Customer Service

10 common customer service challenges and how to tackle them.

Adebukola Ajayi
March 22, 2024

Have you ever hung up the phone after a customer service interaction feeling more frustrated than when you started? We've all been there. But what about the people on the other end of the line?

Delivering excellent customer service can be tough, but it's crucial for building customer loyalty and a positive brand reputation.

From dealing with dissatisfied customers to struggling with technical glitches, there's a whole host of hurdles that can trip up even the most seasoned customer support team.

In this guide, we're going to analyze the challenge customer service agents deal with and the customer service solutions that your support team can add to their workflow and deliver outstanding customer service experience for every customer.

Customer support challenges and expert advice on how to resolve them.

Customer support team often carries the reputation of being a demanding and stressful profession. If your representatives find themselves overwhelmed by the relentless tide of customer inquiries, perhaps it's time to reassess how they manage customer expectations.

Explore the 10 common customer service problems and discover strategies to overcome them:

1. Serving multiple customers at a time.

Customer service might look like answering phone calls while managing a chat window or having to switch between communication channels to attend to customer queries. The key is to stay organized and prioritize. A quick "excuse me one moment" to acknowledge a new customer shows respect, and lets them know you'll be with them shortly.

Customers expect timely responses from your customer support agent whenever they contact your company, yet it's impractical for all customer inquiries to be addressed simultaneously by your support team. Certain situations, such as service outages, may result in a surge of customer complaint, overwhelming your team.

In such instances, implementing a customer service tool like a knowledge base, chatbot, and other customer service software will become invaluable. These tools can swiftly provide initial responses to customers, resolving their concerns before they necessitate the intervention of human support agents. Therefore your customer service reps are creating a positive customer service experience for customers through their customer journey.

2. Not being able to understand the customer's problem.

“It's okay not to know all the answers. It's better to admit our ignorance than to believe answers that might be wrong. Pretending to know everything, closes the door to finding out what's there.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Your agents aren't expected to possess all the answers to every customer service problem, but they must provide accurate information or assure customers that they will find the correct solution. While it's acceptable for agents to admit when they don't know an answer, it's unacceptable to deceive or mislead customers.

When faced with unexpected questions, agents may feel tempted to fabricate answers, but this approach is counterproductive and can erode trust. Speculating answers only wastes everyone's time and fails to address the customer's needs effectively.

Rather than outrightly admitting ignorance, agents should inform customers, "Let me find out for you." This approach demonstrates a commitment to assisting customers and directs them toward a resolution.

By accessing knowledge bases or consulting with colleagues, agents can promptly provide accurate information, fostering a sense of care and respect for customers' time and needs, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction.

3. The customer is put on hold and is transferred to another department.

When customers find themselves in this situation, their frustration is palpable. Understandably, a customer expects swift resolutions to their customer service issues, not prolonged waiting times or the hassle of re-explaining their concerns to multiple people.

So, how can we effectively navigate this common customer service challenge?

Consider this scenario: a customer service rep must transfer a call to another department. In this crucial moment, the agent must reassure the customer. Following advice from experts, agents should utilize reassuring phrases like, "I'm going to escalate your issue to level 2, and I'll personally ensure it's resolved." This not only affirms the customer's importance but also assures them that their concern won't be passed off and forgotten.

Moreover, whenever possible, briefing the receiving customer service agent about the issue beforehand can prevent the inconvenience of customers having to repeat themselves, enhancing their overall experience.

4. Not meeting customers' expectations.

Not meeting customer expectations can lead to dissatisfaction and erode trust in your brand. Whether you're failing to deliver on promises, providing subpar products or services, or offering inadequate support, falling short of customer expectations can have detrimental effects on your business.

According to Khoros insights, nearly 65% of customers have switched brands due to poor customer service experiences, highlighting the critical importance of meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

To address this challenge effectively, businesses usually prioritize understanding and fulfilling customer needs and desires. This involves proactive communication, setting realistic expectations, and consistently delivering exceptional experiences across all touchpoints.

Listening to customer feedback and addressing their issues, businesses can cultivate strong customer relationships built on trust, satisfaction, and loyalty. Ultimately ensuring long-term success in a competitive market landscape.

5. When customer reps do not listen carefully to what the client needs.

Customers expect to be heard and understood when they reach out for support or assistance. However, when representatives do not actively listen or misinterpret customer requirements, it can lead to miscommunication and inadequate solutions.

