10 ways to annoy your customers before you even talk to them

Customer satisfaction is the key to the long-term success of any business. But according to Dave Millett of Equinox Communications, far too many companies annoy and frustrate their customers before they even speak to them! They do this by making it difficult and/or expensive for their customers to contact them.

Here Dave highlights the top ten classic mistakes:

1)    People prefer to speak to someone if they have a question or, even more so, if they want to make a complaint.   Yet it is amazing that some companies don’t even provide a contact number on their website – instead they expect their customers to email or fill in a form. This doesn’t say much about their commitment to customer service. So make sure you have a phone number clearly available on your website.

2)    Assuming you do provide a number, is it the right one for your customers?  Do they call you regularly from their mobiles or landlines?  If so using 0800 or 0845 numbers can deter mobile callers from making the call as these numbers are expensive and will put customers off.

3)    Even worse, do you profiteer by using 0844 or 0871 numbers?  Any company using these numbers for sales or services should be avoided.  They make a profit on every call they receive – even a sales call.

4)    Once your customer has made the call, how easy do you make it for them to talk to someone?  Do you use options such as ‘press 1’, ‘press 2’ etc. to route calls to various departments?  If so, did you know that this will cause some customers to abandon the call?  It is interesting to note that First Direct, which always scores highly on customer service surveys, does not use this method. Instead it routes every call to a real person.

5)    Equally frustrating are those companies that install systems that prompt users, before they talk to anyone, to enter their account code/customer number etc. and then, having eventually got through to someone, the first thing you are asked is “can I have your account number?”.

6)    Do you even know how many customers abandon their calls because of long answer times?  Many companies don’t even measure it.  As a general rule, people start to get irritated after only 10 seconds or four rings.  That could result in losing a customer forever.

7)    Businesses spend a lot of money playing comforting messages – stressing how important their call is to you.  If it were that important why not hire more people to ensure there are enough to answer the calls.  Customers are not fooled!

8)    Some companies have, in the past, resorted to moving support centres overseas. However the trend is changing and they are moving back to the UK.  Customers have voted with their business; the companies that have focused on ‘how do we make servicing our customers cheaper rather than better’ are losing out.

9)    Smaller companies face a similar choice; do I use an answering service or let a call go to voicemail?  It depends. Does the answering service just take a message or can they solve or answer some queries?  If they are just passing on a call back message how does that help?

10) Finally do you have a plan to enable your customers get in touch if you cannot get to your office or shop due to bad weather or transport problems? There are plenty of inexpensive solutions which will avoid lost orders and frustrated customers.

In summary, it should be easy for customers to reach you at zero or little cost to them and without waiting forever to talk to someone. A great test is to pretend to be your own customer and call your own company – was it a good experience for you?  If not that is what your customers have to deal with every day. So put some thought into how you can improve the experience – if you don’t then your customers could end up calling your competitors.

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