The experiences you have with customer support might make you more responsive to the needs of your own clients.
1. Honestly evaluate your needs–with another company’s product-and determine how well you were served.
Call your computer manufacturer and ask about a feature that you don’t quite understand. Call your local hardware store and ask about purchasing windows. Find something in your life for which you need service from a company, and see how well you are treated. In cases where you are well- treated, note the experience and why it was pleasing. In frustrating situations, assess the factors that raised your ire. Now put those same challenges to your own company’s service …
2. Be your own customer.
Be honest about the experience that your customer has with your company. Call the 800 number with a tough problem in mind. Send an e-mail with a tough question (but one that the company should be able to answer). Ask the company’s automated agent (or search-able FAQ) a question. Were you well served by the company in each case? How long did each service channel take to resolve your problem.
3. Recognize that speed is valuable.
Notice how long it took (and typically takes) for you to get a response from an e-mail support system (in many cases the only avenue for support offered by a company). Recognize that people have problems now, and expect them to be fixed now. And recognize how frustrating it is to receive an answer in a day or two. Seek out solutions that can provide your customers with immediate answers. For many people, this level of immediacy will go a long way toward endearing them to your company and its products.
4. Recognize that different people prefer different treatment.
Some people actually prefer the languid pace of e-mail support. Others demand immediate answers. Some people don’t mind pressing multiple buttons on an Interactive Voice Response system to arrive at the end of the line with a 20 minute hold time in the support area that is specifically capable of handling their problem. Other people resent paying for a product then having to invest their time to get the product to work. Some people don’t mind chatting with a live support rep via a web chat interface. Other people aren’t comfortable tapping on keyboards and expect the responses from the rep to come much faster than they often do.
5. Personalize customer support interactions.
Does your customer support system enable you to immediately recognize the prior support history of a customer, and enable you to interact with sensitivity to the customer’s previous interactions with the company? Think how nice it would be to get a message like “I hope that you were able to fix your e-mail set-up with the instructions I gave you the other day. How can I be of help today?” Personalization goes a long way toward making a customer feel that you care about his/her problems…and that they are not just another customer number among many.
6. Provide proper escalation paths to higher cost/quality support.
Ideally, you will solve a great proportion of your customer service inquiries with low-cost self-support solutions. But it is important to deploy systems that can instantly and automatically recognize when customers are not being served by self-service solutions, and immediately offer a path to escalate that customer case to attended service. A properly designed system will pass the customer’s “session” with the self-support solution to the live support rep, making the rep’s job much more efficient, as they will be fully apprised of the customer problem when the customer gets passed to them.
7. Recognize that downloads are a no-no.
Do not implement support solutions that require customers to have lots of spare computer power, or will require them to download a piece of support software. The spy-ware vendors have made consumers appropriately wary of any kind of download. Deploy solutions that use existing and common computing platforms installed on the majority of consumers’ PCs.
8. Deploy support solutions that provide maximum performance visibility .
Recognize that numbers don’t provide all the answers, and the numbers coming out of the reporting tools from many CRM vendors are designed to make the solution look good. Seek out systems that enable you to view actual customer inquiries, and the response generated by the inquiry…and if the response warrants a click, ensure that there is a way for you to determine that the click offered was the right one, and the customer was not sent into an area that did not solve their problem. A click by a customer does not indicate success. It often is simply an indication that the customer did their best with what was offered–and in many cases what is offered does not solve the problem. Ideally, seek out a system that enables you to easily assess the statistical and subjective performance (reading actual chat sessions) of the solutions you deploy.
Steven Klein is the CEO of Conversagent.