How to drive a customer crazy

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose. Read full profile

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Through most of my corporate work career I’ve been associated with the “hospitality industry:” hotels and resorts and all the amenities they are made of, e.g. restaurants, retail and recreational outlets and the like. The hospitality industry is a labor-intensive one, where the majority of employees do come face-to-face with the customer. Within it, nearly every manager can tell you how they will limp their way through the dreaded monotony of daily pre-shift meetings, sometimes called “the line up.” For most of the hospitality industry the purpose is the same: 10-15 minutes at the beginning of a work shift to keep staff as up-to-date as possible, and in-the-know enough to have a decently savvy stage presence for the customer.

Coming up with engaging conversations for pre-shift was this on-going game with me; I took it on as my own personal challenge to make the 10-15 minutes as entertaining for all of us as possible, while sharing the knowledge everyone needed for the day ahead. If we had to have line up, we may as well enjoy ourselves and learn something useful at the same time.

One of my favorite line-up routines was to do a 5-minute brainstorm we called “How to drive a customer crazy.” We talked about what not to do in a way that had most of us rolling in laughter at the possible outrageous scenarios. However it was also very effective in actually speaking out loud those reminders of bad habits we really shouldn’t do. The staff would throw out suggestions that sounded awful, but usually they were possible: They really were big no-no’s, and saying them out loud, even in jest, kept us aware of them enough to keep them at bay.

Here are some samples of what would come up for us:

How to Drive a Customer Crazy.

Pretend you haven’t noticed they are there.
Stay in first gear, especially when they are rushing.
Let them overhear your personal phone call, and make no attempt to end it.
Open late. Close early.
Say “That’s not our policy.”
Say “That’s not my job.”
Say “I’m not allowed to do that.”
Say “I have no idea.”
Say “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Slouch. Chew Gum. Twirl your hair between your fingers.
Give them a blank stare, or worse, roll your eyes.
Fidget distractedly. Appear bored.
Finish whatever other task you have at hand, while they wait for you to attend to them.
Talk story with other employees. Laugh at an “inside joke” they are not privy to.
Speak in a monotone. See how long you can go without smiling.
Be late for their appointment or with their reservation.
Take shortcuts with your service, saying “you don’t really need this part do you?”
Make excuses.
Have a quick comeback for every point they may wish to make with you.
Offer mechanical, routine service that is so uneventful, so ordinary, that they expect to pull a number and listen for you to call out “Next!”
Look at them with open disapproval or impatience.
Speak so softly, or in such a rush, that they need to keep asking “What was that?”
Give them directions so involved or confusing they have to write them down.
Give them “scenic” directions that take them out of their way when they really wanted a shortcut.
Ignore the very young and very old in the group, talking only to the ones you assume are the “responsible ones” – or the paying ones.
Assume that all customers are the same, and you already know what they want.

Is your pet peeve here?
What would you add to the list? What drives you crazy when you’re the customer?

Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog.

District residents may not have a vote in Congress yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions — especially when it comes to the area’s restaurants and hotels. Our local, vocal population flocks to social media to discuss everything from location to décor to service with a smile, and they aren’t afraid to say it when their experience isn’t up to snuff. Data scientists examined social media reviews for more than 4,700 businesses in the D.C. metro area from the past 12 months and identified the top five things — or lack of them — that are driving DMV (a.k.a. District, Maryland and Virginia) customers nuts.

Dirty lipstick stains on glasses, loud AC units, boiling hot dining rooms and noisy neighborhood construction projects can cast a dark cloud over a romantic date or birthday brunch. D.C. patrons hate when establishments neglect the details that can disrupt an otherwise good experience, or hint that there may be other issues behind the scenes. After all, as Anthony Bourdain famously said, “If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.”

The lesson? Managers and staff should be on high alert for potential problems around the establishment so that they can be addressed before becoming fodder for bad reviews. Interestingly, guests at downtown D.C. locations complained more frequently about loud noise, while reviewers in the suburbs had more issues with lack of parking — knowing what pushes customer hot buttons can be helpful for mitigating the issues, be it hiring a string quartet to drown out noise pollution or setting up a valet service that can melt away the stress of searching for a parking meter.

