The most common customer service mistakes (and how to avoid them).

Thumbtack Writer
Thumbtack Writer
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When people are upset about something, they often go online to vent. As a small business owner, the damage that just a few bad online reviews can do to your business can take years of hard work to fix. The good news is that providing excellent customer service isn’t difficult. Here are seven common customer service mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not training your employees. Even the best customer service doesn’t matter if your employees aren’t following suit. Before you hire anyone, make sure they’re committed to providing exceptional customer service and then train them to understand exactly what that is for your business. This applies to every single employee on your books, even if you think they’ll never interact with a customer. Your company’s philosophy and best practices should be a major part of what holds your team together.

Arguing with your customer. It’s not that “the customer is always right.” It’s that the customer should always feel like they’re right. You might feel like you won the argument, but you’ll lose the customer and, very likely, end up with a negative review — which is no good. Instead of fighting, let the customer get the complaint out of their system. Don’t interrupt. Show them that you hear them by being empathetic. And then, while paying attention to your tone of voice, tell them you’re sorry, and present them with solutions.

Not listening to what your customer wants. Don’t assume you understand what a customer wants or can predict what’s going to come out of their mouth. Listen carefully. Document what they’re saying. This should start with the very first conversation you have until the job is over.

Being too rigid with your policies. If a customer’s expectations aren’t being met, the best thing you can do for your business is figure out what needs to change or be improved upon. If that means occasionally giving a refund even though you have a “no refunds” policy, or not charging a cancellation fee for a regular client who forgot to let you know they were going out of town, then go with it. If a customer feels like they’re being heard and taken care of, the chance of retaining them is much higher, and that’s often worth losing a little money in the short term.

Not honoring your commitments. A broken promise is a breach of trust and few people will choose to return to a business they don’t find trustworthy. If you aren’t sure you can deliver something the customer wants, explain why, and then be understanding if they look elsewhere. If you have to break a commitment because of something that is out of your hand, like a late delivery or an illness, explain the situation, apologize, and do everything you can to make it right as soon as possible.

Being hard to reach. Your client should not have to wait too long for you to return a call or email. At best, a lengthy response time will cost you a potential client. At worst, it will infuriate a current client who may be inclined to share that fury online. If for some reason it’s going to take longer than it should to get back to clients, set expectations by letting them know ahead of time.

Not knowing when to say sorry. Mistakes happen. People get stuck in traffic and show up late. Remodeling materials arrive broken. Food gets overcooked. The key is to acknowledge the mistake as soon as possible, apologize, and let the client know how you are going to fix it. Even if the mistake is not your fault, acknowledge it, apologize, and offer a solution. Most people are reasonable. They’ll understand. And as long as you don’t deny or try to hide the mistake, they won’t hold it against you.

What are your best customer loyalty tips? Share in the comments!