When I write or speak about customer service, I'm not only referring to that huge room of amazing people at a Zappos who multitask--answering phone calls, live chats and emails. I'm spreading the message that anyone, all the way from the CEO to a salesperson, is a customer service rep in any company. In my last company, I often viewed myself as the Chief Customer Officer even more than the CEO, because the customer was, and should be, at the heart of everything you do.
So now that I'm no longer the CEO and find myself on the other side of the phone or email thread on a daily basis, I've been encountering customer service issues all over the place.
This leads me to three things you should NEVER say to a customer:
1. "Our customer service support system lost your email."
Recently I bought an online advertising service which just didn't work for one of my clients. I'm fine with that, but it had worked for me in the past so I was feeling disappointed. Since I had successfully worked with them before, I felt like emailing them to let them know. I emailed this company 6 times before they got back to me.
From their email:
"Apologies for the late response. We've been facing some issues with our support system and some of the emails we receive are not being forwarded to our support inbox. "
So they apologized and blamed it on the customer service software. I get that things go wrong from time to time, but test the support system every day. I'm sure they saw a decrease in the numbers of emails they were getting. If they were on it, they'd have known. This is supposed to be an advertising technology company, so no wonder the ads weren't working!
2. "Our Terms of Service say..."
After I finally got someone to respond to my email, this same company then told me that their "terms of service don't guarantee that the advertising will work."
To add insult to injury:
"Please note that as mentioned in our Terms of Service, ... does not promise any increase in the number of..."
I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't have terms of service on your site, but you also have the ability to overturn the policy to keep a loyal customer happy. And since they knew I was a repeat customer, they should have gone out of their way to keep me around.
3. "I'm sorry you feel that way..."
Here you're implying that the onus is on the customer and that you possibly did nothing wrong.
Icing on the cake:
"I'm sorry to hear your campaign did not gain the number of user you'd expected. I looked into the matter and do understand why [our rep] gave you the answer she did, even though that is not what you wanted to hear. It can be frustrating to see results that differ from what you are used to, but that is how the featured user spot works."
You're basically saying "Hey, what you encountered sucked and now you feel bad and now I feel bad that you feel bad." Huh? Just say, "Sorry about that, we'll fix it right away."
It's so hard to get a customer in this day and age, and once you get one you need to work on keeping them around, as long as possible. By deleting these phrases from your brain and your team's brain, you've got more of a chance to keep them around longer!
Plus, happy customers tell other people to use your service. And by the way, it works the other way too: Pissed off customers tell more people about their experience than even happy customers do.