D.C. reviewers want options, and they get cranky if what they’ve shown up expecting isn’t available. If the hotel brochure advertises HBO but it’s not working properly, if the wine that’s identified as a ‘must-try’ on Yelp is out, or if there aren’t enough choices for children or vegetarians, rest assured that put-out D.C.ers will be voicing their frustration online. They also don’t like being pushed into anything else once they’ve decided what they want — it feels like a bait-and-switch.

The best way for restaurants and hotels to avoid this type of issue is to listen, keep customers informed and set expectations. Update online menus and website offers if something changes, and don’t get beat by competitors that are more in tune with what customers want (perhaps more cocktail choices, local produce sources or gluten-free options). Then be sure to deliver what has been promised.

“Get it right and keep it working” pretty much sums up the third most common complaint in D.C.: quality. When customers dine out or stay overnight, they expect everything to meet their high expectations. So whether it’s a leaking ice machine or a latte milk steamer nozzle on the fritz, businesses need to find and fix broken equipment right away.

And although businesses love repeat visitors, once those customers have been wowed, they’ll now have a set expectation of what they’ll experience on a second visit. So if there’s way more salt in the chocolate torte or the kitchen is putting fewer shrimp in the salad this time around, D.C. guests are going to notice — and say something about it online.

Unexpected upcharges are sure to land a business in hot water with District customers. They don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed for items they think should already be included, such as drink refills, parking garage fees, additional toppings or an extra plate. Like most guests, they want to feel like they got good value for spending their hard-earned cash in a D.C. establishment.

What may be surprising is that the perception of price versus value usually stems from quantity, not quality. Many reviews in this vein complain about things like small pours at happy hour or stingy portion sizes. So if you’re trying to keep District residents happy, don’t skimp on the servings.

1. Speed of Service

The most common complaint from DMV reviewers is about how long they have to wait for anything — and that means anything. Whether it’s a long line at the front desk, a slow WiFi connection, or a back-up in the kitchen, the number one way to irritate D.C. customers is to keep them waiting. And we don’t see this timing trend dissipating anytime soon with on-demand everything and 5G mobile technology setting everyone’s speed expectations on overdrive.

To avoid issues in this area, businesses should make sure their staff is trained to deliver expedient service, and stay vigilant about identifying equipment or supply chain problems that could cause delays. Then, once again, it all comes down to delivering what’s expected.

How to drive a customer crazy

Related articles

  • How to drive a customer crazyHow to provide an effortless customer experience
  • How to drive a customer crazyImprove AHT: here’s how top contact center decision makers do it
  • How to drive a customer crazyWhat Is a Good Customer Effort Score and How Can You Earn One? The Complete Guide

A positive experience is a key component of customer loyalty. Steer clear of these 10 call center mistakes that could be turning your customers away.

According to Gartner, organizations should strive to deliver enjoyable, low-effort customer experiences because simplicity is the most significant driver of loyalty. In fact, 96% of customers who experience a high-effort interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience.

10 Common Call Center Mistakes for your Company to Avoid

To help companies improve their Customer Effort Score (CES), we’ve compiled a list of 10 call center mistakes that often result in high customer effort. By being aware of and avoiding these errors, businesses can drive the shift towards frictionless interactions and enhance the overall customer experience. This in turn will lead to higher brand loyalty and increased customer happiness.

1. Sluggish response

When customers are frustrated about their issue, the last thing they want is to have to wait for their call to be answered. To combat extensive hold time, contact centers can use voice recognition or simple IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to determine the nature of the caller’s issue and engage customers immediately. Automated callback options and call queuing solutions that keep customers up to date on their queue position are also becoming increasingly popular and help to temper customer stress levels.

2. Wasted hold time

If customers must wait on hold, why not make good use of their time? By implementing the right systems, you can add value to the interaction and reduce customer effort once the agent comes on the line. Examples include:

  • Automated customer identification processes
  • Personalized promotions during wait times

3. Getting off on the wrong foot

Customers want to know what’s going to happen, how the call center agent is going to help, and how long it is likely to take to resolve their problem. Setting clear expectations is an obvious but often overlooked way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Ignoring customers’ feelings

Asking a customer to briefly describe their issue at the start of an interaction can enable companies to use NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology to instantly gauge the nature and urgency of the problem – both in objective terms and in relation to the customer’s level of frustration.

