The Hidden Costs of Poor Customer Service

Whether you are the CEO, the receptionist or the guard at the gate, customer interaction is an inevitable part of our day. While the pundits stress that any interaction with a customer is a service touch point, the reality is far from it. Receptionists are not always friendly and most guards couldn’t care less.


People want to talk to real people that can help!

We are all aware of the pitfalls of poor customer service, but what are the real costs to a business? Research shows that bad customer service costs companies $338.5 billion a year, globally. But before we dive into the building blocks of bad customer service. Let’s look at the flipside – what qualifies as good customer service?

The fundamental requirement to providing good customer service is “Knowing Your Customer”. KYC is the cornerstone of any long-term client relationship. If you know your customer – you can provide personalized service and you can provide the service in a manner that is convenient to them.

If you know your customer, and the customer touch points and your employees are competent and responsive – that’s good customer service.

Unfortunately, as a survey suggests, most companies that think they provide good customer service, don’t … in the eyes of the customer.

So why do so many companies fail at providing good customer service and what are the hidden costs of poor customer service?


  1. One of the biggest pitfalls of poor customer service is that most dissatisfied customers don’t complain. You generally hear from only 4% of unsatisfied customers. As for the rest, they simply find somewhere else to go.
  2. Poor customer service also leads to loss of business – the opportunity cost of this is immeasurable. There is no magic formula that can calculate the dollar amount that you have lost to potential customers.
  3. Word gets around. Today with social media word gets around at the speed of light. This leads to a bad reputation. Your partners and affiliates may back out due to this. Take the recent Ryan Lochte Olympics robbery debacle – four of his sponsors dropped him overnight as it was affecting their brand values and integrity.
  4. Hiring top talent will prove to be challenging. Individuals are brands in their own right. They will never associate themselves with companies that have a reputation of providing poor customer service. Which means the competency required to provide good customer service is no longer available to you.

Let’s look at some numbers associated with poor customer service:


  1. 67% will never use your services again after a bad experience
  2. 49% will not recommend you to friends and family
  3. 34% will share a review online or on social media


With point #1 and #2 the fallout isn’t that great. Point #3 is the worst-case scenario, where if the review states your service is poor, this could have a colossal ripple effect on your business for months, if not years. As you know, once something is published in cyberspace, it is ridiculously difficult to erase.


You might think that your product is so unique that customers have no choice but to come to you. Wrong! Customers rarely remember the product; they remember the service they received when buying the product. Their positive or negative experience reflects on what and who you are as a business.


In Dubai for example, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Prime Minister and Emir of Dubai recently announced that his new cabinet included its first “Minister of State for Happiness”. Why do you think this is?


Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with access to world-class infrastructure and facilities. Why should the government care about the happiness index of people? The government understands that they are not selling facilities, goods or services, they are selling experiences. The ultimate goal of any experience is happiness. If Dubai is to retain the people who move there, then they need to make them happy and keep them happy.


Would you spend money on something that makes you unhappy? Then why should your customers? The cornerstone to happy customers and customer retention is obviously good customer service.


How do you recover from bad customer service?


Whilst we can all agree that technology has made our lives easier, it has also automated many of our daily human interactions – this includes customer service. More and more customers are demanding live interaction. You can recover by providing more hands on service, by interacting with your customers via their preferred channels and by providing better content. These are easier said that done, but over a period of time, they have a positive impact on your bottom line and keep your customers happy J.

Look the part

People make snap judgements based on your clothes, the car you drive, your accent and how you smell. Whether their judgement is correct is down to you. As a sales person, dressing the part is essential. You can have the best product, or the most innovative money saving process for your would-be client, yet if you look wrong to them, you could easily lose the deal. So shine your shoes, wear your best clothes (this could be business attire or smart casual depending on the situation), and make sure your breath and body smell lovely.

Talk to their level

If you are talking to the technical department of a business you have to be able to talk to their knowledge standard. However, a car salesperson will temper their petrol head knowledge if the client is simply seeking a car that is fuel efficient and looks nice.

