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One simple mistake can take a lot of undoing, a whole lot of anxiety and add unnecessary cost to your business.  It can damage customer relationships and fragment working relationships.

Customer service has so many “moving parts” – delivering your product or service, scheduling engineers’ appointments, your product quality, managing breakdowns or when things don’t go to plan, the length of time to source replacement parts. The list goes on.

Documents that are mailed to the wrong address because of an incorrect Post or Zip code. Emails that don’t arrive because of an incorrect email address.

In the age of satnav technology – sending an engineer out to an address with the wrong postcode, or the wrong site entrance costs money. If you are wasting time and fuel then it is an expensive mistake.

In fact, the costs of poor quality customer data in the UK ( from a survey by Royal Mail Data Services ) was found to be a staggering 5.9% of annual revenue.

Not only that the cost of rework can be huge – in construction for example it’s been estimated that it could be as much as 20% of a construction project ( 2021). More than £20billion per annum across the sector.  In software, on average, 26% of code is reworked prior to release.

Reducing mistakes helps keep customers happy, and is good for cash flow as you have fewer invoice queries. Don’t underestimate the price that mistakes and rework have on the morale of your team. If they are dealing with the aftermath of mistakes, and repeated mistakes, it can be relentless, wading through treacle, getting bogged down, while customers become angrier.

Mistakes impact

  • The bottom line – there will be financial implications to mistakes; losses, missed revenue, costs to resolve, customer complaints, credit notes and customer churn. So there is a financial incentive to get things right first time
  • Time – putting the mistake right will take time, and it may take managerial or leadership time if it is escalated. This takes people away from activities that can improve the organisation, make things easier and better for your customers. Time is after all money
  • People – mistakes take their toll on customers and colleagues, especially when errors are repeated

Here’s some tips to help reduce mistakes

Bigger picture

  1. What’s your data telling you? Your Customer Service teams have information that tells you where there are recurring problems. Customer Service Managers can be a brilliant conduit into the business to share and solve some problems.  What do the trends tell you? A picking problem? A product quality issue? A courier problem?
  2. How well do your systems function? Not just your computer systems, but all the processes and tools that you have in place to allow your operation to function.
  3. Bigger picture thinking How tuned into the bigger picture are your people? Do they understand the cost to the business, your customers and your colleagues if they make a mistake? One of the challenges of having people work in separate functions, is they don’t understand the pain that can be caused by not finding out some key information, not taking useful or accurate notes, not solving a repeat problem that keeps coming up with that particular customer, in short the knock on effect of the job they do.
  4. Training – that’s where training can help, helping people to understand the impact of their work on the bottom line, and the people around them.
  5. Tracking error costs – what are mistakes costing the business? One of my jobs to help pay the bills when I was at University was an evening shift making sandwiches for M&S. As we walked out of the changing rooms onto the floor, we saw the number of complaints that M&S had had from customers the previous day, and we knew if they reached a certain level, then our contract was at risk. Everyone checked those numbers, they talked about them, they took pride in making sure they were as low as possible. How do you involve your people in their team performance?
  6. Measure the right things Make sure your KPIs develop the behaviours that are important to customers and colleagues. A focus on Average Handling Times in a contact centre, might help you manage more calls, but if those calls are from customers where information isn’t being taking down correctly or where problems aren’t solved fully, they result in more calls, more angry and frustrated customers, and the vicious circle develops.
  7. Focus on getting it right first time. Make sure you and your team understand the benefit to them, their colleagues and their customers of getting it right first time.
  8. Make sure people can find key information. Front line employees will need to check information, specs, supply times, technical details, compatibility etc – how easy is it for them to find, or do they need to “guess”. Make sure key info is at their fingertips, easy to find and easy to use.


At an individual level.

Human error accounts for most mistakes that are made. So are you creating an environment where people can do their best work? As an individual, here are some tips to help you be more productive and get it right first time

  1. Focus on getting it right first time. Keep that at the front of your mind. Taking the extra time to do it properly saves you, your colleagues and your customers hassle down the line, it will be saving the business time and money as well.
  2. Check key details. Getting the details right are a key part of our customer service and call handling skills training, a quick double check reassures the customer ( internal or external ) and your thoroughness pays dividends.
  3. Create checklists, they really help, especially on repetitive tasks where you might zone out.
  4. Review your work, especially before you press send. If it is a sensitive or important matter, ask for a second pair of eyes.
  5. Eliminate distractions, beware of all the notifications and pop ups that our computers generate for us. In fact, if you have an important piece of work, turn them off. Multi tasking breaks our concentration and can leave us frazzled, more likely to make mistakes.
  6. Know how to access key information. If you need to check something technical, know where to find that, and if you are responsible for that, make sure it is easy to find and easy to use.
  7. Listen whether that’s taking an instruction from a colleague or a customer listen. Especially if you have to look at a computer screen while you are having a conversation. It is so easy to miss a vital piece of information when your brain is focusing on what is in front of you rather than what is being said.

 And whether you are in business or an employee, don’t beat yourself up about your mistakes. Apologise for them and learn from them.