The 5 Things You Should Never Do in Customer Service

There are behavioral issues in customer service that we’ve all encountered.  The rude waitress, the inattentive sales person, the gum-popping, eye-rolling employee you wish you hadn’t asked for directions.  Yes, these people shouldn’t be in customer service.  However, what always seems to catch me off guard are those customer service no-no’s that are honestly, just plain common sense.  Those experiences where you just cock your head and think “huh, is this really happening?”

In the off chance that you’ve never experienced this, let me first say: lucky you.  And next, let me lay it out for you in a clean and concise way.

This is what I call customer service etiquette.  These are the missteps some customer service reps take that literally make you want to stop interacting with them immediately.  As soon as they say or do something, you just get a horrible taste in your mouth and the entire experience is soured.  Has this ever happened to you?

Below is a list of five things you should never, ever, not in a million gazillion years, do when providing service to a user… and if you have done any of these, please be a good person and give your two weeks notice now:

1) Don’t eat when you’re on the phone with a customer.  Guess what?  The phone picks up more than you think.  So when you’re crunching away on potato chips and smacking your lips after a nice bite of that big juicy strawberry, your customers are hearing it all.  Do you really think they want to hear what you’re having for lunch while you’re troubleshooting their problem?  No, I wouldn’t want to hear that either.

2) Don’t put a customer on hold for a personal reason.  Now there are exceptions to this such as if you receive bad news from your family (hopefully this never happens to you at work) or if your ability to provide service to the customer is impaired.  However, what doesn’t qualify as an exception: interrupting a nearby co-workers’ conversation, jumping into a personal conversation with a friend, completing your online purchase from Zappos or sending a reply to your boyfriend’s text.  The hold button is not meant to allow for your personal time off, so don’t use it as such.  After all, how do you think the customer would feel if they knew you put them on hold so you could finish your game of tetris?

3) Don’t use abbreviations in your email responses.  Sure, you might use “TTYL” and “srsly” in texts with your friends, but customer email is not the venue to show off your street-savvy vernacular.  Yes, spelling whole words in full can be exhausting (“typing out ‘thank you’ instead of ‘TY’ is giving me carpal tunnel!”) but, tough luck, that’s your job.  Not only are abbreviations confusing to customers (remember: not all your customers are your age, your level of technical savvy, or acquainted with your use of abbreviations) they are disrespectful.  Again, exceptions exist especially if you’re talking about and explaining a popular term (SEM, SEO, etc.) but realize that these are term abbreviations, not phrase abbreviations.  This goes for livechat too.

4) Never, ever, swear.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude and I do use swear words in my everyday life (sometimes a little too often).  But I never use them when conversing with a customer.  Whether it’s email, livechat, on the phone or in person, you can’t be dropping any type of swear word (or any type of racist remark for that matter).  The first reason for doing this is that it makes you look unprofessional and, realistically, it makes you look unintelligent.  The second reason is that you simply don’t know how your customer will react.  Your company may sell the best water bottles on the market (undisputed, hands down, your competitors are literally closing their companies because they can’t compete) but if your swearing offends your customers, mark my words, they will leave.  When people are offended, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling or what they’re buying.  They’ll find somewhere else to take their business.

5) Don’t give your customers nicknames.  I know this one sounds ridiculous but it’s happened before.  Unless you have some amazing comfort level with your customer or previously know them… wait, strike that.  Just don’t ever give your customers nicknames.  Ever.  Simply put, it’s completely unprofessional, disrespectful and rude.  It makes your customers uncomfortable, it makes you look like an idiot, and it doesn’t do anything to help your company, its brand, or reputation.  My parents named me Alexandra for a reason, please use it.