Here are ten common but hazardous customer service mistakes. All fixable (which keeps me in business), but each tragic in its own little, or not so little, way.
1. Burning your customers (and therefore yourself) because something bad happened once, or even never. Not taking checks, for instance, because one time someone bounced one.
2. Forgetting it’s not just what you do, it’s also how you do it, specifically, it’s the language you use. Language needs to be gentle, kind, and brand appropriate—without sounding stilted. And language includes getting the “words without words” right at your company as well: yielding the right of way to customers, never having your back to a guest, and so on.
3. Failing the “cues to quality” test: customers in every setting pick up cues to quality from the darnedest places. Typos in your signs, dirty shoelaces on your nurses—this stuff matters.
4. Getting everything right except the beginning and the ending—the two most important moments as far as a customer’s memory is concerned.
5. Hiring the wrong people and expecting that you'll be able to provide good customer service anyway.
6. Hiring the right people but then failing to give them power: power to help customers in ways you haven’t thought of, power to design their tasks differently, power to do their best for you.
7. Treating your employees like dirt and expecting them to treat their customers like gold. You get a lot better results (not to mention karma) by emulating institutions like the Ritz-Carlton with its central operating philosophy of putting employees and customers first: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
8. Refusing to say you're sorry.
9. Saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious that you aren’t, really.
10. Being late, being misleading about timetables, being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences and expectations of your customers. Remember: a perfect product, delivered late, is a defect.