Six Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Customers Hate You

October 25, 2011

Laura Click | Blue Kite MarketingGuest Poster: Laura Click

It is my pleasure to introduce Laura Click, who has been kind enough to babysit this blog while I am away at a conference. Laura is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based marketing and social media strategy firm that’s passionate about helping small businesses reach new heights. I discovered Laura’s blog earlier this year and have enjoyed her insights on how small businesses can excel with social media and marketing.

Every business thinks they are excellent at customer service.

But, most are dead wrong. And maybe you are too.

Sure, you might take care of the big, obvious things. Your staff might be friendly, and you have real people answering the phone. But, I’m willing to bet there are some things you are doing that are silently frustrating your customers.

And, you have no idea.

Sure, there are the squeaky wheels out there that love to make noise about how you’ve wronged them. However, the silent majority stew about their irritating experiences with you.

Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest impression. If you want to want to keep your clients and encourage them to refer your business to others, make sure you don’t commit these offenses:

1. Miss deadlines

We often have good reasons for not getting the job done on time. Maybe you were sick or buried under other deadlines. However, your clients don’t care. They want the job done on time as promised.

If you’re unable to reach a deadline, give your client the heads up. They will be much more forgiving if you let them know you will be behind, especially if you have good reason for it. But, whatever you do, don’t let this become a habit.

2. Arrive late to meetings

Occasionally, unexpected things come up that prevent us from arriving somewhere on time. However, meetings running long or difficulty finding parking are not good reasons to be late. That’s just bad planning on your part.

Give yourself some cushion between meetings should things run long and allow enough time to travel to your next appointment. If you’re going to be more than a few minutes late, be sure to call and let them know you are on your way.

3. Ignore emails and phone messages

It’s easy to get crushed under the weight of an overflowing inbox. However, that’s no excuse for not returning messages.

Most messages should be returned within 2-3 days (if not sooner). Even if you can’t get the answers to the person right away, acknowledge that you received the message. That goes a long way.

4. Forget about results

Whether you offer a product or service, we’re all in the business of delivering results. Your product should work properly, and your services should focus on helping clients reach their goals.

If you’re not helping your customers solve their problems or make their lives easier, you are going to have a difficult time staying in business.

5. Ignore your budget or pricing

If you’re in a service-based business, you likely have to provide cost estimates to your clients. And sometimes, there’s no way to predict when things are going to take longer than you projected.

Although your time is valuable, think before you start charging extra for projects going over budget. Customers don’t care about how long it takes to get something done. What they do care about is that the job is completed. Be mindful of how you price your services so you can avoid nickel and diming them.

6. Neglect feedback or complaints

If clients vocalize their concerns about your business, it’s important to listen to their feedback and work to make things right. It’s easy to get defensive or just ignore negative comments, but that will just make the situation worse.

People often change their tenor when they hear back from the company that wronged them. So, Listen. Respond. Make things right with the customer. Then, work to correct the issue moving forward.

Keys to Amazing Customer Service

If you want to wow your clients and keep them coming back for more, here are a few principles to remember:

♦ Treat every customer as if they are they only one

Every customer wants to feel important – even if they are the smallest client or one of many.  It says a lot about a company if they roll out the red carpet for every customer, regardless of their size or how much money they spend. And believe me, your customers will notice.

♦ Strive to impress your customers at every interaction

Think of every way your business interacts with clients – phone, email, meetings, invoicing – and make sure it is seamless and positive. Every employee is a customer service ambassador, not just the frontline staff. Make sure they all know how to handle clients with dignity and respect.

♦ Delight and surprise your customers

If you want to stand out for all the right reasons, go out of your way to do unexpected, over-the-top gestures for your customers. Do this and you won’t be able to stop people from spreading the good word about your business.

What frustrates you most as a customer? As a business, how do you ensure you’re not making these missteps?

Guest Post Disclaimer: Guest Posts on the Customers That Stick blog are submitted by individual guest posters and in no way represent the opinions or endorsement of CTS Service Solutions, its owners or employees. CTS Service Solutions does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of statements or facts posted by Guest Posters on this blog.

32 thoughts on “Six Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Customers Hate You”

  1. Hi Laura
    Great to read you here.
    These are all spot-on. My biggest grip and the reason why I stopped using a vendor recently is one thing.
    Not giving a damn.
    As a client I accept mistakes, I know nothing is perfect but showing a complete lack of care about my business is the biggest killer for me.
    When you ignore my emails but still find time to comment and *like* my stuff on FB this was the final straw for me.
    Sorry for the rant but this is a topic I hold dear to my heart.

    1. Amen! If your vendor doesn’t care about you, it’s time to move on. A

      nd man, to “like” you on FB, but not respond to emails?! That’s just crazy! It seems your vendor has their values misplaced. Ouch!

  2. Awesome list here, Laura. I can honestly say that I’ve been guilty of committing a few of the ones on the list. I’m not proud of it and realized after a series of late arrivals to meetings, and missed email and voice mail replies that it was time to get my house in order. That took some major re-prioritization and a decrease in my time spent online. As John so aptly points out, spending time liking and commenting on FB, but not on the client emails is a big no-no. Figure out the priorities; namely, make Customer Service one of them!

    1. I think we’ve all been victim of these things and have been guilty of them also. I know I am. I had a vendor who I could count on to always be 15 minutes late (or forget the meeting entirely)! It made me realize that I need to be better about being on time myself.

