There’s the good, the bad and the downright ugly in customer support, and it’s become part of the human experience to witness a little bit of each. As support people, we are often conditioned to take note of both the positive and the negative customer support experiences we have and apply our findings to our interactions with our own customers.
Even with our observational learning, many support teams still follow a few well-intentioned customer support habits that are actually detrimental to companies, customers, and support team morale. Here’s are a few of the worst offenders, and how to help your team ditch them for good:
It’s not unheard of to receive an overwhelming amount of customer support requests during the holidays or following a major product update, and most of the time teams can predict and prepare for high-volume days. Sometimes though, your team gets swamped unexpectedly and is not set up to deal with the sudden influx of tickets. When this happens, you’re faced with a big decision: speed or quality? While the temptation to help as many customers in an hour as possible may be enticing, it’s not necessarily your best bet.
Quality customer support cannot and should not be rushed, so take your time to make sure each and every customer is taken care of and knows they are appreciated–they’ll remember you for it. Better service wins over faster service.
“Far more critical than the time-it-takes-to-be-served are the feelings customers take away from a service experience — however long it might take. The secret to Starbucks’ success is not how rapidly they serve coffee; instead, Starbucks recognizes that speed is just one part of the total experience. This total brand experience must be seamlessly enjoyable, not just quick.”
-William J. McEwen, Ph.D., Married to the Brand
Supporting McEwen’s argument, this 2010 study on customer experience found customers were more likely to stop using a product or service due to rude customer support staff than slow ticket resolutions. Customers, of course, are never going to be thrilled that they have to wait longer for help, but providing excellent, personalized, and attentive service at the expense of a slightly longer wait is better than making a customer wait slightly less time and receive sub par service.
So how do you take care of the customers while they’re waiting? It’s simple: transparency. It takes very little effort to set up an autoresponder or send a tweet letting customers know you’re handling lots of requests and that they can expect delays. It also doesn’t hurt to link customers to your knowledge base while they wait. The majority of customers will be grateful if you simply acknowledge receiving their request, they (mostly) understand that support teams are only human and appreciate honesty.
Empathy is key to providing great customer support, but “I’m sorry” can only go so far. When’s the last time you showed a customer gratitude? You might be surprised by how far “Thank you” can go when it comes to customer happiness, and team morale.
Admittedly, working in customer support does involve apologizing–especially if there’s a major outage or you’re working with particularly difficult customers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a well-placed, meaningful apology, but if your team is dishing out apologies left and right, customers will begin to notice and your empathy will soon start looking like incompetence.
Rather than repeatedly apologizing to a customer, your team should consider thanking them instead; for their patience, for their business, for pointing out bugs. It doesn’t really matter what you’re thanking customers for; a happy customer is one who feels valued, appreciated, and respected. Sometimes apologizing is somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction, which means breaking the habit won’t be easy at first, but you’ll soon discover that when you appreciate customers instead of apologize to them, both your team and your customers are better off as your customers feel valued, and your team gets to express gratitude rather than guilt.
If you’ve worked in support longer than a day, chances are you’ve said “Thanks for the feedback, I’ll be sure to pass that on” more than a few times, and that’s fantastic. But do you stick to your word? We’ve written about this one before; telling a customer you’ll share their input is simply not enough, and not having a feedback system in place is not an excuse.
When you tell a customer that you’re going to pass on their feedback and nothing happens, they begin to lose their trust in you, so you must show your customers you’ve followed through. Even if your team decides not to act on a customer’s suggestions, a simple follow-up email explaining why shows them your company cares enough about them to take their feedback seriously.
Furthermore, product teams rely on customer feedback to make product decisions that help the company grow, so withholding feedback is harmful to your product team, too. As a support agent, you’re communicating with customers more frequently than any other department, so it’s crucial that you pay attention to customers and diligently communicate their requests to other departments.
Pro Tip: It’s 2015. Get a darn feedback system already! While you could attempt to collect and manage customer feedback in a Google Doc, it’s not necessarily your most efficient option, and does not provide your customers with status reports related to their ideas. (Not to toot our own horn or anything but support agents especially love our Feedback tool’s ability to turn support tickets into feedback.)
This ties in with choosing speed over quality; I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to spend time showing your customers that you value them. Solving the problem is really not enough, you need to be thorough and ensure your customer is 100% satisfied before closing that ticket! So ask them–is there anything else I can help you with? Do you have any other questions? Are you happy with our product? What can we do to improve? When you ask questions you’re showing customers that their opinion is valued.
Additionally, as uncomfortable as it can be to be the bearer of bad news, don’t avoid sharing the “bad news”–prioritize it so you can then use good news to right the ship. Customers will be happier knowing you’ve been honest with them from the beginning, then they will be if you mention the “bad news” toward the end of your interaction as an afterthought. You want the end of your interaction to be sparkling–your customer should feel important and appreciated, not bummed out, so order your disclosures accordingly.
[toggle title=”Photo Credits”]
Drag Race photo courtesy of Ullis Andersson.
Danke photo courtesy of Alice Popkorn.
“Talk 2 the Hand” photo courtesy of Maryam.
Beatle photo courtesy of Kayugee.