5 Customer Support Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Cody McLain


Customer-centricity is here to stay. In fact, the buyer journey might even be the center of our business world today. With that fact to consider, customer service and support is...

Customer-centricity is here to stay. In fact, the buyer journey might even be the center of our business world today. With that fact to consider, customer service and support is a crucial element to maintaining a customer-centric business model. Many consider this “new marketing.”

Customers have high expectations for both B2B and B2C customer support channels. So what should you expect if you provide sub-par support? Well, public shaming for one. But realistically, your shoddy support will result in unhappy customers, lost revenue, and very little growth. Here are 5 areas where things go wrong:

You rely too much on reactive support

Are you constantly putting out customer support fires? Overwhelmed by simple inquiries? These are sure signs that:

  1. Your support protocols aren’t built to prevent issues from popping up.
  2. Your customers aren’t adequately informed.

Proactive customer support requires your organization to integrate all departments in your  customer support strategy. Proactive support protocols are designed to reduce inbound requests by focusing on FAQ pages and knowledge-base articles, and by regularly interacting with your customers. Not only is proactive support expected, it saves you money!

The Solution? You have a wealth of sales and marketing data available–information that gives you insight into all of your customers’ needs and expectations (before a problem arises). Use it to your advantage.

You have poorly developed service levels

When everything is “high priority,” then nothing really is, is it? The same goes for low priority support tickets. If your premium level customers receive the same priority as basic users, then what are the premium customers paying extra for?

This is especially true for companies that offer a service that is also the product. They have strict service level agreements to adhere to not only for legal reasons, but they help the company plan out support staff requirements and schedules. When your service levels are not weighted proportionately to either the customer’s status or the issue-level urgency, then you’re in for a rocky ride.

The Solution? Clearly delineate what each service level entails, and state priority timeframes. Don’t roll your eyes at this one. Even small hiccups in defining service levels can cause trouble for companies that hang their hats on great customer experience. It’s a tricky game to play. The key is proportion. If your fastest resolution time is one hour, then offer it sparingly, but deliver when possible. The point is to offer reasonable timelines and set expectations that can be exceeded, rather than cause bottlenecks.

You have awful contingency plans.

If you rely too heavily on proactive support and processes but don’t have backup plans in place, then you could be asking for trouble. Confidence in your support team is a good thing, but one big surprise can confound even the best plans. From bouncing support tickets around departments to prolonged resolution times, operating without any form of risk management or response is a dangerous game.

The Solution? Create and execute multi-level contingencies for multi-level controls. If your customer support staff is given discretion like Zapposencourages, then your contingency might just be “make the customer happy.” For more heavily controlled support, the contingency might be “have the CEO/CTO/VP of Sales handle it.” Your contingency plans don’t have to be perfect, but you must have something.

You’re tone deaf.

Every company has a “corporate voice.” Whether fun, smart-casual, or office-professional, problems pop up when your support lacks awareness. From cracking jokes with an irate customer, or being sarcastic, to being plain disingenuous with your tone (obvious pandering), your support can do more harm than good—even if your intentions are good. Being tone deaf is a failure to connect with your customer on their terms.

Be helpful and positive; your job is to solve issues and connect with the customer. Even if your company tone is “hip and helpful,” be sensitive to the customer’s needs. This is accomplished by encouraging your support staff to identify contextual cues. Is the customer positive, negative, or neutral? This will dictate how support moves forward.

The Solution? Remember to listen, provide solutions, and always put forward a positive outlook—regardless of your company’s support voice. The customer should never leave feeling more upset after contacting support.

You’re predictably average.

Everybody loves lukewarm coffee and tepid water, right? Sure, it’s inoffensive. But it’s completely uninspiring. People talk about the extremes—the good and the bad. Average is not altogether bad, but why not add in dashes of exceptional performance?

The Solution? Raising the bar doesn’t have to be costly, although that’s the perception. The little things, the “frugal wow” can elevate how customers perceive your support efforts. A card, follow-up email, or small gift that’s out of the ordinary can change perceptions. It’s the happy little surprises that work wonders. Reciprocity is proven to work. Yes, routine is necessary, but you can truly stand above the rest by making small gestures a regular part of your support process.

The good news is that there’s always room to improve. To overcome some of these pitfalls, you may need a systemic shift in support culture. Others can be overcome in the span of a meeting. So take inventory and adjust. Your customers will thank you.