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Everyone hates bad customer service, but it’s amazing how many companies continue to get it wrong. Why do companies keep failing to meet customer expectations, even while putting so much effort into getting it right?

Nadine Martin, head of business operations at Peach Payments, says that there are four key mistakes that SMEs make when dealing with customers.

1.    Using default responses to customer complaints

When things go wrong the worst thing you can do is make the customer feel that you’re not making an effort to understand the problem. Using standard responses to complaints is one of the biggest culprits in increasing customer frustration.

“When I’m a customer I can always tell when people are using clichéd responses,” she says. “It’s one thing to apologise, but something else to make sure the customer feels like they’re being heard.”

To go beyond the cookie cutter response you should ask questions that go to the heart of the issue.

“Find out how they feel, what their experience was, what they expected, and what they expect you to do to resolve the issue.”

2.    Not working with your teams to find and fix the root of the problem

Many companies make the mistake of not fixing the root cause of an issue, even though it’s frustrating their customers. Martin explains that if you’re not letting your teams know that there’s a problem, they can’t be expected to fix it, and it’s only going to keep recurring.

“It’s the same situation we face in our day-to-day lives. If someone does something in a way that you don’t like, and you don’t tell them about it, then you shouldn’t be surprised when they do it again,” she says. “If you don’t tell your teams about the issue, and work with them to find solutions, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you keep getting the same complaints.”

3.    Not understanding what makes your business different

In our hyperconnected world your customers don’t have to use any specific company’s services. This means understanding the competitive landscape is critical to creating satisfied customers.

“If you think of yourself as the customer, what will make you choose one supplier over another?” she asks. “You’re going to be constantly compared to your competitors and differentiating yourself starts with understanding what everyone else is doing. And then working out what will build customer loyalty.”

4.    Not getting your payments right

Every business relies on its customers paying them for their survival. But many don’t understand the importance of working out how customers want to pay. She says many companies already have the data they need to expand their payment offerings, they just don’t understand it.

“With so many payment methods out there, it can be daunting to understand which ones are relevant and this is why your data is so important. Speak to your payment gateway – they’ve seen it all and are perfectly positioned to advise you on which payment methods will work for you, based on your data. This could mean adding more payment options, or structuring the ones you have differently. You won’t know until you look at the information you have,” comments Martin.

There are milliseconds between a dissatisfied customer and a social media disaster. However, as Martin points out, following a few basic steps can make the difference between being a cautionary tale and being the first recommendation customers make to their friends.

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