The up-and-coming field of emotion analytics analyzes an individual’s responses in order to understand their mood or attitude, creating valuable opportunities for companies to connect with customers on an emotional level.

5. Exasperating escalations

Single contact resolutions are the contact center equivalent of one-click ordering. When agents achieve First Contact Resolution (FCR), it means that they properly addressed the customer’s needs the first time they contacted the enterprise. This eliminates the need for them to follow up a second time to seek resolution.

Having the right desktop tools and resources can turn any agent into a multiskilled product expert, enabling them to resolve the issue the first time the customer reaches out.

6. Tricky transfers

Sometimes escalations are inevitable. That’s why it’s vital to make sure Tier 2 agents at the call center have access to the same customer histories – ideally with visual resources. Customers hate to repeat themselves, it increases customer effort and drives up Average Handling Time (AHT).

Intelligent routing is also key, since one of the worst call center mistakes is to make a customer wait for a supervisor, only to direct them to the wrong department.

7. Faulty UI/UX

The devil is in the details. One unclear instruction, misleading image, dead link or outdated article can ruin an entire customer episode. Artificial Intelligence in the call center is key to analyzing huge data sets in order to facilitate QA testing and to identify any high-effort hiccups or mistakes that might damage the customer experience.

8. Complicating matters

Don’t overburden the customer with too many options. They want to resolve their issue as quickly and painlessly as possible, without exerting unnecessary mental effort on complicated choices.

There might be many routes to the same end, but the contact center should be there to guide the customer by recommending the best way forward. That’s what the customer is trusting you to do for them.

9. Shoddy self-service

Call deflection to self-service ensures customers receive the answers they are seeking in the most efficient manner. It also reduces the number of inbound calls routed to human agents. Instead, enquiries are rerouted to self-service channels such as FAQs, live chat, community forums, and knowledge center databases

However, these channels must be easily available and flawlessly designed to ensure that they actually reduce customer effort, and don’t cause further aggravation by not actually helping to resolve anything.

10. Being reactive, not proactive

Anticipating a problem before it becomes a crisis is the key to happier customers, reduced customer effort and lower contact center volumes. While the concept of predictive maintenance has been around for decades, advances in AI have only recently enabled organizations like Vodafone to take advantage of the possibilities, by analyzing any potential issues and automatically contacting customers before they need to contact customer services.

Keeping your Customer Interactions Positive, Enjoyable and Smooth

When striving to deliver effortless service, avoiding these ten key call center agent mistakes is critical to creating a positive, low-effort customer experience.

It’s worthwhile going through the above ten elements of your contact center management and, where necessary, implementing changes to correct the existing customer service mistakes. Doing so will result in a smoother, more efficient experience all round.

Paying close attention to negative customer feedback is also much more useful than positive “thumbs up” responses as they can identify the exact moments in a customer episode that must be improved. Customers are giving you valuable information here, they are honing in on the existing mistakes as experienced by themselves when communicating with your contact center, leaving you with the opportunity to improve it for the future.

Improve your Call Center’s Performance

As call centers move towards a smoother, effortless customer experience, these are the ten significant areas they should focus on improving their performance in. Avoiding or correcting the above call center agent mistakes is critical to creating the ultimate positive, low-effort and enjoyable customer experience.

By Geoffrey James

Updated on: December 27, 2009 / 8:48 PM / MoneyWatch

What do you do when the customer truly goes over the line? Here’s a real-life situation that happened to one of Sales Machine’s regular readers. It started as a typical “disgruntled customer” encounter but then escalated as follows:

I did my best to let the person vent by acquiescing, but when it became clear he wasn’t going to change his approach, I simply stopped the conversation, let the man know that I wasn’t going to take his abuse any longer and that if he wanted my assistance I would be glad to assist him, but only if he acted in a civil and professional manner.
Surprisingly he did not relent. I ended the meeting and offered the phone number of our CEO/owner if he cared to call and discuss his issues further. He continued the abuse, following me in the halls and actually interrupting a separate meeting with another client from the same firm, calling me an idiot and other choice words. I simply acted as if he weren’t in the room.

