Customer Support Isn’t An Afterthought

Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring against you and if you mix in technology, it can get ugly quickly.

None of use are impervious to it, you’re focused on getting something done and suddenly you have a technical problem.  Depending on the type of person you are you either panic and start smashing the keys on your keyboard (percussive maintenance) or you accept defeat and move on.

Inevitably, you end up trying to make a customer support call.

I know some people for whom making a support call ranks up there as things they look forward to like visiting the dentist or an appointment with a proctologist.  For me, with my technology background, it’s just part of life, so I have a pretty high tolerance for that form of stupidity.

Lately though, my patience has been tested by a couple different companies that I have contacted for support.

In the first case, I’m having an intermittent bug that’s causing a real problem.  I logged the ticket and it took three days for the support desk to respond which falls outside this company’s own service level agreement which is not a great way to treat paying customers.

Then the response that I get is a question that if they even bothered to look at the screenshots I sent with the ticket, they’d already know.  I respond to their dumb question promptly and then I get told that that the problem is with another software provider.  Sure, I am ok with that, except the bug in the other product that they linked to isn’t even the product I’m using and clearly described in the ticket and in the screenshot.

It’s now gone back into their customer support ether where I’m sure it will sit through the weekend until someone comes back to tell me again it’s not their problem.

The second case is a bit more frustrating.  This software company has a known bug in their code, they’ve acknowledged it about four weeks ago despite clients having pointed it out for nearly three months.

Their support occurs through a forum that is clearly manned by overseas support staff.  For the most part, the support staff do a pretty good job with simple things, but when these bugs appear, it quickly becomes a steaming pile of garbage.

In this particular case, the support staff said the bug was fixed and would be in the next update release… Twice.  There have been two updates in the last four weeks and the fix hasn’t made an appearance in either.

And there’s no recourse because the American development team and management never even pretend to make an appearance in the forums – they are entirely disconnected from this part of their business.  They compound this problem by having the support staff tell customers regularly to post issues that are CLEARLY bugs in the “Suggestions” forum.

Ok, let me try and unpack this particular cluster of crazy for you so as you don’t hurt yourself like I did when I first tried to understand it.

The software has a bug, so you go to the support forum and raise it.  The customer support staff respond by telling you that you should raise fixing the bug as a “suggestion” in a different forum for their development staff who never appear on the forum to check the suggestions.

That’s about as useful as trying to teach my dog to shadowbox.

Bad customer support is everywhere, it’s a complete plague and frankly it costs companies business and their efforts to cut cost in this area inevitably hurts their revenue.

Let me get this out of the way right now, “Customer Support is a marketing opportunity, not a cost.”

Every time you have the opportunity to delight your customers, you should seize it with both hands.  You should try to delight them even more when they are having a problem.  It’s like business jiu-jitsu, you use the weight of the problem as momentum to engage positively with your customer and leave them feeling even better about you at the end.

This really isn’t that hard, but most management or owners probably never go through their own customer support system with a problem.  They don’t see what it’s like on the other side.  If that’s you, I highly encourage you to figure out a way to actually be the customer when something goes wrong with your product or service.  It’s very enlightening.

This may sound silly, but try and bring the situation to a resolution!  You may not be able to help the person or fix the problem, but bring the engagement to a close.  I can tell you unequivocally that leaving a customer in limbo with a “there’s nothing we can do about that” or like the folks above, asking them to make a post in an unmonitored forum is the absolute WORST thing you can do.

The most important thing though, think of every time you engage with a customer at any point in your business as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.  That small mindset shift will increase your customer retention and satisfaction in the long run more than anything else you can do.

When I started the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter, I thought about customer experience as a core component of the whole project.  I thought about how can I deliver something better than people expect.  And this week, the first welcome packs have started arriving – subscribers have been posting pictures on Facebook, texting me and sending me emails saying how delighted they are with what they got in the mail.

Creating that kind of experience is critical and you can see for yourself by subscribing to the Casual Marketer Newsletter, just click the link below to sign up.

Leave a Comment