Nobody Wants to Provide Poor Customer Service

Suneet Bhatt | September 14, 2016

No one starts a business with dreams of providing poor customer service.

But if you look at the gap between the service customers expect and the service they’re currently getting, it’s clear many companies are failing to deliver.

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Why aren’t businesses providing the great support they aspire to deliver and their customers desire to receive? Why do 78% of customers say they’ve bailed on an intended purchase because of a bad experience? What’s getting in the way? Part of the problem is that the landscape of customer support has fundamentally changed:

Sometimes it pays to be different, but not when it comes to good customer service. Every customer wants it; every business benefits from providing it; and there’s no shortage of evidence for the value it creates. Companies who hope to keep pace with these new standards will need to realize the following:

1. Customer expectations are rising

Personalization and customization have evolved from nice-to-haves to table stakes. Customers want you to learn and know more about their goals — on their terms — and then to have you deliver experiences against that knowledge. It’s not about building a relationship between you, it’s about your ability to cater to them directly.

“Customers know that the companies they purchase from have access to their interests and behaviors,” writes Adele Sweetwood in Harvard Business Review. “In return, they should expect personalized offers, advance notice, targeted suggestions, and a high level of customer service.”

Software has helped us turn clicks, actions and behavior into digital fingerprints unique to each customer. With this data comes the opportunity — and responsibility — to trade catch-all experiences for personal ones. Knowing your customers has become an important first step in helping them succeed with your product.

2. Sustainable growth is the new standard

As market conditions change, the new normal in business is slower, more steady growth. This has forced companies of all sizes to focus on efficiency and sustainability.

As George Will writes in the Washington Post, “The grim news is not that the economy continues to resist returning to normal. Rather, it is that this ‘current equilibrium’ ... is the new normal.”

With this shift comes increased incentive to build a business that creates lasting impact, and one of the best ways to efficiently drive growth, impact and value is to focus on your existing customers. As the old saying goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”

3. Tools are numerous and cumbersome

Companies are customers, too. They should have similarly high expectations from the tools they use to run their businesses.

There are countless tools in every category. Marketing technology now boasts over 4,000 vendors — a huge leap from the 150 itemized back in 2011 — all providing some sort of point solution to solve an acute challenge for businesses scrambling to meet customers’ needs. The same goes with help desk software.

All you have to do is look at the way customer support and marketing technology vendors market their products, and you’ll see companies more interested in what they can do than how they can help. Massive lists of features. Confusing and biased comparison charts. Pricing that’s nearly impossible to understand. Some even bait and switch you by listing features that are only available through additional paid integrations through third parties — not a great customer experience.

The foundation for many of these solutions is rocky to begin with. You can’t create a personalized experience when you view customer support as an operational exercise or when you think of conversations with customers as issues and ticket numbers. And it’s difficult to inspire your employees to stay engaged and provide exceptional customer experiences when you’re giving them tools that make both them and the people they are supporting feel like parts of an assembly line.

Which brings me to my last point:

Software shouldn’t be part of the problem

Historically, help desk software hasn’t been accessible to every business. Excessive segmentation and confusing pricing models have made traditional help desks tailored to companies who have time and money to burn. That’s a disservice to businesses and their customers.

A good help desk solution should be available to everyone. Lowering the barrier to entry raises the collective bar, enabling companies at all stages — and of all sizes — to provide excellent support for their customers. Building great customer experiences shouldn’t be hamstrung by the tools we use, and our employees on the front lines responsible for providing amazing customer service, shouldn’t be hamstrung by arbitrarily limited software with confusing rules and sub-par interfaces. Great employees want to provide great customer service, and when something beyond their control gets in the way (a tool, a rule, a process), you'll see both customer service levels and employee engagement levels drop.

One of the biggest obstacles to experimentation has always been the cost of getting started. Cost can mean pure financial cost, such as expensive plans, or complex plans that nickel and dime you for every new feature and integration. Cost can also mean time: time spent figuring out what's included in a free plan or trial and whether it will help you improve how you support your customers. We've doubled down on removing these obstacles for you, and are committed to making it easy for companies to get up and running with a help desk solution.

We're committed to democratizing support, by making delightful help desk software accessible again.

Give your customer service a boost with 9 Tips to Improve Your Customer Support Game.

About the author: Suneet Bhatt is the Chief Growth Officer at Help Scout.