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Five ways to really annoy your customers

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12th Nov 2008
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After being subjected to terrible customer service recently, Dan Martin has compiled some handy tips for other organisations looking to lose customers and alienate people.

Dan Martin

By Dan Martin

It's not often I get angry but I certainly did recently while waiting for the company which manages my rented house to fix a broken boiler. In the end, I endured eight days of cold showers before the problem was sorted.

Throughout the whole process I experienced amazingly poor levels of customer service with unfulfilled promises, a confrontational attitude and miscommunication. Believe me, the company got to know how I felt about it but I'm still pretty annoyed so ever the journalist, I thought I'd write something which would serve as a warning to other business owners against not alienating their customers.

  1. Make promises you don't keep

    "We're call you back in 20 minutes", "an engineer will be around in an hour" were among the many promises the company failed to keep.

    If you can't keep promises to your customers, don't make them. Panicing about a negative situation and pledging to do something you're unlikely to be able to do will only make an already bad situation even worse. Be honest with your customer and if a problem does occur admit to it and fix it but don't try to bide some time by making promises you won't keep.

  2. Be confrontational

    During one of my many calls about my broken boiler the lady on the phone asked "So Mr Martin, what exactly do you want us to do?". "Fix the boiler!" was my angry reply.

    Such an confrontational attitude will only anger your customer. Returning customers are crucial to the success of any business so how is you making them stressed going to help the situation? Yes, your customer may be fuming and I'm not saying you should accept abuse but they will only become even angrier if you lose your cool.

  3. Make excuses

    "We are very short staffed at the moment Mr Martin" was one response I received to my query on day three of the broken boiler as to why an engineer hadn't turned up for the second time.

    A customer doesn't want to hear excuses like you've mucked up because you don't have enough staff to cope and more importantly they shouldn't be hearing such claims as it doesn't exactly encourage confidence in your business as an operation worth dealing with. Don't blame other people, admit it's your mistake and fix it.

  4. Don't apologise

    Not once during my several tense conversations after my many cold showers do I remember hearing "I'm sorry".

    If your service or product hasn't come up to scratch apologise for it. Just because you've failed to deliver this time doesn't necessarily mean you've lost the customer for good. Admitting a mistake, being efficient and fixing a problem could even turn them from a one-off into a loyal customer.

  5. Don't tell your colleagues what's happening

    Something I got very used to hearing during Boilergate was "oh yes, I've found a note saying someone was going to call you".

    A failure of internal communication can be the downfall of many a business no matter what the size. If you've dealt with a customer issue and there's still work to do but you're not going to be on site to do it for goodness sake tell someone else the details. There's nothing more frustrating for a customer than repeating the same details over and over again.

    Dan Martin is editor of BusinessZone.co.uk.

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