Don’t fear the phone


Get on the dog and bone…it doesn’t bite!

Even seasoned sales people dislike calling prospects. However, if you have a qualified lead that has expressed an interest, ringing them is a matter of courtesy if nothing else. They will be expecting you to call, and to not call is a wasted opportunity and could damage your reputation in the eyes of the would-be client.

Listen up

People love to be listened to. They disliked being talked at. As a rule of thumb listen as much as you can before talking. When you do talk, address the concerns, queries, and any misunderstandings about your product/service. The sales process can be far friendly and, once you know what your customer needs, you will impart more targeted knowledge to them.

Don’t bug them

When you feel you are close to a sale, don’t badger the client for a decision, but ask them questions that they need to answer. Allowing them to come back to you with the reply gives you more knowledge about what they need, but also helps cement their good opinion of you and your business.

Identify blocks to buying

With a first purchase of a car, accounting services, or a piece of software, people tend to look around before deciding on where to spend their money. Your business could be one of many they are looking at. So don’t jump in with the hard sell. Go back to the listening tip and identify what the customer’s blocks to buying are, then address them. If you know your product isn’t for them, let them know, but if you can change the product/service, make sure they know that too. If you know it’s going to be too expensive, tell them and find a solution that meets their budget.

Let them go

Make sure you qualify your leads. If your product isn’t right for them, or you know they can’t really afford it now or in the long run, be the good guy and let them go. A poor lead will cause both you and the client problems further down the line.

Close the deal

Knowing when to close a deal is essential. Some customers could prevaricate all year over a purchasing decision – wasting their time and yours. When you know they have all the information they need to make a decision, offer them a couple of options and ask them which one they feel most comfortable signing off on.


There are many ways of closing a deal, for more details on transforming your sales skills visit: /courses/transformational-sales-skills/index.php

ISM Training has plenty more sales tips for you just browse our sales category on this blog.






Red Arrows

Get all your team working to the same plan!
(photo:Tom Habibi)

Managing a project is exciting, but also fraught: employees off sick during key developments, suppliers not delivering on time, unexpected harvest failures, rises in the price of commodities, or delays in getting goods through Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, can all give a project manager a headache and cost the company money.

Which is why a Project Management Plan is the most important document for any company. Whether it’s for a major or minor project, it will become the source from which everyone in the company will draw upon to keep the project on course.

The Plan

Every big project in a company has to start with a plan. And it can’t be rushed. The planning stage is the most important part of the process. Without a standard sheet that everyone in the company can refer to at all times, your project is crippled before it’s even started.

Planning requires meetings. The first of which has to establish to end goal, the budget required (even though this can be a fairly fluffy figure at this stage), the people and departments necessary to complete the goal, and the timescale.

Once this initial plan is in place, the project manager has to bring all the departments in to give their professional opinion on how the end goal can be achieved. At this stage, you begin to understand the true scope of the project: most crucially how much it will cost, and whether your company can deliver it on time.

Understanding financial, and time, constraints is essential to the smooth management of a project. A poorly costed project can devour a company’s profits. If there isn’t the manpower available to deliver on time, you could lose employees due to the high level of stress involved.

Who’s involved in planning?

Everyone who will be part of the outcome is the simple answer: product developers, sales team, finance department, marketing, IT department, and the client/customer. If you leave out marketing to the last minute, you could find they’ve already allocated all their budget to another project. IT might need to bring in extra resources to deliver technical materials, and your sales team might not have the customers in place to sell the end product to. And if you’re developing a product for a specific client without involving them from the beginning, you could be spending a lot of time and money on something that doesn’t fit their needs.

Define the stages

A good project manager will put in place very clear stages for the project. Deadlines help focus the mind and with deadlines in place for each of the stakeholders, you can gauge how well the project is progressing. It also prevents feature creep getting out of control.

Feature Creep

Every project suffers from feature creep. As different departments get to grips with the project suggestions and ideas will begin to flood in from every direction. Some will be good, some not so good. But it can be managed and kept to a minimum.