You shouldn’t have been walking into this situation in the first place. Either you didn’t research the client before making the sales call, or the previous rep didn’t bother to tell your company that there were some potential problems, or your sales support team didn’t log a complaint. Something’s broken in your firm, or you would have known to expect at least some kind of problem.

However, you handled the situation appropriately at the beginning of the encounter by following the prescription that I laid out in the post “How to Cope with a Rude Customer.” I’m not sure whether you raised your intensity level, but you drew boundaries and stuck to them. Good work. If the client had been basically sane, everything would have been fine.

Where you went wrong is how you handled the situation after it was clear that the client was actually crazy. The red flag was when he followed you down the hall, and the confirming sign was when he interrupted your second meeting. That’s genuine nutty behavior.

At that point, you should have stood up, told the second client that you’d call back another time, and then simply left the building. Sitting there and acting as if the crazy client wasn’t in the room was, in fact, passive aggressive behavior on your part and undoubtedly fueled his anger further. And certainly it was impossible to get any actual work done with the second client.

Once free of the building, then you can consider whether or not you want to work with that firm in the future. Firms that tolerate crazy behavior always have dysfunctional corporate cultures. In all likelihood, that firm will, sooner or later, do something that screws you up, like not paying its bills, or publicly trashing your firm. They’re probably not worth the effort.

If you do decide that it’s worth working with them, then you should call the second client and discuss the situation. You are owed an apology, if not from the nutcase, at least from the second client, who should have thrown the nutcase out of his office. (In all likelihood, the second client is scared of the nutcase.)

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Assuming you get the apology, from that point on you schedule your sales calls at times when the nutcase isn’t in the office or make the sales calls on neutral ground, like a local restaurant. There are three good reasons for this:

  1. Self Protection. The nutcase might actually become violent and you shouldn’t be forced to put your physical well-being at risk.
  2. Self Respect. By refusing to be around the nutcase in the future, you send a message that you will not be treated unprofessionally.
  3. Helping the Customer. Ostracizing the nutcase sends a message to the customer’s management that they’ve got a personnel problem.

In any case, be sure to log your experience in that customer’s record in your CRM system and send an email to your boss about the vent. That way, some other rep won’t blindsided and end up dealing with Mr. Loony Tunes.

READERS: Any further advice?


First published on January 6, 2009 / 8:30 AM

© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

How to drive a customer crazy

What drives customers crazy?

The things that can grate on others in our personal lives — such as procrastination, communicating poorly or being messy or obsessive — are often the same or similar behaviors that drive customers crazy.

“Awareness can be the pivotal point to making a quick change,” says Dianna Booher, a communication expert and president of Booher Research. “After all, none of these mistakes are irreversible.”

Here’s what service experts say are the top behaviors that get customers thinking about ending the relationship:

1. Not listening

Customers want you to understand what’s important to them when they share information. And they don’t want to repeat themselves. When employees ask irrelevant or repeat questions, customers feel like they aren’t important.

Tip: The key to keeping customers content — and not making them crazy — is listening closely for details and emotions. Ask questions that prompt customers to clarify, not repeat themselves. Say, “When you say …, do you mean …?” Or “Can you elaborate on …?” And recognize what it means to them. Say, “I can understand why you’re (frustrated, confused).”

2. Not updating

This behavior surfaces in several forms: Not updating your website. Failing to give customers status updates. Not following up on an unanswered request or question.

One survey found that customers won’t do business with companies because websites have inaccurate, outdated or inconsistent information. And customers who aren’t updated on information they need will just stop asking for it.

Tip: To avoid information delays, one company we know created a position, “Czar of Information,” who checked and updated website pages almost daily. The czar also kept tabs on pending customer inquiries and projects, and updated customers as status changed or, if nothing changed, let them know it was still being handled.

