The best customer support call is the one avoided

14Jan10

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a few companies with excellent customer support and have noticed a pattern in the way they approach things.  Specifically, in good CS companies, customer support is not what you do when the customer calls — it’s what you do to avoid the customer having to call.  Defining CS in this way means a few things:

  1. You have to build a culture of empathy in your company.  Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is the best way to avoid them calling with problems.
  2. You can’t just be empathetic in one area.  Empathy has to be infused in design, product dev, engineering, QA, marketing, sales AND customer service.  This is really hard.
  3. In order for (1) and (2) to work, you have to expose your staff to customers on a regular basis.  This means you can’t hire people for any position that you wouldn’t want to talk to your customers.
  4. If (1) , (2) and (3) above are true, your support systems and staff will scale a lot better.  You won’t be in silly discussions about the ROI of customer support.  More importantly, you’ll have happy customers that recommend you to others.

This isn’t to say that empathy is a silver bullet.  Things will still go wrong and you’ll still have tough conversations with upset customers.  When this happens, approaching difficult conversations with empathy leads to more positive resolutions.  Building a culture of empathy can also make teams more open to creative problem-solving.  Rather than having conversations like ‘well, that isn’t technically a bug,’  or ‘stupid user error,’ the team ends up saying ‘aaah — that does suck.  We should’ve thought of that.’

If you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, is the experience positive?

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One Response to “The best customer support call is the one avoided”

  1. Great thoughts Chris – I agree. Am currently trying to get some “thing-centered” team members to be customer aware – it is a real struggle if the empathy is not there.


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