This is why it is so vital to have a thorough initial planning stage. By involving everyone at the very beginning ideas can be thrashed out. Solid ideas can be budgeted into the plan, provision made for extra people and materials, whilst marketing can begin to get creative. It also means that bad ideas can be weeded out early in the process.

With a clearly defined plan everyone knows what is required and it’s harder to deviate from that plan. But what about those ideas that are so awe-inspiring they have to be included? Ask yourself, the team, the client, everyone in fact, if it’s really necessary in this phase, or whether it can be placed into a feature update after this project has been completed. Because deviation will cause delays and at that point you have to ensure that everyone is aware of the costs involved. And if it has to be included, a new plan has to be formulated around it with new deadlines and budget plans.

Prioritise weekly

Build into the plan a weekly meeting to established what goals are being met. This way you’ll be able to quickly identify areas that are lagging behind. If you leave out this process you could end up with one area of the project not just lagging behind, it could be dragging the whole project down: increasing costs across the whole company.

Manage expectations

From the outset, don’t promise more than can be delivered. From a sales perspective this means managing the expectations of the client. They may want a Ferrari, but only have the budget for an Audi A3. Don’t ever pretend you can deliver the Ferrari.

Know who’s on holiday

Everyone goes on holiday, so it’s essential that you know when key people are away and build that into your plan. If you want a key marketing decision to be delivered on the week the marketing manager is away, you need to know that and adjust the plan accordingly.


Things do, and can, go wrong that are outside the control of the Project management Plan. So it’s best to build in contingencies at the outset. Add time onto the plan to accommodate unfortunate events. That way, if a fire breaks out at a supplier’s warehouse, you’ve got time to find another supplier. It also means that if additional features have crept into the plan, they won’t delay the entire project. And if nothing happens, you had better ensure marketing gets the heads up that you’re delivering ahead of schedule.

ISM runs training courses for PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner in Dubai both in house and publicly. Contact us on [email protected] for more details if you wish to gain these critical Project Management qualifications

Business to business networking can really benefit your business in Dubai, but only if you approach it from the right angle. For many people, business networking conjures images of rooms full of pushy salesmen and women committing the sin of hard selling.

But it needn’t be like that. In fact, networking done properly is about businesses helping each other. If you’re always shied away through nerves or a fear of wasting your time with false people, it’s time to reassess your preconceptions and look at how much networking has changed.

It’s not about you

First of all, you have to park your ego at the door when it comes to networking. This is not a time to take over the conversation and talk, talk, talk. It’s a time to listen to people.

Giving your ear to others is the only way to get beyond the job title and business name. Great networkers take the time to get to know people, because it gives you a better idea of who they are and how good they are in business.

Make connections

nerve connections

We are all a bag of nerves but making connections helps growth. Personal and business !

The biggest mistake people make when networking is to try and sell from the get-go. But that’s not what networking is about – and the sooner you realise it, the more successful you’ll be at it.

More often it’s about helping people out. Once you get to know their business, you’ll soon see how other business people you know will benefit from their services or products.

By helping each other through networking, businesses grow organic relationships that will last much longer, and be more profitable as a result.

Think beyond the room

Despite the fact you are meeting and getting to know the people in the room, it’s the connections those people have that can prove more profitable in the long run. Think of your own business network. How many different business owners do you know? It’s going to be quite a lot. When you apply that to a room of 30 people, you start to understand why it’s important not to sell too hard to that small group. Forging relationships will eventually lead to business outside the room.

Do your research

As in any other area of business, research is everything. There will be many different business networking opportunities in your area. Some will compliment your business aims more than others. Go to as many as possible and then narrow it down to the ones that you feel are going to be the most effective for your business objectives.

Attend regularly

It’s only by attending these networking events regularly that you get the best results. Whether you go once a month, every week, or every quarter, the only way to get to know people is seeing them on a regular basis.