3. Talking too much

Sure, customers contact you for answers, advice and information. But they will remember and enjoy the experience better if they do more of the talking. They’d rather be the center of attention than hear (or read) too much from an employee.

Front-line employees want to understand customers’ needs and feelings fully — and that ideal balance is around 70/30. Customers talk 70% of the time, employees 30%.

Tip: Encourage front-line employees to listen to some recorded conversations with customers to find out if they’re in the 70/30 area. Similarly, review chat or email exchanges for the right ratio.

4. Using jargon

If you manage to maintain the 70/30 ratio when communicating with customers, keep your 30% free of jargon. Using jargon and acronyms drives customers crazy. If they don’t understand your jargon, they likely don’t want to admit it. If they do understand it, they often don’t want to hear it over and over.

Tip: Skip the jargon. If you want to use an acronym, use the full name first, then ask customers if it’s OK to use the acronym going forward in the exchange.

5. Taking too long

Customers have a reasonable threshold for waiting. They’ll wait about five minutes for help, according to one study. The better part: They don’t need an answer or resolution within those five minutes. They just want you to acknowledge them or their issue.

Tip: Manage customers’ expectations. They’ll wait longer than five minutes as long as they know what your reasonable wait time is. Then give them options — such as the best times to contact you for fastest service or offering to contact them at their convenience — and a wait won’t drive them crazy.

6. Exaggerating or minimizing

You surely don’t lie to customers. But front-line employees can drive customers crazy by exaggerating or minimizing because the information they want to share isn’t ideal. For instance, they might add or cut days on an estimated delivery time because they don’t think customers will like the reality. Or they might play up a product or service that they don’t know as well as they claim.

Tip: Tell customers the truth all the time. When it’s not their ideal, offer alternatives so they can decide what works best for them.

Oscar Wilde was right – when you assume, you make an ass of “u” and me. That’s a poor customer-service strategy for any business. For a startup, it can be fatal.

How to drive a customer crazy

Customer feedback and interaction should be part of a continuous cycle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have a product and a marketing plan and a sales strategy (key components discussed in other posts). But if your whole foundation is built on assumptions and guesses, you may not generate the volume of customers you expected.

Want to drive your customers crazy? Assume you know what they want and assume you know who will be using your service.

Here’s what I’ve learned about building businesses:

  • Listen to your customers and forget focus groups. Focus groups will tell you what you want to hear, but that’s not always what you need to hear.
  • When someone buys your product, that’s an indication that you have something they want. Are they pleased or disappointed? Pick up the phone and take the customer’s pulse now and then. Ask what worked and what didn’t. Think of it as research – because that’s what it is.

By assuming you know what customers want, you lose a really valuable opportunity to improve your product or service.

  • What if the customer is using your product in a way you hadn’t considered? That opens an opportunity to introduce your product to a new audience?
  • What if you’re marketing your product to the wrong segment of the business? Are your sales calls going to the right people?

Of course you also need to keep the conversation going. We can talk about that topic soon. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts.


Marketing is often a game of trial and error. You send out campaigns then analyze the results, test different strategies, discover what your audience likes and learn from your mistakes. You can usually recover from missteps and reengage your customers. There are some mistakes, however, that drive customers away. In order to avoid these pitfalls, you need to truly listen to your customers and provide excellent customer service. Here are a few of the most common mistakes that small businesses make and how you can prevent them from happening to you.

1. Not Making Educational Information Readily Available

Customers using a product or service often have questions throughout the process. If their question is a complex one, they may choose to call your support staff. But waiting around on the phone is frustrating, especially if their question is simple. Avoid customer dissatisfaction and confusion by providing helpful information on your website, social media pages and marketing campaigns.

Your website should have a comprehensive section dedicated to FAQs, instructional videos, articles with tips and so on. This provides a simple central location for customers to find answers to their questions. Another effective way to educate your customers and create loyalty is to share common questions and solutions to issues. For example, create a video based on a common customer question that you have been receiving lately. Share this video on social media and promote it in your email newsletter.

Automated marketing software helps you send out educational information. Schedule emails and social media messages to go out after you release each popular video or FAQ. This strategy saves you the time of promoting your educational content, while also increasing its reach to many customers and new leads.

