5 Ways to Flub Customer Service

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 11-11-2009

Customers are rarely satisfied with the service businesses provide. Understanding those complaints, as well as the processes and technologies associated with customer service, can help CIOs and their teams avoid these customer-care blunders.

See Also: Keeping the Customer Satisfied

1. Outsourcing without understanding all the implications. It may seem tempting to outsource customer service and support. However, an outside provider might not understand your business culture and brand, language barriers might exist, and their business processes could be misaligned with the way you do business, says Eric Clemons, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "You may be exchanging short-term profit maximization for long-term brand devaluation," he says.

2. Relying on incomplete metrics. Often, an organization may hit the mark on service and support metrics--length of phone calls, faster resolution rates and more--but customers wind up increasingly dissatisfied. Why? "Decisions are made in silos, and the organization relies on an incomplete set of metrics," says Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School. Customer surveys may also mask problems if a company asks the wrong questions.

3. Underutilizing analytics. Companies have made major strides in understanding demographics and customer segments. However, gaps--sometimes Grand Canyon-sized chasms--sometimes occur. That's because some firms use analytics in a partial or incomplete way, or they lack insight into how policies and practices affect behavior for different customer groups.

4. Taking your existing customers for granted. Companies devise all sorts of incentives and offers for new customers, but long-term, profitable customers often wind up as an afterthought. Richard B. Chase, a professor at the University of Southern California, argues that in an era of sophisticated analytics, companies have no excuse for neglecting their best customers. And companies should go beyond merely giving rewards in a loyalty program. An occasional coupon for a free product or an unexpected upgrade can boost the firm's image and radically alter the way a customer views the company.

5. Trying to be everything to everybody. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is trying to be great at everything. "It's great to aim for a culture of excellence. But business physics apply," says Frei. "You have to choose which dimensions you really want to excel in and understand the costs and trade-offs." Only then is it possible to make insightful decisions about resources and how to construct outstanding customer service.