To effectively address this challenge, businesses must emphasize the importance of active listening skills among their customer service teams. Encouraging representatives to practice empathetic listening, paraphrasing customer concerns to ensure understanding, and asking clarifying questions can help mitigate misunderstandings and ensure accurate problem resolution.

Providing ongoing training and coaching in communication skills and customer empathy can empower representatives to engage in meaningful conversations with clients, fostering stronger relationships and enhancing overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.

6. Your customer wants a discount/feature you can’t provide

Being in a situation where customers request a discount or feature that your company cannot provide is not uncommon. Despite the simplicity of a straightforward 'no,' customers may persist or escalate the issue by requesting to speak with supervisors. To effectively manage such scenarios, it's crucial to adopt strategies beyond mere rejection.

Offering a clear explanation for the inability to fulfill the customer's request can help them understand and accept the response. Agents can provide insights such as, "Currently, our focus is on enhancing X aspect of our product," or "The promotional period for that offer ended two weeks ago."

Suggest alternative options or benefits that the company can provide, even if it's not the requested discount or feature, can help alleviate customer frustration. For example, agents might suggest, "While we're unable to offer a discount at this time, we recommend checking our flash sale section for upcoming deals on similar products." This proactive approach may reduce customer resistance and maintain a positive customer experience.

Focus on the customer's job, not the no

7. When customers find it difficult to get in touch with a human support team.

When customers encounter difficulty reaching a human support team, whether through live chat tools or phone systems, it reflects a common challenge in modern customer service. While technology has streamlined many aspects of customer support, the preference for human interaction persists among a significant portion of customers, making automated processes frustrating for them.

The core issue stems from the desire of customers to communicate with real people rather than interacting with machines. Businesses prioritize automation in customer service processes for various reasons, including minimizing wait times, streamlining task allocation through workflow automation, reducing resource costs, and appealing to newer demographics comfortable with conversing with chatbots or IVR systems.

To address this challenge effectively, businesses must carefully select tasks suitable for automation, such as repetitive tasks, self-service resources, FAQs, and knowledge bases, while ensuring that customer interactions remain personalized and human-centric.

Implementing an omnichannel strategy helps merge service channels to facilitate efficient collaboration and prevent information silos. It's crucial to view automation as a tool to support the human team rather than a replacement for live agents and continually gather customer feedback to gauge their satisfaction with automated processes.

Striking the right balance between automation and human interaction is key to delivering optimal customer service experiences and achieving business goals.

8. Dealing with an angry customer.

This scenario differs slightly from dealing with a customer who is yelling. In this case, the customer feels genuinely wronged and is upset, although they may not yet be expressing their anger vocally. It falls upon you and your team to defuse the situation and transform it into a positive experience. Dealing with angry customers can make it difficult to solve customer service problems.

The first step is to avoid escalating the customer's frustration further. Using dismissive statements such as "My manager will say the same thing" or "You'll need to contact your local provider for assistance" can exacerbate the customer's agitation, as noted by Golden in 'Creating Positive Conversations with Challenging Customers.'

Instead, Golden advises showing customers that you are empathetic and supportive. One effective strategy is pacing, where you match the customer's urgency, slow down to ensure clarity, and demonstrate understanding of their concerns.

However, don't stop there. According to a study by Business Insider, it takes twelve positive experiences to counteract one negative experience. Therefore, it's essential to map out your customer journey, identify touchpoints where improvements can be made, and consistently strive to exceed customer expectations to ensure ongoing satisfaction and loyalty.

9. Your customer refuses to cooperate with your support reps.

Having a customer who refuses to cooperate can present a challenge for customer support agents, especially when additional information or visual evidence is needed to understand and resolve the issue effectively. Some customers may hesitate to comply, either due to a lack of technical proficiency or concerns about the time investment required.

To address this reluctance, we suggest employing the "feel, felt, found" technique. Firstly, acknowledge the customer's apprehension by expressing an understanding of their perspective. For example, you might say, "I understand that sending photos may seem like an extra step."

Next, share the experiences of other customers who initially shared similar concerns. You could explain, "Many customers have also felt that this process was time-consuming." Finally, demonstrate how straightforward the process can be by providing clear instructions, such as, "It's as easy as taking a picture of the damage and sending it to us via text."

