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6 Common Client Service Mistakes That Will Make You Sick


Most organizations are trying to use service as a key component of their competitive strategy yet my observation is that few actually deliver what I would call out-of-the-ordinary (mediocre) service.

Quite frankly, service generally is abysmal despite the rhetoric provided by leadership — it’s a dream with no practical way to make it come true.

These mistakes are at the root of the problem that, for most, the words and the music don’t match.

Putting cost before care

The only purpose of ‘customer service’… is to change feelings. – Seth Godin

After the aspiration — “our goal is to deliver service beyond expectations” — fades, reality sets in and the monthly income statement dictated the agenda.

What does the business case look like to deliver service goals? What will it cost to delight our customers, and how do we translate this into additional revenue?

At the end of the day, a proposal to outsource the service call center to a remote location with lower wages (and questionable English language skills) gets approved — the care factor is ignored.

Don’t talk about service excellence when you’re not prepared to invest to deliver it. You can’t creature memorable moments when costs are the primary concern.

Treating the frontline as bottom dwellers

Who in the organization delivers the service brand? It sure the hell isn’t the CEO or the Executive Leadership Team.

The irony is that the people who own the brand are relegated to the bottom of the chart. These are people who are “only” receptionists, service reps, credit reps and sales assistants. People who perform “junior” roles but who breathe life — or not — into the aspirational goal of superlative customer service.

It’s about time organizations honour the people who wear the badge of service every moment of every day.

Related: The Secret to a Brilliant Customer Service Strategy

Focusing on the abuser

Policies and procedures are typically used as mechanisms of control. They control the customer engagement process. They control the criteria for treating customers who have been wronged by the organization.

They are constructed to deal with the person who wants to ”abuse” standard protocol.

The customer who is assumed to be dishonest — “Before I serve you a drink I need your credit card (because others who came before you took off without paying and I assume you will do the same).

Here’s a novel idea: why not create rules and policies to make it easy for people to do business with you rather than punish them for what a minority number of people in the crowd has been known to do in the past?

Not saying “I’m sorry”

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates

Mistakes happen because organizations have two resources that go wrong from time to time — people and technology. As it turns out, however, mistakes that are handled the right way actually build stronger customer loyalty than if the OOPS! never happened at all.

A successful service recovery = fix it fast + do the unexpected. To have an amazing service outcome, the mistake must be quickly remedied — after 24 hours you have lost any possibility of building loyalty — AND a surprise element must be added — something the customer doesn’t expect.

And it begins with the apology. “I’m sorry” opens the gates for a delightful service finale when things get screwed up regardless of whose fault you think it is. Quote company policy at your peril, because people don’t give a damn about your rules and policies.

Getting it right the first time

The essence of service quality teaching is to conform to customer requirements the first time. To avoid mistakes that will require you to redo your work to get it right, thus increasing the costs of supply. Repeat work = higher costs.

So the majority of attention and investment goes into this purpose with little acknowledgement that it MIGHT not get done right the first time. That mistakes might rear their ugly head and present an opportunity to actually come out of it all in a stronger position — read last point again.

Successful organizations plan for screw ups — how do we intend to deal with situations where we DON’T get it right the first time? Don’t fall into the trap of relying on achieving perfection with every customer engagement. Big mistake; it won’t happen.

Meeting expectations

The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways. – Richard Branson

Doing what the customer expects is merely part of the answer to delivering brilliant service. It’s the basic action that must be taken in order to “play the service game” — you’re in the game if you do it but you don’t excel at it if that’s all you do.

Standout organizations try to anticipate what could be provided beyond what is expected; they set their sights at delivering more. They look for opportunities to add something extra to the customer engagement process — a bit of fun, some unique advice, a number to call for help if needed — small things that leave a memorable impression.

Stopping at what people expect defines you as a member of the service herd, indistinguishable from everyone else. Big mistake; limiting move.

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000. –  Jeff Bezos

The cost of a service mistake is HUGE yet the rhetoric in many organizations continues with insufficient action to make any significant difference.

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