Research

There are parts of customer service that any staff member would love. Hitting the KPIs; customers that boast about how great your business is; successfully resolving a client's problem. All these add up to a good day at the office.

It can be tempting to focus on the positives of customer service. But doing so can cause you to turn a blind eye to customer service practices that may be costing you money. Confusion over dealing with issues and a management team considered to be lacking in empathy can affect staff morale.

This is reflected in staff delivering subpar results and a lack of concern for your customers on the front line.

Here we will run you through what the customer service team considers the 20 least favorite aspects of the job. Use this information as a checklist of those practices you need to show more care and compassion towards. Doing so is happy, motivated employees who will go the extra mile to help your customers.

Customer service practices that cause your team to groan

This information is collated from the testimonies of customer service reps. Though the industries vary, the least favorite practices are standard across all the sectors. Take the following 20 issues as a heads-up.

How many of the following do you recognize within your business as an entrepreneur?

With each issue, we offer you advice on how you can deal with it.

1. Customers questioning your solution

You have put your team through rigorous training around issue resolution. However, there will still be times when customers doubt the solution they are provided.

The customer's uncertainty could stem from a personal belief that they are talking with someone who isn't qualified to help. After all, the customer service rep is seen to be someone who answers the phone. They aren't a technician. What do sales reps know about the problem?

You can mention that your customer service team is highly-trained through your website or other channels. List all aspects of the training they go through (have a video if you want to show training sessions).

2. Angry customers

All businesses have their fair share of angry customers. There are many reasons why someone is ticked off and wants to take it out on the customer service staff.

It could be that they can't log in to an account (if it's a subscription-based service), their product has stopped working after only a couple of months, or the customer has had a bad day and wants to vent. Add your ideas to this list.

The best way to deal with angry customers is to remain calm and understanding. That can be hard to do if the staff take the abuse personally. Let the customer release their frustrations. When the customer service rep feels that the person has settled, proceed with the support.

If the staff is visibly upset during the phone call, then look at relieving the rep. Let them have the chance to recompose themselves without fear of consequences (e.g. the idea that their job is on the line).

3. Maintaining emotional stability

Customers can be upset. They are left either waiting or transferred to someone else at the start of the phone call and during the support process. Customer service personnel have to deal with the fall-out from these situations.

When one phone call is completed with a less-than-satisfied customer, the phone support staff must do an emotional reset. The negativity they have just experienced needs to be released and not imported into the next call.

That type of ability needs to be developed through psychological training. If you don't have in-house resources for this kind of upskilling, look at getting external help.

4. Being understaffed

You have two people who comprise your customer service department. Now consider that you have hundreds of customers who need attention. Your customer service staff will get overwhelmed quickly.

Burnout will inevitably occur, and your prized employees will leave. This leads to a staffing crisis to deal with (and customers still wanting support).

If you think you don't have the infrastructure in place to offer incredible customer service, then look into outsourcing. Outsourcing customer service allows for expansion. Outsourcing companies can increase and decrease staffing levels according to demand. Also, such companies have everything in place to provide exceptional customer support.

You will need to train the company on your product and brand voice. That way, your clients think they are dealing with you (rather than someone pretending to be you).

5. Overworked

Overworking can be a by-product of being understaffed.

Tired and stressed staff are going to lose motivation after a while. That will show how they deal with your customers (who are your business's lifeblood). You will find that team member relations are also strained. That makes the working environment not so much fun to be in.

Blame shifting and resentment can crop up. These can cause bigger flareups within your enterprise.

To reduce the risk of overworking your staff, have meetings with the customer service team. More customers joining your brand equates to extra work for your current staff. Consider hiring extra hands to help out.

Is it possible to delegate the workload to other departments?

6. Pressed to meet quotas/key performance indicators

Everyone loves success. Targets and KPIs are a way of seeing if your ship is floating or needs repair.

Customer service is more than just ticking off numbers (such as new leads generated). The staff will resent the fact that they are being used simply as a means to an end.

