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When customer communications go wrong – and how you can avoid a crisis

When customer communications go wrong – and how you can avoid a crisis

Great customer communications are not easy to achieve. There are so many things to get right. You must send the right message, at the right time, to the right person. With so many variables, it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen. In this article we explore some of the most common customer communications failures and how you can avoid them.

Canned responses sound wooden

Automation in your customer communications is obviously a desirable goal; you can save time and money while improving the customer experience. What’s not to like? The downside is that pre-scripted responses and messages can easily be inappropriate for the occasion. For example, if you send a light-hearted response to a customer enquiry that mentions a recent bereavement. At best, such a message might feel cold-hearted, at worst it can feel cruel.

The key to avoiding such dissonance is to consider every eventuality when you create these canned responses. How will your message land to someone experiencing a personal tragedy? Are your automated messages appropriate for angry customers – or for someone who speaks English as a second language?

Placeholder text not replaced before sending

“Dear [name]” is a terrible way to start a message, but it happens regularly. Although these messages seem harmless compared to messages that are sent with offensive language in place of greetings or customer details.

Some of these failings can be attributed to employee error. It’s important to remind customer communications professionals to never enter offensive language, for any reason, even if they intend to change it later; the risk of forgetting is too great. Other errors occur when users add dummy text that is not dynamic, so the “[name]” text is never replaced with the individual’s name. Again, user training is crucial to avoid these errors creeping into your CCM system.

Jokes from customer service agents accidentally sent

Your teams may entertain themselves with shared jokes, but they must ensure that private messages between colleagues never become public messages to customers. To avoid such issues, remind agents to never use customer communications as a medium for sharing jokes or comments internally. If employees want to have informal chats, encourage them to use a separate platform that is disconnected from public-facing channels.

Slow responses

One of the greatest sins you can commit in customer communications is failing to respond in time. If a customer must wait two weeks for a response they needed in two hours, then that customer may consider switching to a more responsive provider.

Slow responses may be caused by a backlog of inbound messages or an under-staffed customer service team. If it’s impossible to bring in additional staff to clear the backlog, messages should be triaged to ensure that urgent messages are dealt with first. Another cause of missed messages is unattended mailboxes, or poor systems for managing inboxes and dealing with outstanding requests. Are there any gaps in your inbound communications, or any opportunities for messages to fall through the cracks?

Lack of awareness / inability to resolve problems

The quickest way to irritate your customers is to offer them customer service agents who are not equipped to resolve their problems and answer their questions. It’s okay to not have all the answers, but it’s inexcusable to not have a method for escalating queries and finding resolutions. Make sure all your customer service agents are equipped with the knowledge and processes to deal with any enquiry.

Wrong message to the wrong person

With thousands of customers, it’s easy to send a message to the wrong recipient. And while this might be a harmless mistake if a marketing message goes astray, it can undermine confidence in your organisation. The impact is magnified if a policy document or account statement is sent to the wrong person.

Employee training (and a reliance on effective processes) can reduce the likelihood of messages going to the wrong customer. Poor customer data can also lead to problems, so it’s important to cleanse databases routinely and check that the correct (and complete) information is feeding through to your CCM platform.

Rogue employees

Just last month, an employee deactivated Donald Trump’s Twitter account on their last day at work. While Trump was only offline for a few minutes, the incident is a reminder of the risk that disgruntled, departing and distracted employees can pose. It’s important to assess these risks and build processes that ensure anyone with a grudge or a grievance cannot wreak havoc on your customer communications. For example, you may need to reduce the CCM privileges of employees who are fired – or who resign to join a competitor.

When things go wrong

While it’s wise to eliminate risks and do everything you can to protect and respect your customers, you can’t predict every issue or prevent every error. When things do go wrong, it’s usually best to accept the failing and apologise immediately. Mistakes are a fertile learning ground, and are best viewed as opportunities to prevent problems from reoccurring. 

Get help with your customer communications

Want to know how your organisation can avoid some of these risks? Talk to DocCentrics about our CCM platform and how it can reduce opportunities for errors, omissions and malicious interference.