      You’re right – it’s all about priorities and (back to my post from yesterday) thinking about things from the customer’s point of view. We all tend to forget that at times.

      1. Good list and an even better admission in your comment. It’s always so easy to point out what others are doing wrong in customer service, but it takes real commitment to do it consistently right ourselves.

    2. The emails are really tough. I recently discussing communication with a group of business execs and I asked “who here gets under 100 emails a day”. 1 person at the table of ten or so raised their hand.

  3. Laura, are you sure you’re not Adam in disguise? I thought you were a marketing firm, not a customer service consultant! These tips are all exactly what I needed to hear this morning. As a one-lady shop, it’s hard to keep my eye on all those pieces of the puzzle, and most of the time the first thing to slip is email, because I’m “still considering my response.” I pride myself on responding within a couple hours, so if a day or two goes by, I know I’ve dropped the ball and have some apologies to make.

    1. It IS close to Halloween, but I can confirm this is not Adam in a Laura costume….though, that would be a hilarious, yet somewhat scary proposition, no?! 😉

      I think we ALL need to hear these things – myself included. I wrote these after some bad experiences I’ve had lately, but also as a reminder to myself. I always feel like I’m drowning in email and sometimes I let the ball drop. This post was as much of a reminder to mas as anyone!

      And yes, when we’re on our own, we do a lot of plate spinning, don’t we?!

  4. Laura Clickety Click………great name BTW.

    All I can say is ding, ding, ding; you certainly rang the bell. Under promise and over perform. Also, do what you say you are going to do, do it on time (if not sooner) and say please and thank you; very simple, and certainly very effective.

    Do the little things very well and it will make the biggest impression. This is what creates customer loyalty which trumps satisfaction in my book.

    Good to see you at Adam’s ma’am (I can probably say that if you are from Nashville, right?).

    1. Thanks, Bill! It always cracks me up when people ask if “Click” is really my name. (It is, by the way). I guess I did choose it in a way – I got it from marrying my husband!

      Do what you say you’re gonna do – that should be the mantra of every business. It’s so simple, yet something that many don’t do.

      Oh, and yes, you can call me ma’am. You’d be a perfect fit for Nashville! Now, you just need to start saying “bless her little heart!”. 😉

    2. Under promise and over perform… For the record, that’s exactly what Laura did with her guest post here! This post has really generated a great discussion.

  5. Nice points, Laura, and spot on. As someone whose worked from both the customer and vendor point-of-view, I’ve seen both sides of how these things can happen and escalate.

    One thing I’d mention is that while you don’t want your customers to hate you, there’s a limit as to how far you should go for your customer. Often expectations on response and laying of blame can be far-fetched (although the customer will always say otherwise), so knowing at what level you step away and let the customer walk is key too. 🙂

    1. I think most of us here have been on both sides of the coin. It’s easy to get frustrated when we’re the customer, but we tend to forget about these things when the tables are turned.

      But, you’re right. There are some customers are PITAs (Pains in the you know what) and will never be happy no matter what you do. And those folks just need to go – for their sake and yours. Good point!

    2. That’s a great point Danny. We talk a lot about when an upset customer crosses over into being an abusive customer. The line is inherently subjective, but as you said, it is important to have a line and know when to walk away.

  6. I completely agree with on point 3 about ignoring emails and phone calls. I would would even take this a step further, I think it is good etiquette to return emails and phone calls wether it is professional or with your friends, family etc.

  7. This, this, and this Laura. Danny’s right about not pleasing everyone, sometimes there are PITA customers but most of the time, you have to give to get. I’ll add onto this list, in light of a post I’m currently drafting: hide your head in the sand or point fingers when you screw up. Mistakes happen, and it’s how you fix them that will either endear you to the customer or piss them off for good. FWIW.

    1. Oooh…..good one. It is so easy to place blame on someone else. When you’re the person in charge, you are responsible of what happens at your company, whether you did it or not. It’s important to own up to your mistakes, and more importantly, find a way to make it right!

  8. Finally, some one to speak loudly about the simple truth that “be loved by everybody”is not the best thing in the world and relationship. Come on – be hated but be respected!!!

  9. Very nice post Laura, thank you for the interesting material.
    For me the most important is to keep deadlines. Even if you don’t answer the phone or arrive late on meetings, the customer (in most cases) will forget it, if you deliver what you promise on day you promise!

  10. I so agree with Davina…no pointing fingers when mistakes happen! Customers don’t care whose fault it is. They care that their needs aren’t being met.

    When I hear a customer service rep blame anyone — even if it’s TRUE — my opinion of the company plummets. Just say, “I’m sorry, Mr. Brown. We’re going to do what we can to make this up to you and see that it doesn’t happen again — to you or anyone else.” Because that’s still the truth. When I hear those words from a customer rep, I instantly feel better about the situation, don’t you?

    1. Yes, Yes, YES!!! You got it, Michelle. It truly makes such a big difference when you apologize and pledge to make it right. That’s all anyone wants anyway!

  11. Why would you let that your customers will hate you?If there is a way to convince them why dont you try to do that.

    1. Hi Peter, Laura is using irony to make her point. It might not be obvious in some areas outside of the U.S., but neither Laura nor I think it is good practice to make customers hate your company.

  12. I think one thing that happens is that some individuals/small businesses take on more clients than they can really serve. This is a quick way to underserve the customers that you do have.

  13. “People often change their tenor when they hear back from the company that wronged them.” –Absolutely true, as long as the response is friendly and helpful, and not defensive or negative as you said.

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