The 2012 MSN Customer Service Hall of Fame was recently announced and I was glad to see a few technology players in the top 10 or 15 companies.
Looking at the top performing companies I realise that I know a few of them, either as a customer or through business. Without going into unnecessary, but potentially interesting, details there are some common traits irrespective of industry. They each:
- Satisfy a need and meet expectation
- Make it easy for me to find what I need when I need to look
- Humanise the interaction when I do have to make contact
Satisfy the need/Meet the expectation
It seems strange that so many products and services are promoted as one thing but turn out to be another. This may be the result of overenthusiastic marketing, or Sales overselling, or the customer not finding it easy to understand what it does and doesn’t really do. In any case, products and services designed with the customer’s need in mind, and supported appropriately are bound to stand out from the crowd. When it comes to customer service, this is particularly important. When I read product reviews online, a one or two star rating doesn’t really put me off buying the product because the accompanying comments normally tell me more about the buyer than about the selling company or the product.
The comments that do make me reflect are the ones that identify what isn’t included, or what worked with difficulty. This is because I suspect I may have a hard time getting what I need from the product or service. So, sell me what I need and not what you have available and I will trust you again in the future.
Make it easy
Customers are generally realistic, but not always. So when things don’t go as expected, the company that anticipated I might get in touch and made answers easy to find and use online will gain my consumer appreciation. Online self-help tools are a great opportunity to validate that I do have a genuine problem, not an imagined and/or easily addressed one. But the knowledge-base content written by an engineer, in a technical language that I don’t understand, and clearly not with me (ordinary person) in mind, is an irritant and not a resource. So, instead of just ticking boxes by having the tools and content there, technology companies need to make their investment real by continually testing and improving usability.
Humanise the interaction
I dread calling technical support helplines. I fear being stepped through the standard 42 step script that identifies that I have a problem. I know I have a problem, that’s why I called. If I have come from a diagnostic tool online, and a knowledge-base that did not help me, the last thing I want when I call or email or chat, is the human version of the same tools. Naturally, there are steps to be covered but agents must be empowered to judge the competence of the caller, asking a few validation questions before deciding how best to achieve resolution of the issue. Make me feel like a person, with ability but lacking knowledge, and I will again trust you in the future.
When looked at through the customer’s eyes I don’t think any of this is unreasonable. Through the customer service department’s eyes it probably spells “cost”, or “dissatisfaction”. I don’t think either is true. People are not standard and shouldn’t be treated as such. Professional customer service isn’t about the company process, but is about serving customers. Hall of Fame top performers know and get this.
Do you agree?