If there is pressure to resolve a set number of issues per shift, then the quality of the solution will suffer. That is, the customer may feel that the resolution isn't satisfactory.

Empathy towards your clients is pushed aside at the expense of meeting the numbers.

KPIs are important, but they shouldn't have a negative vibe around them. Make sure that the quotas/targets are realistic. Don't randomly introduce a KPI just because your competitors are doing it. Make the numbers relevant to your business and your team.

Get customer service input into how sensible the targets are. Reward the staff when they hit the numbers.

7. Failure to understand/solve the problem

Your phone support staff genuinely want to provide your customers with the best solution. This outcome can be hindered when the customer service rep can't understand the customer's issue. This lack of understanding leaves the staff member struggling to solve the problem.

Feelings of incompetence from and toward the representative emerge. You have a customer and someone on your team who feels frustrated.

Lack of training may lead to this type of scenario.

8. Lack of knowledge around new products or features

Upgrades, modifications, and new types of products and services are a fact of life. It can always be an exciting time as there is something new for you to crow about. You have listened to what your customers wanted and met their demands.

Yet, this is where the downfall can occur. If you have staff on your front line with little knowledge of your company's fresh offerings, how can they provide the appropriate support?

This ties into the previous issue around failure to solve the problem. Your staff will be annoyed by the lack of knowledge they have. Your customers are equally upset because they want to have support around now to make the most of the new product or features.

Again, it can be a training issue.

9. Insufficient training

If your training is substandard, your customer service will reflect that.

Staff that feel unprepared to handle the job are already on the back foot. They are set up to fail, and that makes your business look incompetent.

This situation is easily remedied by offering comprehensive training in all aspects of customer service. Your training needs to include:

• Learning how to use the CRM correctly

• How to deal with dissatisfied customers

• Ways to do an emotional reset

• Upskilling on any upgrades or new products you have launched.

• Problem resolution and escalation

• What KPIs are relevant and how to achieve them

10. Language barriers

A language barrier is experienced when your business extends across international boundaries. If you have customers in India, yet your staff can't speak Hindi, your support will fall flat.

Here is where outsourcing can come into play. Consider hiring native-speaking support staff in the countries you do business in.

Another language barrier that can crop up is when your staff uses technical language. Your customers may not understand what they are told. Keep your language simple and use layman's terms.

11. Requests to be put through to the higher-ups

At times, customers demand to be put through to a manager or boss. That can make your customer service rep feel a little under the weather. After all, the staff member has tried their best to provide support.

However, the customer thinks that someone higher up the chain of command can only solve the issue. All you can do to minimize these situations is to have an escalation protocol in place. Something we'll look at next.

12. There is no crisis management/escalation protocol in place

If you have no escalation protocol in place, your customer service team is left wondering how to move serious issues up the corporate line.

We touched upon how some customers insist on talking to management. Having standard crisis management and escalation procedures in place can save you a lot of grief and time. Imagine if, every time a client tells the staff that they want to speak with the boss, they are routed to you.

Your day is spent dealing with minor issues that your customer support team can handle. That's not a productive way for you to run your business.

Have a system in place where the issues/problems are labeled according to the need for escalation. For example, low priority (something reps can handle); medium-low (the staff needs to consult with a manager); medium (a manager addresses the issue personally); medium-high (manager talks with the business owner); and high (the business owner takes care of the problem).

13. HR that undervalues the staff

The human resources department is there to support your team across all departments.

We mentioned the effect being understaffed and overworked can have on your employees. If HR treats the issues with an air of callousness, that can increase team member dissatisfaction.

Unhappy staff won't care so much about your customers.

Ensure that your HR team exhibits genuine empathy towards all staff. There can't be any bias shown toward members of your organization. Everyone needs to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity.

Keep tabs on any personnel issues where staff feel they aren't getting support.

14. Management not listening

Frustration can run high when staff explain a situation to disinterested management. Managers are considered the go-to people when the lower-level team need help.

