Beware of Customer Service Barriers and Detractors – Part Two

This is the second part of the post that delves into the things that organisations should be aware of that change the service atmosphere. Broadly, they are barriers and detractors. In the last post I looked at the various barriers that are the things that completely block the customer, which creates a definite end to a positive interaction. This post will examine the detractors which are slightly different to barriers, as they don’t necessarily block the customer, but significantly lose any impact or credibility in terms of delivering a positive interaction. There are four detractors that organisations need to be aware of:

1. Blame

Also known as ‘passing the buck’ or ‘handballing’, blame is where this act is made known to the customer. In fact, it happens so regularly because when we do use blame, it makes us feel really good about ourselves. Even the best of teams do it, and have the same satisfaction because when there is a problem, no one likes it to fall on them. Even if they are responsible to resolve it, blame is something very easy to throw in. The problem with blame in this sense is that it highlights a problem to a customer, when the aim should be to either take the problem away from the customer, or try to resolve the problem seamlessly, before it escalates. That’s right, problems can escalate to become conflict, which is why blaming should be avoided. This is a detractor, as it doesn’t block the customer fuelling conflict, it antagonises the customer even more. You can expect after using blame the customer will come back stronger and stronger, which forces you into a situation of activating conflict management.

2. Moralising

The first thing you may ask here is what is the difference between moralising and demoralising? Moralising refers to commenting on issues of right and wrong with an unfounded air of superiority, whereas demoralising is to cause someone to lose confidence or hope. Equally related, but it is the act of moralising that is a detractor to service. Our teams are trained and know their jobs well. How does it feel when a customer challenges their knowledge, or better yet, does something so basically wrong that it makes you roll your eyes? This is where it is so easy to moralise. For example, how clear is it when you pass through airport security to take everything out of your pockets? How many signs are there? How many times do they repeat their instructions? Yet, sure enough, people walk through the screening point with pockets full of coins or keys! It is so easy to respond, “You should have read the signs!” In customer service it is not the responsibility of staff members to educate right or wrong like parents do. This makes the customer feel insignificant, which detracts from the service atmosphere and may cause conflict.

3. Verboseness

A noun that means wordiness, using more words than needed. There are so many opportunities for this in customer service. Talking or ‘chatting’ to colleagues in front of customers without making the customer feel like number one priority is one example that is often seen. As well as talking to the customer unnecessarily. Have you been a customer who has asked a staff member how they are, and then they begin to tell you their life story? People stereotype taxi drivers as doing this all of the time. Customers are being polite when they ask you how you are. Wordiness detracts from their experience. Even if you are being ‘wordy’ over a customer’s question can detract as well. This causes them to become impatient and likely to slip into a difficult situation or lose their interest completely.

4. Selling

Really? Can selling detract from service? How often have you heard someone say they didn’t like doing business with an organisation because the person was too ‘salesy?’ We are all sales people and this is a huge topic on its own, so in brief, sales is about providing information to customers in a thoughtful way as they may not be aware of everything that is available to them. What detracts from customer service is where the sale is the number one priority and not the customer. Or even when the customer is the number one priority but the focus is on making budget or promoting the most expensive or commission related item. In today’s economic climate, organisations that do sell are shifting to focus more on customer service. Sales has always been about customer service, though; however, over time it has gained a negative reputation, which detracts from the overall service experience.

Are you aware of any of these detractors to service in your organisation?

Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results:


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