5 Warning Signs That Your Customer Service Truly Sucks

I don't think there's a small business out there (other than the scammy ones) who would want to admit that their customer service just plain sucks.

In fact, most businesses are willing to stick their heads in the sand to keep believing that their company is "WOWing" customers left and right when in reality, it just isn't true.

(Statistically, it isn't true either! More on that further down...)

Since this is the case, how can you objectively tell if your customer service is garbage or not?

It's definitely something to be concerned about. Fortunately, I've got some interesting statistics and data that will help you sift through the silly "best practices" advice out there and really start to evaluate whether or not you're truly providing outstanding customer service.


1. You Don’t View Customer Service as a Marketing Channel

Fact: 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience.

I'm not going to be one of those guys who hastily declares that "marketing is dead", but I will be the first to say that customer care can easily be your #1 marketing channel.

Fact of the matter is, your customers can do quite a few things much better than you can, and if your business isn't embracing this fact by viewing customer service as a branch of your marketing department with tremendous ROI, you're doing yourself a disservice, as well as your customers.

Companies like Zappos were able to quadruple their sales by focusing on word of mouth exposure that was created by their reputation for having outstanding customer service.

This seems to be a universally positive metric for all companies, big and small: 81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering an excellent customer experience are outperforming their competition.

Is your customer experience as enjoyable as your competitors?

If it isn't, you're definitely losing customers, even if you market extensively and offer a superior product.

2. You Think Few Complaints = Great Service

Fact: The average business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers.

Very few people have time for your mistakes. Even fewer people are going to take the time to let you know about them, and why should they? You're the one that messed up, they've got things to do.

That means you are only going to hear from a fraction of your dissatisfied customers.

Look, every business owner understands that they have a wide variety of customers, and you're not going to be able to please all of them (some just aren't right for your offer).

That shouldn't stop you from constantly seeking ways to improve your service. This is something that is simply impossible to do without candid customer feedback, and if you're relying on dissatisfied customers only to get your intel, you're going to run into some serious problems.

Using generic surveys isn't enough: be sure that you go out of your way to create incentive for customers to give their feedback, make your surveys interesting so that they don't get immediately acquainted with the "Move to Trash" button, and always be sure to include open-ended questions so customers can give you their most genuine "off the cuff" feedback.

The avg. business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. Are you doing what it takes to incentivize feedback? http://hlp.sc/PuPOXX
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3. You Think Customer Acquisition > Customer Retention

Fact: It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.

No one would tell you that customer acquisition isn't important. After all, it's going to be a hard fought battle creating loyal customers if you don't have any customers in the first place!

Despite this fact, you have to understand that bad customer service is more than just a potential liability, it's a huge cost to your business.

Consumers are far more likely to share bad customer experiences due to their frustration.

If you also take into effect that 86% of consumers will immediately quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, you're left with a single, undeniable truth: customer acquisition isn't going to work without customer retention.

It doesn't matter how many buyers your small business acquires if you're "leaking" loyal customers left and right due to your poor service.

4. You Think “Speed” is the Most Important Factor of Customer Service

Fact: 73% of dissatisfied customers cited incompetent, rude, and "rushed" service as the #1 reason why they abandoned a brand.

Get em' in and out, right?

Turns out, no. As they say, "speed kills", and when it comes to customer service, your customers care far more about competent and helpful service than they do about "quick" service.

Customers cited "slow" service nearly 20% less than incompetent service in their feedback of why they stopped doing business with a particular brand, and that was only when the service was truly slow.

A very relevant example of this fact in action is how Derek Sivers used to conduct customer service over at CDBaby (he's since sold it for $22 million).

According to Derek:

"I used to request all my employees to intentionally take a little longer on customers calls.

I would ask them to pull up customers albums and catalogues; have a look at their pictures and gears - to learn a bit about them.

Imagine how powerful it is for a customer to know that he is listening to somebody who is a musician that gets him, than something like, 'Thank you customer 4325. How may I quickly handle your problem?'"

How @sivers went the extra mile to ensure all of his customers at CDBaby felt valued and appreciated. http://hlp.sc/PuPOXX
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Don't rush customers out of your support line, many customers welcome some additional time spent if you ensure them that you value their time and their business with you.

5. You’re Reading This Right Now and Think You Don’t Have to Worry!

Fact: 80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver superior customer service.

Uh-oh, I might have hurt some feelings with this one!

Actually, my point is far less antagonistic than the headline, because the bottom line is that you shouldn't be guessing when it comes to evaluating your customer service.

Decide what metrics are critical to measuring customer satisfaction. Don't just go with your gut; prove that you provide great service with data.

Don't hesitate to gather and analyze different metrics and feedback to measure your success and shortcomings.

Are you consistently trying to get candid feedback from your customers? Do you closely analyze your customer loyalty programs in hopes of improving them? Do you take advantage of proven research in social psychology when implementing your engagement strategies?

You should be.

This information is out there for you to gather and use (oh yeah, and implement!), and believe me, it's much more consistent than what your "gut" tells you.

PS: If you want more data like this (trust the numbers, not your guesswork), be sure to check out our free resource on 75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics.

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Gregory Ciotti

Gregory Ciotti

Greg is a writer, marketing strategist and alum of Help Scout. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.