Existing stress levels will only increase if the higher-ups don't listen to the complaints.

The solution is simple: Let your staff know that the management does listen.

Schedule regular gripe sessions in which staff can air their dirty laundry without fear.

15. Not having the right tools

Imagine if you went to a car mechanic and discovered he was using a knife instead of a screwdriver to deal with your car's problem. If you went for surgery and found out the surgeon only had half the equipment required for your operation. Isn't it terrifying?

So why would you send your customer service team out with the wrong tools? Or, at worst, little to no tools at all?

Do they know how to use the support software? Can they issue job tickets? Is the equipment they need available? Does your CRM cater to all aspects of your customer service?

Staff that don't have the right tools will be exasperated, tired, and stressed. Sit down with your customer service team and determine what they need to get the job done.

16. Coming up against company policies and procedures

This can occur when management has little knowledge as to how customer service is affected by strict policies and procedures.

For example, your policy may be that each solution needs to be given the green light by management. That equates to putting customers on hold while staff wait for the "Okay" from their manager.

To resolve policies harming customer service, talk with the team. Analyze each policy and see if it has a detrimental effect on customer support.

17. Can't offer solutions creatively

Being stifled by company protocol can kill creativity. Your customer service team can be irked by not being allowed to think outside of the box.

Maybe you have a telephone script because the issues that your customers experience have common solutions. Yet, if the customer has a novel problem, what options do the staff have? It could be that they escalate the issue. But what if the team has a eureka moment and knows how to fix the problem on the spot?

Giving your staff the flexibility to creatively offer solutions saves time (no need for escalations or call-backs). It also instils trust in the staff's ability, which boosts self-confidence and esteem. And your customer has their problem sorted out. Happiness all around!

18. Transferring calls

Staff can become frustrated when they have to pass over a call that they are capable of dealing with. What if the next person in the chain has to transfer the call? How do you think the customer feel when they are caught up in a game of "phone tag"?

If your company has an issue with constantly transferring calls, look at why it's occurring. Maybe it is staff following protocol. It could be that the initial staff member didn't know how to resolve the problem.

19. Torn between competing departmental expectations

Picture yourself at work. Marketing, which has its ideas and concepts of customer service, tells you what KPIs to monitor. Now comes a person from Sales. They inform you that the metrics you have been paying attention to are wrong.

How would you feel when two departments are hammering you? All you want to do is your job as a customer service rep. But you sense you're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

When the phone rings, you start to freak out. Are you to convert the caller into a lead (as per the Sales Department's demands)? Or do you ask what channel caused them to make the call (Marketing)?

To prevent any undue stress on your customer sales team, have your departments on the same page. Sales and marketing need to agree on a core set of KPIs against which customer service is measured.

Then customer support knows what to aim for.

20. Customer service support is mismatched with the customer's touchpoint

A customer rings, ready to make a purchase. However, they are treated with the initial sales dialogue that new customers get. Now you have someone on the phone who is confused and a staff member apologizing profusely.

What if that scenario happens several times a day in your workplace? You can't help but think there is some incompetence happening. But, it's neither the customer's nor the staff's fault. The issue is a systemic one.

The customer service rep doesn't know where along the sales journey the customer is.

Your CRM needs to be constantly updated with information about the customer's sales journey. Then the staff can understand at which touchpoint they are at.

Enhancing your customer service practices

With any job, there are pluses and minuses. Things that people love about what they do. Then some things result in a groan and a shaking of the head.

Staff will tell you that frustration lies mainly in a lack of training and poor management in customer service. Dealing with unhappy customers is another factor.

These aren't issues that you should ignore. If you value the staff, then address the problems that cause them to feel annoyed. Please support them. Your customer service team is your front-line staff.

Value them. Listen to them.

By doing so, you will be boosting personal and interpersonal morale. You will have staff who will do their utmost to care for your customers.

That is what customer service is all about!