The Last Thing a Customer Wants to Hear

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How often have you taken to the Internet or texted a friend to tell them about a great customer service experience? Most people don’t often recall those unless prompted – but a single negative experience can have a devastating effect on a business.

Check out the social media pages from most large companies and you’ll find plenty of company horror stories. Make sure your company isn’t the next to be blasted on the Internet by learning how to avoid the most cringe-worthy phrases in customer service, as found in a 2011 American Express Survey. “We’re unable to answer your question. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx to speak with a representative from xxx team.”

A company typically only hears from about 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers – meaning these customers are willing to open a dialog with the company, despite their displeasure. While you have them on the line, address their concerns or research the situation and call them back. Don’t redirect them to disconnect and call a different number. Not only will they probably not call, but they may also join the 91 percent of dissatisfied customers who never go back to the business. “We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing unusually heavy call volumes. You can hold or try back at another time.”

When this has happened to you on another call, have you waited on the line? Most customers hang up after a certain amount of time – one study found that 15 percent of callers hang up after about 40 seconds on holding, with a little over two minutes being the longest most callers waited before hanging up. Considering that the American Express survey found that 78 percent of customers bailed on a transaction or didn’t make an intended purchase because of poor customer service, your business could be losing quite a few sales by keeping potential customers on hold.

Should your system automatically redirect them to a voicemail system if their hold time reaches a maximum limit, ensure that staff call them back promptly. “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.” The same American Express survey found that in one year, 67 percent of customers hung up the phone out of frustration that they couldn’t talk to a real person. These customers did not feel as if their call was important if they were continually on hold, and a statement that seems insincere is enough to keep a customer from returning.

Keeping customers on hold is keeping them from finding solutions to their problems – the opposite of what most businesses seek to do. Ensuring they are talking to a real person rather than hearing a dial tone can be as simple as hiring a courteous virtual receptionist to keep your customers – and their calls – positive and professional.