2. Ignoring Customers Who Reach Out

Customers often contact small businesses with questions, concerns and comments. Many small businesses lack the resources they need to respond to all these messages. Yet if a customer’s message goes unanswered you may lose their trust and even their business. It is essential to connect with your customers when they reach out.

Set up an autoresponder that sends the customer a message when they contact you. If you can’t respond right away, this automated message will at least let the customer know that their message has been received. The autoresponder message should be basic yet informative. It should confirm that the customer’s message was successfully sent, provide a tracking number for the issue (this is optional and is mainly to help your staff find a specific message quickly), and offer a resource where the customer may find more information while they wait for a response (link to popular FAQs, customer support phone number, etc.).

Ensure that you have a staff member (or a team, depending on the size of your business) dedicated to responding to customer messages. Check for customer interaction every day on your website, social media pages and company email addresses. They took the time to contact you and they deserve a prompt and informative response.

3. Failing to Provide a Simple Option for Feedback

The best way to improve your products is to ask your customers for feedback. Your products and service development should be based around customers’ needs if you want to achieve lasting success. You should collect and analyze feedback regularly through surveys. Even when you’re not actively sending out surveys, they should still be available for customers who wish to submit their feedback. If customers do not have anywhere to easily submit feedback, you may miss out on useful information and relevant suggestions.

Create automated surveys for your website and social media pages. Regular surveys help you stay up to date with your customers’ needs. Automated survey software collects and organizes information so you may easily view and analyze it at your convenience. Listening to customer feedback and improving your products and services keeps customers satisfied and loyal.

Provide an incentive to make customers want to complete your surveys. The incentive should be simple, such as a coupon, special promotion, contest entry or discount code.

4. Advertising Without Providing Valuable Content

All businesses need to advertise. Promoting your products and services is how you gain new customers. But if you rely solely on advertising material to connect with your customers and new leads, you are bound to fail. In addition to regular advertising, you need to release interesting and educational content.

This type of marketing strategy is called content marketing. Content marketing is all about creating valuable content that will engage people and ultimately grow revenue and brand loyalty. Here are some types of content you should be creating and promoting in order to grow your business:

  • Product guides (“How to Select the Ideal Vehicle for Your Needs”)
  • Blog posts (“5 Questions to Ask Before You Purchase a New Cell Phone”)
  • Infographics (“What Does a Basic Work Wardrobe Look Like?”)
  • Videos (“Apply Perfect Liquid Eyeliner in 3 Simple Steps”)
  • Real customer reviews (“Ann Smith’s Review of XYZ Blender”)
  • Lists (“8 Ways to Save Money When You Travel”)
  • Case studies (“XYZ Company Gained a 40% Increase in Conversions Without Increasing Their Budget”)

These are only a few types of content to get you started. Try anything that you think would interest or educate your customers. By putting out different types of content and analyzing the interaction you get, you will learn what engages your customers most effectively and leads to conversions and sales.

Manage Your Content Over Multiple Channels

When you’re using several channels to communicate and do marketing, it is challenging to keep all your data organized. Try using an all-in-one marketing platform that includes multiple channels. If you keep all your data and campaigns organized in one place, it simplifies the process. Using a single marketing platform also saves time and money.

Sign up for a free 14 day trial of SimplyCast’s all-in-one marketing platform. There is no risk and no obligation. We provide lots of helpful resources if you have questions. Our staff is ready to give you a free demo to show you the possibilities of marketing automation.

How to drive a customer crazy

On today’s hyper-competitive landscape, consistently deliver exceptional customer support and service isn’t merely a best practice for profitability: it’s an essential requirement for survival. Indeed, research by Walker Information highlights that by the year 2020, customer experience will be the number one brand differentiator, surpassing conventional heavyweights price and product.

Yet with this being said, it’s also the case that many businesses are doing things that dent, damage or outright destroy good customer relations. Obviously, these errors are 100 percent unintentional. But that doesn’t change the fact that customers are getting frustrated — and increasingly, are heading for the exits.

