in shade and then always try to send out a product that is as close to the photo as possible.

Sometimes if the change is minute, such as a slightly different ear wire, it will not matter too much, but the difference must not be noticeable.  By the same token if you claim to ship orders in one to three business days then it is important to do so.

If there is any reason you cannot deliver on what you have promised, it's a good idea to communicate that to your customers. If you are showing items in stock and your website allows customers to purchase the items, make sure those items are in stock. 

Keeping good track of your inventory and adjusting your website accordingly  will save you the trouble of having to email customers, after they purchase, with a refund and an apology. 

Getting the interest and the trust of customers is something you do not want to lose.  Once customers have followed through and purchased for the first time, you want to make that experience run as smoothly as possible.

Bad customer service example #2

I purchased a small order from a fairly well known supplier online.  I had seen her website come up many times during searches for jewelry findings.  I added a few items to my cart and paid for them.

Later that day I received an email from her site saying they where short on one package of items, even though their website listed that they where available.  The email said that the shipping came to more than anticipated so they where only partially refunding me for the short items.

I was surprised that they went ahead and did this after the fact.  When the order arrived I found that the shipping was actually less than the original amount showing when I first checked out so they had over charged me.  It was like having someone go into my wallet and take out a little extra money.  Essentially the trust went out the window.

When it comes to a few dollars it does not pay to be chintzy.  Again, when you are working to establish trust with new customers and you do something to screw that up, it's always better to absorb the loss of a few dollars than to leave a customer feeling that you have not respected their hard earned dollars by not handling their order with care.

I have never purchased from this supplier again nor will I simply because of this one bad customer service experience.  It's easy to see how people feel ripped off when they order from someone they don't know, and by the same token, it follows that by insuring you take good care of your customers, they will be apt to keep coming back.

Remember, when it comes to online purchasing, many people feel completely at ease purchasing from new companies, but there are plenty that don't. Trust has to be earned and there is no better way to earn that trust than to resolve any issues that may arise with a generous solution that reassures your first-time customers... and, of course, your return customers.

4) Making assumptions

It's common to have projections about people that you meet, but in business it's vital that you see them as projections.  Sometimes you may be able to read a person and actually be accurate in your reading, however, it's not worth the loss to attach yourself to any of those projections when it comes to selling.

You may size someone up as cheap,  uninterested,  poor, or standoffish and that could lead to losses in sales.  If you make an effort to be open and receive people equally, you will be off to a good start.  Talk to everyone who looks at your product and use all the best opening lines that you have without allowing your personal projections to get in the way.

Bad customer service example #3

Sometimes bad customer service may go unnoticed by a customer, but the lessons will be noticeable to you. Years ago I exhibited at this big show that was one of those show duds we all try to avoid.  I mean, the sales where poor and the attendance was minimal.

On the first day this woman came to my booth and I made the assumption that she was cheap and wouldn't spend any money.  Much to my surprise she made a good-sized purchase and really she was virtually the only customer I had at that show.

This was a long, long time ago and yet that experience was enough for me to learn what a mistake I had made. she became this icon in my mind about the lesson I had learned. This one experience, to this day, prompts me to think how wrong I was to draw conclusions solely based on appearances.  I still have projections about customers, but I am reminded by this and I continue to work on not making assumptions.

Making assumptions is a sales killer.  If you understand that in sales you have to hear a lot of "no's" before you get a yes then you will know that the personal has to be taken out of the equation. Sizing people up puts a barrier between you and your potential sales.

5) Ignoring customers or responding late to inquiries

Last, but not least, and certainly not exhaustive on the topic of bad customer service mistakes, is ignoring your customers.  This comes in all forms from not answering phone messages and emails to not acknowledging the customers in your booth because you are too busy.

I admit I have made this mistake.  There have been times when I did not respond to an email in a timely manner because of stress or forgetfulness, and then later, I was just plain embarrassment around my tardiness.  The longer the time passes the more difficult it becomes to respond.

I do my best to answer emails either right away, or within 24 hours, depending on the complexity of the email. The same goes for not acknowledging customers in the booth.  Sometimes I get busy with making things and I don't notice customers.  It's important to be cognisant of who enters the booth and say a simple hello.

Of coarse there are far worse and more dramatic bad customer service mistakes that people make, but I am assuming that since you have searched out this topic you are not likely to make those ; )

If you found value in this bad customer service page next I will be writing a page on good customer service : )

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