5 Customer Service Mistakes That Create Mediocre Business

customer service"We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn't want to just sell shoes. I wasn't even into shoes - but I was passionate about customer service." Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

And we all should be passionate about delivering great customer service. Without it, business would fail more so than it is now with many companies still slacking. The way I've always thought about it is this: Your customers literally pay you to do what you do...shouldn't you be taking care of them then?

Each customer is a potential lifetime value of awesome. Awesome as in the relationship you have with them, the marketing power they have to get the word about you out there, and of course the money that directly follows, both from them as a customer and word of mouth.

To put it bluntly, far too many don't recognize this and really should just shut down their doors now and hand it over to competitors who do. SHOW ME THE MONEY! Sure, money is great, but a cycle of bad customer service leads directly to less money. Worse than that, your name and brand is tarnished forever.

How great is a company when the majority of what's said is negative and bad publicity? Businesses don't really want that kind of attention and that's why they should be avoiding these 5 mistakes:

Taking Way Too Long To Respond

Every time a business takes too long to respond to somebody, Chris Brogan cries. It's true. In the real-time world we live in, there's absolutely zero excuse to take far too long to respond to a customer. Even if your current staff/you are busy, hire someone else to help offset the load.

Use Twitter for customer service to aid in those smaller, less lengthy problems. This will help ease the load of email and/or calls. Yes, you'll still have people get in touch with you that will end up needing to switch the conversation over to email or phone, but Twitter can definitely help. Better than that and a tip I learned from my friend Keith Bloemendaal, set up a Facebook group dedicated specifically to customer service.

Real-time updating and interaction makes it an IM conversation on steroids. Still amazes me how under-utilized that tactic is.

Playing The Blame Game

Telling the customer it's their fault is by far one of the worst things you can do. From your customers' perspective, they paid you and you are to deliver the product or service in whatever, whichever way you promised. Also, it's to give them X benefit/s and X solution. If something goes wrong, it's your job to fix the problem.

Pushing off the blame only heightens the situation. Always is best to maintain your cool and get the problem solved ASAP. Remember that they paid you so fixing it is all that matters and the quicker the problem is resolved, the better.

This of course applies to if it's actually your problem. If not then by all means it's appropriate to lay out all the information, but not in a demeaning way.

Charging For Different Ways Of Contacting Customer Service

Not too many things make me want to slam my head into the monitor like this. There's a trend with services that have you pay "extra" for say live chat or phone support. With many, the basic you get is email support.

This raises a big problem: Not everyone has the same methods of contact. Some prefer live chat (a favorite of mine), while others prefer phone, etc.

Charging for different ways to contact customer service is like buying pancakes, and then having to pay extra for syrup. Seriously!? Are you kidding!? It just makes no sense and businesses should be offering as many ways of contacting customer service as they can.

Customer service should never have to be paid for. It's something that should naturally be given.

Unpassionate People Equals An Okay Business

One of the big mistakes that businesses do is put un-passionate, not-so-interested people, in customer service positions. The majority of us are natural bullshit detectors. We can tell when someone is genuinely not interested. Sadly, this detection system turns off in most Men when trying to get some action.

Anyways, we can naturally tell when someone cares or not, or should I say, is naturally enthusiastic and not just forcing it out. Business would see a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction if they would simply hire those who truly care about the customer and are passionate about delivering a great service.

The sad yet great part, is that it's actually a differentiator of a business, being that so many don't have the greatest customer service reps. It's one thing to know what you're doing, and it's another to not only know what you're doing, but do it an a passionate, naturally enthusiastic way.

Customers will notice. They will be happy. You will be happy. It also helps to step back from the traditional script, and interject some natural, friend-like conversation into the mix.

Doing What Needs Done And Stopping There

A lot of businesses just get by. They may fix the problem and if they do, that's it. Going the extra mile is what separates the good from the great. It's what separates the cool from the amazing. Follow up after they've been helped. I've heard of businesses using a service such as SendOutCards to follow up with customers, and with great results.

You don't have to go the direct mail route, but a personalized email (and by personalized, I don't mean "Dear Bob") or a quick phone call. There's many opportunities and ideas to go the extra mile. Here's something that really tugged at my heart strings a while back and showed going the extra mile in an amazing way:

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn't received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I'd send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn't have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That's going against corporate policy. Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I'm a sucker for kindness, and if that isn't one of the nicest things I've ever had happen to me, I don't know what is.

This is a far out there example, but it doesn't take a whole awful lot to really impact your customers and go that extra mile to give them great customer service.

"Tell us your best example of great customer service that you received, in the comments below."