Five Misconceptions of Customer Service

Regardless of your profession—whether you’re a retailer, a bartender, or a flight attendant—if you’re in the business of interacting with customers, those customers, and their happiness, are your priority. 

So why is it that no one understands customer service?

Ok, we admit, a few people get it, but the majority of business owners, managers, and employees are dreadfully unprepared to provide a customer service experience that exceeds expectations—and that’s exactly what you need if you’re planning to keep those customers coming back. 

We could rail on and on about your bad habits and how to fix them, but the first step in creating a memorable customer experience is to first evaluate what you’re doing wrong. Once you recognize and alleviate your incorrect perceptions of service, you can begin to evaluate how those perceptions have created bad habits and how to fix them. 

So what are you doing—or rather, thinking—wrong? If we know you well (and we think we do), we’d say these are your top five misconceptions regarding customer service. 

  1. It’s easy.
    If only it were. Great customer service requires tenacity, effort, adaptation, refinement, and so much more. Learning and relearning true service is a daily practice, and it’s your responsibility as a manager or business owner to ensure everyone on your team is practicing. Your employees will learn from your example and your guidance, but even that is an effort that requires constant attention.
  2. It’s the same for every customer.
    Many managers make the mistake of solution-based training in customer service, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. If you fill your employees’ heads with stock answers to common problems, they’ll lose their ability to pivot in unexpected situations. Perhaps even more importantly, such employees can seem disingenuous. You want customer service to seem (and be) natural, which requires adaptation and authenticity. 
  3. It’s less important than price and product.
    Many retailers and even restaurateurs prioritize what they’re presenting to customers, rather than how they present it. But even if you offer the best products at the best prices, a negative experience will dissuade customers from spending their money at your store, no matter how sweet the deal. Conversely, a customer who has a positive and memorable experience will dig even deeper into their wallets. The same concept applies to how you allocate your training budget: retailers who spend their time and money training technical knowledge are wasting resources if their customer service is subpar.
  4. It’s only failing if you’re getting complaints.
    No negative Yelp reviews, no problem? Nope, that’s not how it works. If your customers are complaining, you have a real problem on your hands. But unless your customers are praising you to the heavens, you likely have room for improvement. If you take the time to truly communicate with your customers and ask what your business can do better, you’ll likely learn a lot about where you’re failing them. 
  5. It can be trained (or it can’t be trained).
    We’ve written time and time again about the perils of hiring employees with technical knowledge over personableness; it’s easy to train employees stats and figures, but it can be incredibly difficult to train customer service. When you consider hiring, prioritize candidates based on their experience in customer service, rather than by how many miles they’ve run or races they’ve finished. It’s the employees already equipped with personableness who are most ready to hit the floor and sell well.
    That being said—your existing employees who lack customer service skills are certainly worth training, and most of them are capable of learning. But when we say training, we don’t mean enrolling them in an e-course and calling it done; you are their coach and mentor, and you should watch their interactions with customers in order to offer feedback and advice and help them grow.
    The point is this: customer service is not a lesson you learn, it’s a constant evolutionary practice. Even the most gregarious salesperson could use some guidance to ensure they’re approach is genuine, while a shy employee could blossom with a little guidance. Be willing to allocate the resources your employees (and yourself) need to be able to give an excellent experience to every customer. 

Comments (1)

Hi Dan, very well written. Of course, you are preaching to the choir. When can we catch up? I’ve actually started a new business. Sorry I missed you in Houston.

Barry Goldware

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