Networking can be a highly effective way of gaining new business. So brush up on your people skills, forget your nerves, and dive in.

A seasoned sales person will tell you that the key to a successful year is a well thought out sales plan. Without one, your Dubai sales team is going to drift through the year unsure of how to propel potential growth for your company.

sales planning

ISM is the leader in sales training for the Gulf region and runs a highly regarded Sales Planning and Territory Management course.

Sure, you may hit lucky occasionally by landing a few new customers, or getting work in through existing customers. However, without a plan how can you be sure you’ve got the right people, in the right places, selling to the right customers? You also need to be aware of the product cycle – is your company making enough product to fulfill orders, or that there is sufficient demand for what you’re producing.

Even in the service industries, thorough sales planning will reap rewards. This is because a good sales plan isn’t just a quickly written document of where you hope to be in twelve months time, it is a complete overview of what your targets are for the year and how you will achieve those targets.

So the best place to start planning isn’t necessarily with a sales team meeting. You need to get key members of the company together to discuss all aspects of what is happening in the coming months.

Understanding how other departments are working is essential to creating a successful sales plan. If you are bringing out a new product in Q3, you need to know what marketing is being done around it, whether there are supply chain issues, what the production schedule is, as well as knowing what benefits the new product is bringing to your customers.

With this knowledge you can create a more targeted sales plan with your sales team. This plan must include the following:

Who is customer?

Do you really know who your customer is? It’s vital to any serious sales plan to identify both the real customer and potentially bad customers. Looking through sales to existing customers will clarify this area. Who are the ones who keep coming back and who are you wasting time on?

Reaching out

Take time out to understand how you’re best able to reach your target market and get them interested in what you’re selling. There may be barriers to using your product over another company’s – find out what they are and how best to show customers what you’re offering is superior.

Clearly defined goals

At the outset make it clear to everyone in the team what your objectives are in the sales plan. When all members of the team know what the goal is, they can pull together to make it happen.

Sales Budget

You need to know what the budget is and how to make the most of it. You may need to reach customers at trade shows, conferences, networking events, and street level sales events. Without a tight control on your budget, the cost of gaining new customers could impact on profits.

Territory planning

Establish who is going to cover which areas as soon as possible. By doing this you will be giving ownership and a certain level of control to members of your team. Within the territorial agreements your team can develop individual sales plans specific to that territory.

Recruitment and training

When setting out the sales plan you have to decide whether your team needs to grow. Identify at what point you’re going to need that additional support and plan how you are going to recruit and train new members to your team.

So you’ve decided it’s time to start your email marketing campaign to your Dubai or Gulf database… but before you begin there are some simple ways of making it truly effective.

When to send

People are busy and your email has to hit their inbox at a time when they are in a receptive mood. There has been a lot of research done into when this golden time is and generally, midweek is a great time for business emails.

If you are selling to the consumer, then the rules change slightly. Some companies choose a blanket approach such as one a day, usually sent in the middle of the night so as to be one of the first emails seen in the morning. However, this can be highly annoying and many people just unsubscribe if you send too often.

UAE flag

Are you planning to launch a National Day product ?

When tying your marketing campaign into a national holiday or event, then a couple of days beforehand is a good time to send – especially if you an e-commerce company hoping to sell more products on the back of the holiday. It gives people time to have the goods delivered before the day itself.

Subject heading

It’s really important to get this right, because if you get it wrong it’ll be deleted straight away. Remember that people are busy and no matter how great your offer or interesting your newsletter, if the header doesn’t grab them within two seconds, your email marketing effort is toast.

Words like ‘free’, ‘limited offer’, ‘sale ends today’, do grab attention and are worth using if you are doing a push in a tight time frame. For those who are sending out monthly newsletters, then you need to remember what your target audience is likely to respond to. Try to think like a journalist – what is the most attention-grabbing nugget in your newsletter? When you know what it is, put it in the subject header.

What’s in the Body?

