Rule #18 – Make customer service simple

As I type this, I am on hold with a cable/DSL provider trying to schedule a service call.  The online scheduling tool determined that I had made an error and suggested I call the main tech-support line, which I did.  The dizzying number of options presented to me was staggering.  Here’s the options I went through…

“Press one for English two for Spanish” – *beep*

“For phone related issues press one, for television issues press two, for high speed DSL issues, press 3” – *beep*

“If you do not have an internet connection press one, if you would like to activate your connection press two, for all other issues, press three.” – *beep*

“If your issue is related to hardware one, if your issue is related to something else, press two” – *beep*

“Please hold while I connect you with a representative.”

 ____________________

This was after I had already given my account number and last four digits of my social security number.  At no point in this nightmare was I presented with the option of simply talking to a representative, nor was I given the option of scheduling a service call.  Now, aside from the fact that service calls are extra money in the coffers of the cable company (which means they should be pushing them as much as possible on a tech support line), I can not imagine that most people calling the tech support line are in a good mood.  Chances are, the television went out during the 4th quarter of the Cowboys game or the internet just disconnected them from MySpace.  As such, while an automated tech support system may offer a universal set of options, the vast majority of people calling want to fix their problem as fast as possible, which means talking to a real person.

Navigating an endless sea of touch-tone options is the worst option possible.  In the course of my call, I was trying to find the option of “talk to a live person”, which should have been one of the first options presented.  It wasn’t given as an option at all until I had made half a dozen selections.

Once your product or business is off the launchpad, the most important facet of your endeavor is going to be how you treat your customers.  While you might think it would be nice to have an automated support system in place so you’ll have more free time to lay on the beach, nothing could be further from the truth.  Your business, in all likelihood, has value because you are offering to help solve a problem for each customer you have.  That is serious work.  Not paying attention to how you treat customers AFTER they have become your customers will make them someone else’s customers very quickly.

No amount of debugging will make things work perfectly with your product every time for every person.  Some customers will simply astound you with their level of incompetence when using your product or service.  That is not their problem, it is yours.  If you can not figure out how to help that customer – the one who thinks a CD drawer is a cup-holder or the one who thinks that their monitor is a photocopier – then they will cease to be your customer.

Some tips on how to take care of your customers very, very well.

  • Have your contact information (phone, fax, and email) easily labeled on your site.  Far too many websites hide this info, hoping that difficulty in finding it will make the person needing service give up.  Now, why in the world would that be a good result?
  • Have an option very early in any call to your phone allow the customer to talk to a real human who can help.  If you can have a real human answer the phone and address the problem immediately, even better.  If not, make any instance of hitting “0” ring through to a human; that’s the first instinct people have when trying to get to a real voice.
  • Let your customers know through your “hold music” or an auto-mated email how long they should expect to wait for your attention.  If it takes you 24 hours to get back them, say, “roughly one business day.”  If it takes you 10 minutes to get back to them, say, “within the next hour.”  Underpromise and overdeliver.

Never, ever forget that the customer deserves the same attention, time, and understanding that you want to have when you need service.  Never ever forget that when people need service, they are calling about a problem they have determined is beyond their own grasp.  Pushing them off on an endless maze of phone-prompts or long response times will quickly make them someone else’s customer.

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