How to fix bad customer service

In small business, the personal touch is everything. When people get in contact with your business, whether through live chat, email, a phone call or speaking face-to-face, they want to feel assured that you’re listening to their concerns and want to help them. Good customer service exemplifies those qualities – but it’s not always easy to tell when your customer service needs improvement.

What is bad customer service?

So, if your small business isn’t quite achieving the targets you’d hoped to reach, how can you tell if it’s your customer service letting you down? Unfortunately, there’s no litmus test for customer engagement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore your customer service offering and make improvements. 

The first thing to do when something isn’t going to plan is to try and find out what is causing the issue. You’ll want to establish that it’s your customer service that needs improving, not the design of your products or services, for example. One way to do this is to look at customer feedback – not just negative feedback, but positive, too. This can help you to audit the different areas of your business and establish what’s working and what isn’t. You can also use other measurements such as sales figures, employee or contractor feedback to help you. 

If the problem is subpar customer service, chances are you’ll find customers have complained about it. This could include complaints about:

  • Not being listened to
  • Not getting their problems resolved
  • Being unable to get in touch with a representative in the first place 

Similarly, your customer service team might be feeding back that they’re over capacity, that the team needs expanding, or that they don’t know where to find the answers customers need. These are all good indicators that your current level of customer service isn’t cutting it – and that improvements need to be made.

What makes bad customer service?

There are many qualities that make up bad customer service, just as there are many which make up good customer service. However, in situations where your offering isn’t up to scratch, it’s often a result of a common cause such as those detailed below.

Your customer service representatives aren’t prepared for difficult questions

Not all customer queries are complex, and many require only a simple answer such as directions to navigate your website. On the other hand, sometimes customers will come to your representatives with more complicated questions they need answering. 

In this situation, your customer service representatives need knowledge. This isn’t to say that they need to have an encyclopaedic understanding of every product or service – although that has its benefits. They do, however, need to roughly know what they’re talking about. Your reps should understand the general purpose of each type of product you offer, so they can advise customers. And if they don’t have the answer, they should know where to look for it. 

This is the key. If a customer comes in with a technical question about one of your products, your representative shouldn’t be left floundering in jargon. Making sure they have access to product specifications can be helpful, as can having an expert on hand to help.

Your team needs to expand to meet demand

Your customer service team may be made up of the best representatives a customer could hope to deal with, but that’s not all you need. If there aren’t enough of them to manage the workload, then things are going to slip. Perhaps your customers will have to deal with long waiting times. Alternatively, they might get a quick and subpar service as your representatives rush each ticket to get through them all.
Being able to juggle multiple tickets at once is an important skill for a customer service representative, but that isn’t inexhaustible. As a general rule, a customer service agent should be able to handle between three and five live chats at a time without a decrease in support quality. However, it’s important to listen to your representatives themselves. Don’t just focus on the numbers. If your team needs help to fulfil your company’s demand for customer service, it may be time to recruit or outsource customer support.

Your team’s customer service skills need improvement

If your customers aren’t satisfied after speaking with your representatives, then it could be a sign that your team’s customer service skills are lacking in some way. Fortunately, there’s always room to learn and grow. Take some time to identify the key areas where you feel the service isn’t what it could be – such as compassion, communication or problem solving skills. Once you know what needs improving, you can think about ways to improve in those specific areas. You can often find training for soft skills online or through an upskilling company. Consider it an investment to improve your small business’s future prospects.

Your customer service channels aren’t accessible

There are two ways in which this problem can manifest itself: poor location and poor authority. In the case of the former, customers may struggle to find out how to get in touch with your customer service team. This can happen if you don’t have a clear area on the website for contact information. However, it’s worthwhile having these details clear and visible in any physical branches you may have, too. Fortunately, this is a simple issue to fix. 

One that can be harder to rectify is when your customer service channel has poor authority. This primarily applies to social media profiles, but it can also apply to emails, telephone calls and even live chat. For example, if a customer searches for your company on social media, they should find a professional-looking brand page. It should clearly state who you are and what you do, so that they can be sure that you are the company they’re looking for. A strong brand identity also helps to assure the customer that your small business is legitimate and capable. 
Poor customer service isn’t ideal, but the good news is that there’s always something you can do to make it better. Whether it’s outsourcing live chat services, upskilling your employees, improving your online presence or a mixture of them all, with a little dedication and hard work, you can achieve great customer service for your small business.