How To Infuriate & Alienate Your Customers

Recently I received incredibly bad customer service from a well-known retailer and thought “wow, these guys could re-write the book on how to destroy customer loyalty.” 

It also occurred to me their blunders could serve as an excellent check-list of things NOT to do for customer service in general.  So I have compiled the following list for you to run your own check to see how you’re performing.

7 Strategies to Drive Your Customers Away

1.       Make a promise but don’t deliver on it.
When you advertise, promote or sell your products and services you create an expectation in the customer’s mind and that’s what the customer expects to receive in exchange for payment.  To truly disappoint them be sure to make vague or unrealistic promises and then always come up short with your service delivery or product performance.

2.       When things go wrong make it hard as possible for the customer to find anyone to help.
Don’t make it obvious how customers can get hold of you if they have a problem or require help.  Don’t put contact details on websites and don’t ever give them a phone number to call or you may end up having to actually speak to them!

3.       Create a customer service team but don’t give them any authority to make decisions.
For really persistent customers that finally get through to the customer service team, be sure no one has the authority to make a decision.  If you empower people to evaluate the situation and take action they may actually help your customers.  This is a big no-no when looking to incense your customer.

4.       Take your time responding or don’t respond at all.
Take your time when responding to customers.  If you make them wait long enough they may just go away which is really helpful for customer service people who don’t like dealing with difficult customers.  Quick responses show you care and this may not be helpful when looking to repel customers.

5.       Never give the customer one person to deal with.
To truly enrage your customer don’t ever give them one person to deal with or they may get the idea that you want to help.  Instead push them from pillar to post and make them explain their situation over and over again.  This enhances your chance of wearing them down and having them go away.

6.       Use automated responses and de-personalise all communication.
Automated responses are an essential tool when looking to exasperate customers.  Automated phone systems are excellent especially those that inform the customer how important their call is.  So are automated emails assuring a quick response that never comes.  It’s always good to raise expectations then dash them for full impact.

7.       Quote the rules or company policy and expect the customer to be happy with that.
Finally when those pesky customers that have battled through the barriers your organisation have placed in their way demand a decision or an answer, be sure to quote them the rules or company policy, especially the ones that assure the company doesn’t take responsibility or demonstrate any kind of empathy or care for their customer.  Don’t ever show flexibility.

So there it is, seven guaranteed ways to wreck relationships, destroy loyalty and have customers take their business elsewhere.  And the name of the company who just re-wrote the book on driving customers away?  Dick Smith Electronics.

Unlike DSE, the rest of us operate in a competitive environment where customers are acutely aware of their options and who won’t hesitate to change allegiance if they don’t get what they want.  Businesses like DSE don’t appreciate that customers are critical to their survival – if they keep up this level of service they will soon learn how a business fares with a diminishing customer base.

Maybe this is a good time for you to re-assess how your people and your systems are treating your customers.  It’s not difficult, first take a good look at yourself from your customer’s perspective.  Next ensure you’re not falling into any of the traps outlined above.  Finally look at the types of behaviours and skill sets demonstrated by customer-obsessed companies who get it right.

If I can help you with any aspect of improving the experience your customers receive with the view to growing customer loyalty and customer spend, then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

For a few moments of customer service silliness with Jerry Seinfeld, try these links.
Renting a car http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWTMa76BzH0 (1m44s)
At the dry cleaners http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_sojwiRQaA (1m19s)
The soup kitchen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xqkpP59UgM (3m49s)
Warmest regards

Geoff Wake

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