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7 Examples in Stories of Bad Customer Service That Hurt Your Bottom Line

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We’ve all got our own bad habits—things like hitting the snooze alarm instead of waking up for that early-morning workout, procrastinating on projects, or drinking way too much coffee. But while those habits only affect ourselves, many entrepreneurs have bad business habits that make their customers nuts. Are you guilty of any of the following bad habits? If so, you could be driving your customers crazy—or maybe even driving them to your competitors. Read these stories of bad customer service and learn from common mistakes.

1. Not Updating Your Website

We all know someone who still talks bitterly about a local restaurant whose website listed its open hours incorrectly. For example: once, we packed everyone into the car, drove 30 minutes to get there, and arrived with our stomachs growling—only to find the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch after all.

We’re not alone in being annoyed by this behavior, and it’s one of the most common stories of bad customer service in the restaurant and service industry. In a survey by YP.com, “inconsistent information,” “website has inaccurate information,” “wrong contact information listed online,” and “no website” are among the top reasons consumers won’t visit a local business.

Make sure your website is current, with your location, hours, and contact information clearly listed. Also make sure it’s mobile-friendly (for customers searching for your business on their phones) and loads quickly (3 seconds is the industry standard for retailers, though many top retailers’ sites load faster than that).

2. Ignoring Customers In Your Store

Some 40% of shoppers regularly have trouble finding a sales associate when they need one, reports MindTree. That can cost you big time: Customers who do interact with a salesperson are 43% more likely to make a purchase and spend 81% more than shoppers who don’t get assistance from a salesperson.

Just as bad as being short-staffed is being rude: Sales associates who have lengthy conversations with each other or are texting on the sales floor instead of helping customers are common pet peeves. Make sure your staff is trained to respond quickly, be observant, and engage customers when they enter your store.

3. Not Answering Your Business Phone

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of phone calls to small businesses go unanswered, according to a survey by 411 Locals. To be more specific, 37.8% get forwarded to voicemail, and 24.3% don’t get any response. In fact, 411 Locals says, a whopping 70% of small businesses answer less than half of the phone calls they receive.

If this is you, you’re throwing business away. While you may not always be able to answer the phone (especially if you’re a one-person or very small business), you can make it a practice to reply to voice mails the same day or at least within 24 hours.

4. Sending Too Many Emails

More than 4 out of 10 (43%) of consumers say they’d like businesses to email them less often, according to data from TechnologyAdvice. And more than 45% have unsubscribed from an email list because they get too many emails from that business. At the same time, MarketingSherpa reports, 15% of consumers like it when a business sends them emails every day.

Given this range of preferences, how can you choose the right frequency? Segment your email marketing lists based on customers’ interactions with your emails. Does someone always open your weekly emails and frequently act on them? They’re probably fine with that cadence. Are your emails always deleted unopened? Slow the frequency.

5. Not Maintaining Your Location Properly

Does your business stink—literally? Letting your store or office get grimy is a huge turnoff for customers. If you’ve ever watched Gordan Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares you know the stories of bad customer service extend to cleanliness. More than 9 in 10 (93%) of people in one Harris poll say they won’t go back to a business that has bad odors (78%), dirty restrooms (66%), dirty surfaces (65%), or an unkempt entryway (60%). There’s no excuse for not keeping it clean.

6. Overusing Industry Jargon

Industry terminology can be useful in some situations—for instance, at an industry conference or trade show, or in a sales meeting with prospects who are eager to “geek out” over all the features of your product. But if you’re over-relying on industry jargon—using it in your social media posts, marketing pieces, all over your website, and in casual conversation—you’re driving away prospects who may not know what you’re talking about.

If they’re not sure what you’re saying, they probably don’t want to ask for fear of seeming stupid. That means they’ll just head over to the competition instead.

7. Taking Too Long

Everyone’s in a hurry these days, and that includes your customers. We’ve all heard stories of bad customer service where someone waited too long for something at a store, restaurant or any organization. There’s a reason we all hate going to the DMV. Eight in 10 customers won’t wait longer than 5 minutes for service, according to a TimeTrade survey. Customers’ top frustrations with business include lengthy hold times, companies that don’t quickly resolve problems, and dealing with representatives who aren’t empowered to provide solutions, the survey also found. You may not be able to solve a customer’s problem in 60 seconds, but you at least need to try.

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