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5 causes of bad customer service

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Customer service is common sense, right? You may think you know how to deliver an excellent customer-service experience, but do you? Not long ago a prospect called my office. He claimed his employees weren’t executing on the basics. When I presented him with a proposed program, his responded, “We already know how to do that.”

“Of course you do. Much of customer service is common sense. Unfortunately, it’s not always so common,” I explained. What I really wanted to say was “If you know how to do it, then why are you so bad at it?” After all, he had already admitted his people weren’t delivering good service. What I had proposed was exactly what he needed.

You see, most companies do know what to do but have a hard time doing it. So, if so much of customer service is common sense, then why don’t more people deliver it? Here are five reasons common-sense customer service fails:

1.     Hiring. Companies don’t take the time to hire the right people. Hiring right doesn’t mean selecting someone based only on skill or competence. People have to have some aptitude for customer service, be able to be trained and fit well into the company’s culture.

2.     Vision. The company vision, at least for customer service, must be clear. Many times companies’ vision statements are long and wordy. The best statements are one sentence or less in length, and employees get it.

3.     Training. Some companies don’t take the time and effort to train all their employees. Everyone has to be on board and in alignment with the customer-service vision. That can only come through training and ongoing reinforcement of the vision.

4.     Ownership. Employees who don’t interact with the customer may not take ownership of customer service. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone has a customer, be they internal or external. Customer service is more than a department with customer-service reps. (Jan Carlson, former president of Scandinavian Airlines, once said, “If you aren’t dealing directly with the customer, you probably support someone who does.”)

5.     Consistency. At some companies, customer service is inconsistent—sometimes great and sometimes horrible. This inconsistency erodes customer confidence. The key is to deliver a positive customer-service experience that is predictable and reliable.

There are obviously many more reasons companies fail at customer service. To be successful, start with the basics, which you likely already know. Sure, customer service is based on common sense, so most people know it. But only great companies deliver it.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email [email protected] or go to


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