Customer Service

Updated at 2015-04-01 09:51

Customer service screw ups are opportunities, not outcomes.

Customer service is the act of providing support to customers before, during and after a purchase.

Send personal emails. Hire an intern a chit chat emails to new paying customers just to say that they rock.

Customer service must be good quality. People are twice as likely to talk about bad customer service as about good customer service. Minority of people will post negative comments about bad customer service. The worst kind of customer service is to ignore. But contacting them later may help you save the customer relationship.

Elements of good quality customer service. From the most important to the least:

  • Friendly situation and representative.
  • Easy to find support when needed.
  • Easy to access information before a purchase.
  • Personalized experience.

Common channels for customer support:

  • Email (24h response time)
  • Forums (24h response time)
  • Facebook (2h response time)
  • Twitter (1h response time)
  • Phone (5min response time)
  • Website Live Chat (instant response time)

Email support is expected. People expect you to provide answer customer within 24 hours but will wait for a week. After that, people will start abandoning in significant numbers.

Email and forum support scale the best. Phone support is nice and all but it does not scale very well with a large user base. Consider offering phone support only to customers with a premium plan.

Communicate clear roles. To improve customer service, state on your website or on paper what is inside the scope of customer service and what is not.

We will not travel 100 miles to change your printer toner.

Share the knowledge. When there is a customer support call, write the question down, write the answer to it when you get it and archive it for future use.

Have a WOW budget. Allow your customer service to offer stuff for free once in a while. Should be used when customer is really desperate or problem is not getting solved.

Rackspace: Customer service were on marathon phone sessions with a customer. Heard that the customer said they were hungry. Customer service ordered them a pizza which arrived in 30 minutes when they still were trying to fix the issue.

Never give feature release estimates on customer support. You will be lying anyway. Say that you are working on it if you are.

Never promise a feature on customer support. You may say that you have the feature "in the roadmap".

Avoid guess-fixing. If you are not 90% certain about the fix you are going to suggest, make it clear that it is a guess. With complex issues, you can make guesses, but once again, state it clearly.

10 Steps of The Situation

1) Start by taking the customer seriously. When customer is complaining about a problem, you need to give them an impression that you do whatever it takes to deal with the problem.

Do not joke about the problem even if it seems trivial to you. It might annoy the customer. You may try to loosen up later.

2) Show interest. If you are in the same physical space, turn towards the customer. If you are communicating through web cam, look at the direction of the camera. If you are on the phone, avoid doing anything else when speaking.

3) Focus on what the customer is trying to do, not on the problem. What is the underlying problem. Try to fix the problem in another way.

Customer wants to print a receipt and calls you how to add ink to printer. You state that you cannot help with it as you do not know. Ask and realize customer is trying to print receipt to be sent in mail. Offer to help scanning and sending receipt by email.

4) Ask to explain more when you do not understand. Ask clarifying questions if you have something unclear.

We have two registration forms in the system, was this the one you enter from the front page or the one used after checkout?

5) Ask for confirmation even when you understand. This is very strong indicator that you are listening. Summarize and repeat the customer's message in your own words, but do not be a parrot.

Did I understand correctly that the software crashed while you were filling the registration form?

6) Understand the motivation. Mirror feeling of the customer by stating them out loud. Makes customer relate to you more and feel more relaxed.

So you are angry because you had to fill your information again?

7) Keep on track. Encourage to continue the argument if the discussion get derailed or interrupted.

Sorry for disturbing, continue telling me how the system handled the error.

8) Allow customer to control the outcome. Ask which of the possible solutions is the most important for the customer.

When would you be willing to try again? We may fix this today and call you when it is done or if there is no hurry, we can do it by Friday.

9) Do not promise anything that you cannot keep. Make it clear if you cannot promise the request.

We'll probably fix it by the next release, but I cannot promise anything. You can get around it by...

10) End with an encouragement. Remember to thank the customer and state that the feedback was helpful.

Thanks for the call! I was personally very pleased to hear that you liked the login form. We will try to improve that registration for you though. Call back anytime! Have a nice weekend!

Untangling a conflict - HEARD

  1. Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. "..."
  2. Empathize: Understand the thoughts and align with emotions of your customer. "I'd be upset too." or "I can see why you'd be frustrated."
  3. Apologize: If you are sincere, you can't apologize enough for screw ups. "I'm personally very sorry that you had this experience, so I want to make this right."
  4. Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly or give compensation if unable to be resolved. Empower every member of the customer service team to offer compensation. "What can I do to make this right?"
  5. Diagnose: Once the customer is satisfied, find out why the mistake occurred without blaming anyone. Add to a to-do list.