You may have heard that email marketing is dead, but that isn’t true. What is dead is the old style of sending out long, text heavy emails that nobody has the time or the inclination to wade through. You have to break up your emails, put in images and make it look attractive, as well as having interesting articles, news, and special offers.

Give people a taste of what you are offering and then place a link in there for them to click on. You can take them to your website for the special offer, or a more detailed blog.

Who’s clicking through?

So you’ve managed to get people to open the email and click on the most important link – what now? Are you tracking how people behave when they read your email? If you aren’t analysing your email click through rates, you are missing some essential business information.

There are many different types of software out there to track what people are doing with your emails. One of the most popular by far is Mail Chimp. This gives you the power to know who is opening your emails, and whether they are clicking on any links in that email.

This type of knowledge makes your email marketing much more targeted. By analysing how people respond to one email, you can adjust your next one, refining all the time to make the most of this simple marketing tool.

It may well be difficult to quantify what adds value to a product or service, but your Dubai marketing agency needs strong parameters to describe what is good value, honest value, any kind of value, and how they can be applied in your work.

Sometimes it is easy to spot added value. Look around the Dubai Mall at the different jewellery shops – which ones make their jewellery sell better? What kind of added value do they provide to entice shoppers to spend more time, more money, in their particular shop?

In some shops the added value comes through creating plenty of space around the jewellery counters. This gives people plenty of space to look at the products. Putting your customers at ease while they spend time in a shop adds value to their experience. Place comfortable seating around the shop also helps customers, particularly in clothes shops, a chair or ottoman gives tired spouses and children a place to rest.

Transferring this physical shopping experience into the marketing of a product means looking at everything: from the product design through to the promotional stands. You can add value to a product by making the design of the packaging much more appealing than a competing product. Nowhere is this difference so stark as in the trainer market. Nike has taken the product design to a whole new level by having dedicated places within their stores (as well as online) where customers can customise their Nike trainers themselves.

This has taken added value to a whole new other level. Adding value for internet shoppers has become a sophisticated business. Not so many years ago it was good enough to offer a gift wrapping and card writing service to customers. Now the game has changed dramatically. Not only are stores offering customisation, there are blogs, tips of the week, tips of the day, how-to videos and how-to articles, guest spots, competitions on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and serious and enlightening contributions on LinkedIn.

This level of adding value around a product is called content marketing. It’s the current buzz word for anyone marketing a product. By creating a world of information that people find interesting and tell their friends about, the purchase decision is made easier once they become much more engaged with your brand.

A way of pulling all this added value together is to go back and focus on the subtle and not so subtle marketing in the Dubai mall. Walk along the beauty counter and see how women are attracted to the special offer of a pretty and carefully branded bag filled with travel sized tubs and tubes of creams and lotions. There might be a little QR Code encouraging them to download the app that lets them see which bag is best for them, or even give them a tutorial on the best way to apply the products. There will also be a website link on the product leaflet offering them the chance to buy on line, if they don’t buy straight away in store.

All these little things add up to adding value to the product. Isn’t it time your Dubai marketing team took themselves for a trip out to see how real life added value is seamlessly integrated with online marketing?

Despite local differences in etiquette, it doesn’t matter if you want to improve your sales skills in Dubai, London, or Singapore there are four main elements that will improve your sales technique.

1. Be the Adult in the Room

The successful salesperson knows that when they sit down to talk to a client about a product or service, they are the expert in the room on that product or service.

Your customer may have researched you and called you into a meeting, they may know a lot about the different kinds of products available in your industry, but essentially it is you, the company salesperson who knows most about your company’s offering. And if you don’t, you shouldn’t be in the meeting in the first place.

By understanding that you are the most knowledgeable person on your service, you can talk with confidence and be able to show why it’s the right fit for the customer.

2. You are there to sell a product, not make a friend

Getting too close and personal with people in business is not what makes a great salesperson. That doesn’t mean you are have to be cold and impersonal, it means you have to remember the difference between making a friend and making a sale.

3. Ditch the Ego

Johnny Bravo

An over-sized ego could land you in hot water!

