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8 Barriers to Outstanding Customer Service

Are your customers complaining about the level of service they are receiving?

Are you immediately jumping to the conclusion that the customer is being unreasonable?

While customer service interactions can often be frustrating, and client requests can frequently appear demanding, there may be barriers in your organization that might make reasonable consumer requests seem excessive.

Before concluding that your customers are being unreasonable, consider if your organization has any of these problems, and try to fix them.

1. Bureaucracy

One important reason why customer service can suffer in organizations is due to bureaucracy. The more layers and red tape an employee has to go through to service a client, the more difficult it can be.

Since certain requests will require supervisor approval, while others are taken care of in another department, one single person never sees a case through to completion.

When a case is transferred to another employee, calls can be dropped, or the customer can be transferred to an employee who doesn’t care at all about them.

The end result reflects poorly on the entire organization, not just the employees who handled the case.

The solution? Flatten your organization or at least make the organization appear flatter. You can do this by assigning greater authority and responsibility to customer service reps when handling a case.

You can also assign one dedicated case worker to each specific case, so they can oversee the entire customer service interaction through to its completion.

2. Overworked Staff

Overworked staff can be the result of understaffing, layoffs, rapid growth or assigning too many tasks to too few people.

The result is that your staff will quickly lose their energy. Those that don’t will be stretched too thin and no single client will appear as a priority to them.

Since your reps will have many clients to service, steps will be skipped, staff and customers will become frustrated and clients will receive insufficient attention to their issues.

There is no easy way around solving this problem. You can either hire more people, outsource at least some of the customer service work, or automate whenever reasonably possible.

3. Underworked Staff

The exact opposite can have a similar effect on customer service. If your staff is underworked, they will feel less challenged, under-appreciated and unimportant.

Work has a habit of expanding to fit whatever timeframe is allotted. So if your staff is underworked, case handling turnaround time can drag on longer than reasonably expected, and customers will get frustrated.

The solution is to ensure your staff has an adequate amount of work. Challenge and stretch your staff, but don’t demand the absolute impossible out of them.

4. Having a Non-Caring Culture

The workplace culture can have a substantial effect on how customer service cases are handled. If the workplace climate is one where customers are not cared for, where staff doesn’t care about their work, or if the environment is not empowering, your staff will under-deliver whenever presented with a customer service case.

This culture prevents your staff from caring enough about your customers to make them happy. Customers are not a priority, and the repercussions of an unhappy client is not apparent to them.

To fix this, your culture needs to be more positive, challenging and empowering. Make the atmosphere more optimistic and start assigning greater responsibility and accountability. You should also take this opportunity to coach or implement training.

5. Poor Accountability

If your staff is not held accountable for customer service, there is no reason for your staff to try harder to make sure customers are happy.

Your staff can always place the blame elsewhere and know they can never get in trouble for letting a customer leave unhappy.

You must ensure your systems incorporate some kind of tracking mechanism that records which employees handle each customer, so you know whether or not an employee kept a customer happy, and why.

But that is only half the battle. Now you must address those employees who aren’t treating customers correctly and coach and train if necessary. You should also address customer service performers, and ensure their good work is recognized.

6. Insufficient Systems

If the systems your staff uses when working with clients perform poorly, are slow, contain insufficient data or doesn’t track your client data appropriately, you are going to run into a problem.

Customers are going to get frustrated very quickly if it takes too long to service them, or information they have provided to you is not accounted for. They will be upset that you don’t know their history and will feel under-appreciated.

The fix is quite simple: incorporate better systems and tracking mechanisms to make sure sufficient consumer data is recorded and stored. This ensures your staff has ALL the tools necessary to communicate with and service your clients.

7. Customer Value Hasn’t Been Communicated

If your staff has never been taught the value of customers to your organization, they will most likely not know how to treat them.

All staff members must be told how valuable customers are, so your staff knows to treat clients in the appropriate and valued manner.

8. Lack of Incentive

Your staff must be given the appropriate incentive to give clients outstanding service. If they are not incented, you have given them no reason to go that extra mile for your customers.

Provide rewards, both monetary and non-monetary to ensure your staff is motivated and empowered enough to WANT to service your clients to the best of their abilities.

Can you think of any other barriers to customer service? What are some other ways to overcome them?

9 comments… add one
  • Catherine Gandy January 9, 2010, 6:45 pm

    Great looking Blog! Found it through Yahoo. Just as an FYI, it didnt display right when I opened it in the Opera Interet Browser.

    • Matt Thomas January 12, 2010, 11:03 pm

      Thanks for letting me know! I just checked the blog on Opera, and it appears as if the images appear slightly distorted when “Opera Turbo” is turned on. Turning this option off seems to fix the problem. I really don’t use Opera, but I am assuming Opera Turbo compresses images so they load faster.

  • Jennifer March 16, 2010, 10:50 pm

    One of my favorite customer service quotes is “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” -TONY ALESSANDRA

    • Matt Thomas March 17, 2010, 7:27 pm

      Excellent quote and very true. Price and quality is very important, but customer service is the X-Factor that will keep loyal customers coming back and willing to pay a premium for what you offer.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Andrew Morrison-Young May 7, 2010, 9:01 am

    I am glad i found this blog. I am busy with a customer centric study assignment (barriers / solutions etc) and would like to know if anyone has commented on internal customer service related to Risk Management.


    • Matt Thomas May 10, 2010, 7:46 pm

      Hi Andrew,

      I haven’t seen any comments relating to your field of study. Is there any question you have in particular?


  • Marcos Lachappelle January 14, 2011, 5:57 am

    I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye.

  • angellah makokha January 31, 2014, 7:50 am

    there are many barriers to excellent cs,eg laziness- dont want to go an extra mile.pple do leave work earlier than expect lack of adequate training.mgt should have the obligation to train their staffs.send them for seminars,show them what they dont know poor communication skills.customer service providers should have courtesy when it comes to customers serving customers on autopilot.using customers as an experiment in service provision

  • zaheer qureshi December 3, 2014, 7:42 pm

    Inside politics is a big problem in an organization. Now a days you have clicks and they protect each other, there is less focus on achieving results then playing politics at work. Also bosses always scrutinizing their employees and not giving them the freedom.

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