5 Mistakes You're Making with Your Customer Service

Customer service is integral to protecting and maintaining repeat business. We all want repeat business, it doesn’t matter what your product or service is. If you can get repeat business and word of mouth then you don’t have to struggle for new clients.

Here are the 5 common mistakes that people making with their customer service. Whether it’s small business or large organisations, these mistakes greatly impact on the repeat business.

Mistake #1. You give them what they need, instead of what they want.

People make the mistake of deciding what the client will get. Sometimes it’s because that’s how they like doing business, yet that’s not how the client wants to do business.

I remember working with a business that refused to have a social media page or contact enquiry form on their website for their backpacker accommodation. They said, “If they have any questions they can just ring me. I don’t like responding to Facebook or website enquiries.” I tried to explain that most backpackers are probably going to be of a generation that likes to message or text, but they wouldn’t have it.

The idea is, you give them what they want, and ultimately through that process you’re able to give them what they actually need. You need to think about what the motivators are for your clients.

Customer service - what we do everyday matters

For example, I typically work with people around time management. Inevitably I end up coaching them and stress management, communication, assertiveness, leadership or even well-being, because all of those things impact on their time management. Yet it might be their time management that’s hurting the most, and that’s what they come to me for. 

Another analogy that I can give you is that someone goes to a doctor with a sore big toe. However,  when the doctor actually does a proper evaluation, they discover that the person is at risk of diabetes. The person isn’t coming to the doctor saying “hey, I need help with my energy levels and my diet because I know I’ve got a problem.” They’ve just got a sore big toe and they want that fixed. 

It is a matter of actually listening to what are the motivators of the client and the customer first, regardless of what you know to be true or what you think they need.

Mistake #2. As long as they get what they ask for, the other stuff in the background doesn’t matter. 

It’s the little things that can compound. If I’m just a little bit unhappy with whatever it is you’re giving to me as a customer or client, then I’ll view all the other things that I’d normally live with are in a bad light.  

It’s the small things, the micro-moments, that can make a world of difference for a customer. The unexpected moments, they don’t need to be huge, that can have a significant impact and help counteract anything else that’s not quite perfect. 

However, if there are lots of micro-moments that are not great, then that’s going to compound and your client or customer is going to be less forgiving.

To give you an example, I once had a client tell me how they were working with a car dealership, and they had their doubts about the business. As they sat in the waiting room, they noticed that behind the couch, they could see dead cockroaches, cobwebs,  and bits of rubbish. For this person, they thought, “Wow, if this is what I can see as a waiting customer, the little things around the edges, what are the things I can’t see in terms of maintaining my car?” 

People are now mindful of the experience they encountered in a brand, be it before, during or after the purchase. So, you should really think about what you’re presenting to people and all the little changes that you can make in those micro-moments.

Customer service - People are now mindful of the experience they encountered in a brand, be it before, during or after the purchase.

Mistake #3. Word of Mouth Happens By Itself and Doesn’t Impact Customer Service.

We think that word of mouth doesn’t actually do much, but unravelling bad word of mouth is a lot harder than creating good word of mouth. 

People love to complain and speak badly, it’s rare that they’ll go, “hey, this was a great product” or, “this was a great service” unless there’s something in it for them. Rest assured they love speaking badly about something, so you should have a strategy in order to encourage positive word of mouth. 

Don’t just assume that word of mouth will just happen organically. There are things that you can do to inspire and encourage positive word of mouth. They don’t have to be intense, like asking people to like or share your posts. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

It can be little things that you do for the customer or the client that makes you memorable so that they want to naturally talk about you to other people. 

For example, saying to somebody, “Hey, you’ll never guess what I experienced! When I went to a restaurant, they actually gave me a complimentary chocolate with my coffee. I haven’t seen that for ages and I really enjoyed it.” It can be something as little as that.

Mistake #4. Complaints or bad reviews are bad for Customer Service.

People think that bad reviews or complaints are a bad thing. Actually, they’re a blessing in disguise. 

If people are giving you complaints, they’re giving you valuable feedback that lets you know on what’s going wrong and where you need to improve. You need to create an opportunity to get that feedback. When you know what people like or don’t like about what you’re doing it can help you improve or refine your business.

So, you want to have an open and transparent process for people to be able to give you their complaints and feedback. 

I was working on a cruise ship recently and there was a head waiter, a main waiter and then a support waiter. Each one of those people came to me at least once or twice during my meal to check that everything was okay and if I had any feedback on the food or service. They are giving me ample opportunity to criticise whatever it was that I was experiencing.

Now here’s the thing about bad reviews, business people go into devastation when they get them for their business.

Research shows that customers do not trust people with 100% satisfaction ratings because it seems too good to be true. It feels like those ratings are not genuine.

You actually need one or two not so great reviews because the law of statistics says that they should exist. If they’re not there, we become suspicious.

Rest assured, most people typically look for the worst reviews first. Just like I do, I look for the lowest ratings to see what’s the worst thing that people could complain about this product or service. 

Anything above that is a bonus or a benefit.

It’s how you respond to those complaints with your authenticity and transparency that will make the difference as to whether or not the customer or client will trust you The authenticity of how you respond will demonstrate your integrity and it is more likely that this is how you will be judged.

Mistake #5. Everyone will continue to follow your instruction on Customer Service as initially directed.

You may have told all of your team, your supporters, your stakeholders, and the people that you outsource to, how things are to be done and assume they will be done as expected. We’ve all played Chinese whispers and we know how that ends.

I remember one of the things that I learned from Undercover Boss, one of my favorite shows. The entrepreneur who had created the business initially was so detached from the end product, the end service delivery, that their why had got lost. If you’ve ever watched the series Undercover Boss you will have seen how easy it is for an entrepreneur to lose sight of their business. Their vision, procedures, policy even purpose have mutated.

Customer Service - policy and procedures

It evolves because one person shows another person how they think the work should be done based on their interpretation. Through a form of Chinese whispers, it evolves and typically customer services become compromised.

It’s really important that the information you give out to your whole team about how something needs to be done comes from the source. 

The best way to do that is with video.

If you’re making a video explaining to your team how something has to be done, the quality, the process, and the system, it is replicated with accuracy. This reduces your end product or service to becoming a hybrid of the original as you intended it.

If you want some more information on the things that you can do differently for your customer service to increase your customer reach and your return on business, then please send us a message. We often have training coming up in this area.

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About the Author

Barbara Clifford - The Time Tamer
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships


  • Create a word-of-mouth marketing strategy 
  • Focus on creating good micromoments to counteract bad ones
  • Utilise complaints procedures and bad reviews to your advantage


  • Give them what they need instead of what they want
  • Assume the little moments  won’t matter  
  • Leave Word of Mouth to Chance

P.S. If you’ve found this content valuable for your business or organisation, you might be interested to join our face-to-face Customer Service Training, happening in Alice Springs.

Customer Service