Too much bravado, over-confidence or excessive ostentation from you will be off-putting to potential customers. When you walk into a meeting there will be plenty of egos in there already, you don’t need to add yours to the mix. By turning down the volume on you the salesperson, you allow your product or service to get a greater slice of the attention, so it becomes the star of the show.

That doesn’t mean you forget the first point of being the adult in the room: you know your product and you know how it will benefit the customer.

4. Question, then Listen and Watch

One of the big mistakes a salesperson can make is to do all the talking. Firstly, many people think they’ve told you everything about themselves or their business, but every successful salesperson knows that very often the customer hasn’t told the whole story. By asking questions you learn a lot more about what the company needs from your product.

You may think that you have a good idea of how the company can use your products, but by asking the right questions and listening to their answers, by the end of the conversation you will learn what they really need.

Not only does listening to what people say, and watching their body language, give you a better understanding of how you can help that company with your services, it also shows that you have a real interest in their business. That interest will earn you, the salesperson, more respect from the room, and as a consequence you’ve just added a level of respect for your product.

To learn more about how you can really improve your sales technique, the Institute of Sales and Marketing offer professional level courses for successful sales skills in Dubai. Find out more and book a place today /




Bill Levell

Bill is Director of courses for ISM training and uses his industry experience to tailor our courses for the Middle East market

The buyer’s perspective is an important area for sales people wishing to enhance their sales process and sales skills to understand. Over the last 3 weeks we have been exploring some perspectives that the buyer may be considering when looking to enter into a business relationship. Here are the final key areas. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 they are archived in the Sales discussion area.

A. Change management

The management of change, both within the agreement and in a wider sense as part of business change programs, is a key issue. Suppliers on strategic service contracts must have a positive approach to change and show evidence of their capabilities in managing it.

B. Service provision and management

  1. Is there evidence that the supplier has recognised capabilities in relation to service management delivery?
  2. Are the supplier’s plans for service management adequate, covering resources/capacity/workload, performance, service continuity, charging and ordering, exception reporting and feedback, incident handling, change control, etc?
  3. How will these plans relate to other parts of the supply chain?

C. Resource management

  1. Does the supplier demonstrate a mature approach to resource risks and contingency management, e.g. in terms of established succession plans?
  2. Is there evidence that the supplier has the necessary processes to ensure that there are sufficient resources available to meet the business workload demands?
  3. Does the supplier have adequate availability plans / future utilisation profiles to demonstrate that key resources can be made available to meet customer service needs?

D. Capacity planning and management

Has the supplier formulated a capacity plan at the appropriate level of detail, taking into account workload predictions, upgrades, and predicted changes?

E. Business continuity and contingency plans

Are the supplier’s plans for contingency and business continuity adequate and appropriate?

F. Strategic management

Does the supplier demonstrate a clear business strategy and vision of the future?Can the supplier’s strategy be progressed alongside the buyer’s strategy, to mutual benefit?

F. Risk management and risk transfer

For some contracts, the supplier’s ability and willingness to take on risk is a central concern. In such cases, evaluation should probe their understanding of and attitude towards the risks involved.

G. Supply chain management

Does the supplier’s proposal demonstrate how subcontractors and/or consortium members will be organised and managed?

H. Benefits management and delivery

The supplier should have a balanced approach to benefits, delivering those required and linking them with those they seek for themselves.

I. Relationship management

Is the supplier committed to communication and the principle of an open working relationship built on trust? How can they demonstrate this?

This concludes the series on the buyer’s perspective. In a future blog post we will be looking at the other side of the coin the seller’s perspective.


It’s been some months now since the launch of our new website and generally feedback has been good. Most of you have found it easier to access our training course brochures which was always an issue in the past , and there is easier access to our latest course schedule on the front page. It is now therefore high time that we created our Blog – what marketing organisation should be without one. We hope that you will enjoy the issues discussed, get involved and embrace the concept of lifelong learning.So sit down,welcome and read on…