Below are the three chronic customer experience sins that drive customer crazy:

  1. Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Website

Despite the fact that more people access the web via smartphones and tablets than desktop and laptops, a surprising number of business websites aren’t mobile-friendly. For example, they take excessively long to load, eat up an immense (and needless) amount of data, and are difficult — if not impossible — to navigate, since buttons and tabs disappear in the margins, and anyone without a stylus is out of luck trying to pinpoint a link with surgical precision. It goes without saying that bounce rates for these mobile unfriendly sites are extremely high, which is great news for the competition.

  1. Putting Customers on Hold

In general, customers loathe being placed on hold. The bad news here is that it’s impossible to completely eliminate this scourge from the business landscape. The good news is that according to hosted VoIP phone system provider Votacall, business can use VoIP features like direct-in-dial, one-number-service, hunt groups and ring groups to maximize the likelihood of having a human being say “hello, thank you for calling, how may I help you?” instead of a recording say “your call is important to us, please stay on the line and your call will be answered in priority sequence.”

  1. Selling instead of Consulting

Much has changed on the business landscape over the last decades and especially over the last few years, but this principle remains as true today as it has for centuries: customers dislike (if not hate) being sold, but they certainly enjoy buying.

As such, whether a business is in the retail space or B2B, and whether their sales cycle is measured in minutes or month, all staff involved in the selling process (and usually not just sales reps) need to focus on leading a consultative sales process. This means actively listening to customers, asking relevant questions, and learning about their needs and goals before offering answers and proposing solutions.

The Bottom Line

The need for businesses to be customer-centric — or better yet, make that customer-obsessed — is only going to intensify in the future. That means the difference between businesses that delight their customers vs. those that frustrate or drive them crazy is going to grow starker and clearer. Businesses that lead the way will ensure that none of the above are part of their customer experience — period!

How to drive a customer crazy

We all work hard for our money, so when it comes to spending it we expect a certain level of customer service. But as you know, we don’t always get it and that creates a degree of disappointment. Whether it’s splashing out for a special dinner, buying a new car, or booking in for a new haircut, we’re often faced with frustrating buying experiences that let us down. But’s what they do about it that counts.

From conducting hundreds of thousands of phone-based surveys on customer experience across a range of industries, I’ve identified the five key areas that generate the most common complaints. They are:

1) Communication: this is by far the most significant; calls/emails aren’t answered as expected. The frequency isn’t enough and customers have to follow up with the business when it should be the other way around. Miscommunication and confusion causing a lot of wasted time, when all of it could have been avoided.

Objective; never have a customer contact you twice for the same reason.

2) Knowledge: lack of training and awareness of what’s required and not ensuring the responsibility of being able to give the correct advice. This leaves customers in a predicament they didn’t expect, and it always costs us money, a wasted few hours can be very expensive to a customer.

Objective; always ensure your team have the training required to be a champion of knowledge.

3) Efficiency: the impact of being inefficient has a deep and lasting effect. This is usually due to systems and procedures not being optimised. Have you ever been messed around from a bad process or attitude and in that moment decided you aren’t ever going back? Think telcos, banks, energy companies, or automotive businesses.

Objective; ensure you can measure optimal efficiency and predict how to achieve it.

4) Delivery: often the last point of a transaction and the real human experience of a company. So many businesses fail to ensure their delivery team are clear on the vital importance of this touchpoint. Have you ever had a purchase where it all seems terrific and then at the very end the delivery process crashes your whole experience?

Objective; empower your delivery team to be the custodians of customer experience and understand their critical importance in being the face of the company.

5) Price: there is one undisputable relationship around price – the relationship between service experience and the price tag. If your service experience is very high, customers are happy to pay a premium. If the experience is low, then it better be cheap or why else should I buy from you? Ask any person loyal to their hairdresser if they can find a cheaper one. The answer is always yes, but it’s the service excellence the keeps you there, otherwise if the skill was comparable, you’d go to the cheaper option.

Objective; you must ensure you become a value driven experience model to optimise margin, if you don’t then it’s all about your price tag.

