How to put an end to customer misery

Avoid breaking promises and improve customer service with these three steps

Author: Jeff Toister2nd November 2021

Jennifer listened intently to my request.

I needed a shuffleboard table delivered to my holiday rental cabin. The cabin’s reservation calendar was blocked off from 5th to 8th January, and the shuffleboard table had to be delivered during that time frame so that it would be in the games room before the next guests arrived.

Jennifer assured me that it could be delivered on 6th January. Buoyed by her confidence, I placed the order. That was late November. My confidence turned to anxiety in mid-December when Jennifer’s company emailed me to say that the shuffleboard table had been shipped and was being prepared for delivery several weeks early.

Did Jennifer break her promise?

It took eight contacts and a supervisor getting involved to get the delivery back on track. During that time, my frustration grew and my confidence in the company waned. Situations like this plague customer service teams and make customers miserable. Here are three steps that you can take to prevent them.

Once you identify broken promises, the next step is to fix them. The goal is to prevent customer misery by keeping your promises more consistently.

Jeff ToisterPresident, Toister Performance Solutions

Audit your promises

Customer misery is often the result of broken promises. Jennifer promised delivery on 6th January, but then the shuffleboard table was scheduled to arrive in mid-December when the cabin was occupied and I couldn’t be there to receive it.

The first step to preventing customer misery is to identify the promises that you’re making and how often you’re keeping or breaking them. Start by searching for two kinds of issues:

  1. What are the most common reasons why customers contact you?
  2. What issues require an unusual amount of effort to resolve?

The shuffleboard table retailer received a lot of messages about order deliveries because its website was unclear. The online ordering system promised that furniture would ship in one to three weeks, which led customers to believe that their order would arrive in one to three weeks. In reality, it usually took longer than that. This was the information that wasn’t shared with customers on the website:

  1. Furniture took up to three weeks to ship from the warehouse
  2. Orders then arrived at a third-party delivery company based near the customer
  3. Customers had to coordinate with the third-party company to schedule a delivery

Special requests got even more complicated. Jennifer had to work outside the company’s normal process when she promised to deliver the shuffleboard table on 6th January, but there wasn’t a reliable way to communicate this information with the warehouse or the third-party delivery company. Mistakes are bound to happen when there aren’t good systems in place to prevent them.

Related content: Get Jeff Toister’s complete guide to conducting promise audits here.

Fix broken promises

Once you identify broken promises, the next step is to fix them. The goal is to prevent customer misery by keeping your promises more consistently.

It’s helpful to involve other teams at this stage because you’ll likely need their help. For instance, the shuffleboard table retailer would need to improve on keeping delivery promises by involving several groups:

  • Website: Making the delivery process clear on the website
  • Customer service: Ensuring that reps have a good understanding of the delivery process
  • Warehouse: Creating a process to ship items to arrive on a specific date
  • Third-party delivery company: Making sure that phone calls are answered

In a perfect world, customers could select a delivery date when they placed their order on the website. Other furniture retailers do this, and it’s really convenient.

The next best option would be to update the language on the website to give customers a clear understanding of when their order would be delivered. This could prevent confused customers from contacting customer service when their orders didn’t arrive on the date expected.

Internal communication could also be improved. After speaking with Kymber, a supervisor, I learned about several of the company’s internal challenges:

  • Special delivery requests didn’t override the automated shipping system
  • Customer service agents couldn’t easily access previous conversations
  • The customer service team couldn’t contact the third-party delivery company

These details explained why multiple customer service representatives struggled to get my order back on track for the promised delivery on 6th January. They genuinely wanted to help, but the company’s internal systems made it difficult. All that misery could have been prevented if the customer service team had a way to easily collaborate with other departments.

Monitor your promises

It’s impossible to avoid service failures entirely. Even the best companies and customer service professionals occasionally make mistakes, but there’s still an opportunity to avoid customer misery by monitoring your promises. This allows you to identify and react to problems before your customer is affected. It also gives customers assurance that you are watching out for them.

This is where Kymber really shone. She sent me a follow-up email after our conversation to confirm that she had personally spoken with someone at the delivery company to schedule my delivery. She then tracked my order and even called me on the day of delivery to make sure that everything had gone smoothly.

Kymber admitted that this manual process was time-consuming. It’s something that she was able to do as a supervisor, but the customer service reps on her team didn’t have the same ability to monitor orders. Because of this, the company could benefit from better internal communication systems. An automated system might notify someone in customer service if an order is delayed. An internal messaging system could allow customer service, the warehouse and even the third-party delivery company to collaborate on problematic orders such as mine.

Service teams work closely with your customers, but they are often the most siloed from your business. Slack is the connective tissue that bridges that gap, connecting agents with the people and information that they need to resolve issues faster. Here’s what your teams can do with Slack to improve service processes and build customer loyalty:

  • Collaborate with multiple departments in real time to access the expertise that your customers need
  • Find information faster in multiple channels by using Slack’s search capabilities
  • Improve the quality of customer experience with personalised support models
  • Streamline customer feedback loops by applying valuable insights gained from past actions

Customers count on service teams to help them solve problems and avoid misery. Behind the scenes, we often have to coordinate with several other departments to execute successfully. And while it might take some time to re-evaluate how you can make operational changes, improving communication almost always works to everyone’s benefit. Learn more about perfecting a great customer experience by watching our on-demand webinar with Toister here.

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