You can offer reassurance by mentioning that some customers have even found it helpful to enlist the assistance of their children. This approach can effectively persuade hesitant customers to collaborate and facilitate the resolution of their issues.

10. Lack of customer centricity among your support team.

Failing to place the customer at the core of operations can lead to a gradual unraveling of the organization. The problem becomes apparent when examining the handling of customer feedback.

Several things can lead to businesses not focusing on their customers enough. One reason is that the people in charge, like managers and leads, might not be very good at encouraging everyone to think about what customers want.

This problem can affect not just the company as a whole but also the customer service department. Another reason is that there might not be a clear idea of where the company is headed, which makes it hard for the customer service team to do their best work since great customer service starts with the company's leaders.

To fix these problems, businesses can try a few things. They can improve how they talk to each other within the company, which helps everyone understand what's important to customers. Also, by regularly sharing information and talking about what customers need, companies can make better decisions. It's also helpful to let customer service agents make decisions that help the company grow while still keeping customers happy.

How your customer service team can tackle these challenges.

Prepare a crisis communication plan.

To tackle the unique customer service challenges faced by your team effectively, preparation is key. Start by developing a comprehensive crisis communication plan. This plan should outline clear protocols and procedures for handling various types of crises or emergencies, ensuring that your team knows exactly how to respond in high-pressure situations.

Preemptively identifying potential issues and establishing communication channels and escalation paths enables your team to effectively manage crises while maintaining professionalism and ensuring minimal disruption to customer service operations.

Regular training and simulations also help familiarize team members with the crisis communication plan, enabling them to respond confidently and efficiently when faced with unexpected challenges.

Use the HEARD technique.

Your customer service team can benefit from implementing the HEARD technique, in addition to having a crisis communication plan in place. This approach emphasizes active listening and empathy, enabling agents to effectively address customer concerns and build rapport. HEARD stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Resolve, and Diagnose.

Your team can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by actively listening to customers, empathizing with their emotions, offering genuine apologies for any inconvenience, resolving issues promptly, and diagnosing root causes to prevent future occurrences. Training sessions focused on honing communication and interpersonal skills can enable your team to master the HEARD technique, delivering exceptional service and fostering positive customer relationships.

Implement live chat.

Another valuable tool for your customer service team is the implementation of live chat. Live chat enables real-time communication between customers and agents, providing immediate assistance and resolving issues efficiently.

Integrating live chat into your website or customer support platform enables you to offer customers a convenient and accessible channel for seeking assistance or asking questions. This action helps reduce wait times and alleviate frustration, enhancing the overall customer experience.

Training agents to effectively utilize live chat features and maintain professionalism in written communication maximizes the benefits of this tool, enabling your team to deliver timely and personalized support to customers.

Introduce video customer support for complex issues.

Video support allows agents to visually demonstrate solutions, walk customers through troubleshooting steps, or provide detailed explanations, enhancing clarity and comprehension. This direct visual communication fosters a deeper understanding between agents and customers, facilitating more effective problem resolution and reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Moreover, video customer support adds a personal touch to interactions, bridging the gap between remote communication and face-to-face engagement. Customers appreciate the opportunity to connect with a real person in real time, even if it's through a virtual medium.

The use of video humanizes the support experience, creating a sense of empathy and trust between agents and customers. This personalized approach not only strengthens customer relationships but also boosts satisfaction levels, as customers feel valued and understood. Introducing video customer support for complex issues demonstrates your commitment to providing exceptional service and ensures that customers receive the assistance they need in a manner that is both efficient and engaging.

What is the biggest challenge in customer service agents face?

Manually attending to all customers.

Customer service agents across industries grapple with this significant challenge daily. The sheer volume of inquiries can quickly become overwhelming, leading to delays in response times and potential frustrations for customers.

With Simpu, you can streamline and automate your customer service operations, freeing up valuable time and resources. Our intuitive platform centralizes all customer inquiries from various channels into one unified inbox, making it easier than ever to manage and prioritize tasks.

Ready to revolutionize your customer service experience? Sign up for Simpu's omnichannel inbox today and take the first step towards smoother, more streamlined operations.

Adebukola Ajayi

Content Marketing Manager, Simpu
I am a writer who loves to watch modern family and friends during my free time.

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