The funny thing is, the most common complaints from customers are often quite easy to resolve. In fact, most could have easily been avoided in the first place, if only the focus was on the outcome rather than just doing what has to be done now. I know a business that lives by the mantra “we haven’t mastered our service with a customer until they personally refer a friend to us”. This is a true commitment to excellence as they always focus into the future to first ensure their customer returns. Whilst this can be hard to deliver on, at least they know they’ll have loyal customers like you and me.

Darrell Hardidge, CEO, Saguity, and author of “The Client Revolution and The 10 Commandments of Client Appreciation”

Endless hold times and more – XPRESS reports on the unattended woes of UAE customers

How to drive a customer crazy

Customer dissatisfaction with both public and private organisations is widespread. Image Credit: Getty Images

Dubai: When was the last time you called a public service and waited endlessly to talk to an operator? Chances are you were put on hold with a recorded message that kept telling you “your call is important to us”, only to add later that “all our operators are busy with other important calls”.

When was the last time you visited a public service utility and returned without getting your job done? In all probability, you missed out on some documents or were told the concerned official was not available or that you had to go to another place to get your problem resolved.

Familiar scenarios all, customer service in the UAE, like many other parts of the world, leaves much to be desired, reveals a new analysis by a customer service consultancy.

Sharing its findings with XPRESS, the UAE-based in association with JLT said customers are a frustrated lot as they go around in circles even to get simple enquiries on the telephone answered.

According to the consultancy, customer dissatisfaction with both public and private organisations is widespread, as residents get bounced around by multiple contacts or stuck with bureaucracy, interactive voice responses (IVRs) and long hold times.

Lack of information and availability of officials also adds to their woes. “It is commonly said that the customer is king, yet customer service remains a grey area. Even though billions of dollars are spent on marketing, the current customer is forgotten. Our analysis was an attempt to outline problems to help organisations pay greater attention to customer service and empower customers to know their rights,” said Hamza Nasir, director of strategic relations at, adding these problems are not unique to the UAE.

Talking to machines

Nasir said customers like talking to people, not machines. But very often they are left with no choice but to deal with automated systems and find their way through its maze of instructions. He said the issue is common in the telecom sector where many options are thrown in. Corporates too have the same system, where the lists keep changing and there is no end to dialling numbers.

“There are certain areas like flight information by airports and billing and package data by telcos where IVR does well. But companies should follow a generic route of operation. For example, there should be a standard 1 for Arabic, 2 for English and 0 for the operator upfront. This way, things would be faster and more standardised.”

Outsourcing woes

Companies that outsource customer service also test their clients’ patience. “The problem is companies see customer service as an expense centre, which is why they try to have the bare minimum resources, typically outsourced, to reduce the costs. Offshoring generic problems that can be virtually taken care of is a proven business model. But using lesser resources than the expected trend requires is against the rights of the customer.”

The analysis says if hold time has to happen, the customer should be informed upfront about his standing so an expectation can be created instead of constantly running a preset automated message or advertisement. They don’t go down well with someone who needs immediate help.

By way of an example, he said: “Trying to get a cab during rush hour can take a while because demand peaks between 4.30pm and 6pm. Also, the drivers’ shifts change during this time and they only want to head in the direction of their offices. If customers are informed of this, they can schedule their trips before time to avoid traffic and waiting lines. The shift timings should be moved around so the rush hours and the shift change times do not overlap.”

Billing complaints

As for customer complaints with billing, Nasir said: “RTA provides more than 21 ways to pay bills, and so does every other government department. These need to be marketed better so consumers can understand the various options for their own convenience. Parking tickets can be paid through smartphones, through a text message and the Emirates ID can be tracked online instead of going to your local PO Box and asking for assistance.”

Unavailability of officials is also a major concern. Nasir said: “Providing a phone number that is not attended at all is unacceptable, especially during office hours. A case in point is the time a lunch break is taken. It often extends between noon to 2:30pm, and in some companies between 1-5pm.”

Unattended mail

According to Nasir, e-mail marketing is a proven method to engage customers, yet responding to emails seems to be considered a burden and is even ignored completely. “The benefit of providing email support is the leverage of replying at a certain delay still being acceptable. Imagine a phone call not being answered for 10 minutes compared to email and you’ll get the idea.”