Knock em Dead Support

It’s been a while since I’ve written about support. To be fair, I hadn’t felt there was much of a need with so many great articles already in existence.

But I had an experience at a hotel recently that caused me to reflect on what creates a memorable support experience.

There are many of perspectives on this, but the I’ve found that great service is usually made up of these 3 things.

De-escalation

No matter how perfect the product seems to be, problems will arise. This is especially true if you’re working with software. Customers know this, but the defining moment is how we support folks choose to handle those problems.

Recognition is the first step. De-escalation is a close second. Refocusing the customer on something positive can go a long way.

I had an experience with Amazon recently that sent my rocket to the moon. Sorry, I had no better metaphors.

I ordered something for my daughter, and the item never arrived. I contacted support and they offered to resend it. A few days later I received a package that contained the wrong item. I wasn’t happy. I had great experiences with Amazon but this one was quite disappointing. I reached out to support again. And here is where they did their thing.

They quickly apologized for the mistake and granted a full refund. To add, they shipped the item again (speedy delivery) making me a happy camper.

Now, I don’t recommend giving handouts to every customer who has in issue, but they did a fantastic job de-escalating an issue that could have taken an ugly turn.

Empathy is a big part of deescalating a problem. Saying I’m sorry is good, but going the extra mile (without the customer asking you to) goes a long way.

Ways to show empathy:

  • Is it possible to credit their account for the damage that was caused?
  • If it’s a big mistake, can you send a card? Maybe a handwritten one?
  • Say, “I’m sorry!” and mean it. A customer can sense your sincerity by the tone of your email. Make it count!
  • Take the problem seriously. If the error was on your side, take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again if at all possible.

Empathize

Empathy isn’t only for when problems arise. It can also be used for good experiences. Has a customer written in about how your product has helped them make their life easier? Celebrate your customers’ success by letting them sense your excitement and care.

When I was learning to code, Treehouse did a wonderful job at celebrating wins. After you’ve reached a milestone, you received an email of felicitation. Give customers that warm and fuzzy feeling by letting them know you’re in their corner and want them to be successful.

Remember, not all support cases have to be reports of problems, and bugs. Show empathy by proactively (reaching out to customers) and reactively (responding customer needs and inquiries) solving pain points.

Communicate

No one likes being left in the dark. If a customer is experiencing an issue, the last thing you want to do is disappear into a virtual oblivion. If you’ve worked in support for a while, you’ve likely fallen victim to this. I know I have. How do you update a customer on the status of an issue, if it’s still under investigation? How do you share news, when there’s no news to share? One word.

Communicate.

Communicate what? Anything. No, you don’t have to tell them that you got a new dog, but you could tell them that the issue is under investigation and that you appreciate their patience.

As customers, we’ve all heard this before:

“We appreciate your patience”

It’s almost cliche. But it means something when it’s stated directly. It’s recognition. It lets us know that we haven’t been forgotten and are still a priority.

After all, that phrase loses its value when it’s surrounded by robotic terms like “sorry for the inconvenience” and “we appreciate your due diligence on this matter madam”. If you’re talking to a human, it’s usually best to avoid those phrases.

Here’s an example of how proactive communication can lead to a peace of mind. (This is based on true events.)

I ordered a meal on a cruise ship and scheduled it to be delivered at 5pm that evening. At 4:30pm and I couldn’t help but wonder if my order would arrive on time. It’s not that I didn’t trust the company. But this was my first experience placing an order this way.

Ten minutes later, I’m was still wondering if all of this will work as expected. Then at 4:50pm my phone rang. It was food services letting me know that my meal was on the way. A peace set in as I patiently awaited its arrival.

One company that’s perfected this process is GrubHub. Before you can wonder, “where is my food?” there’s a text or email coming your way that says “your yummy food is on the way”. Peace. Of. Mind.

This isn’t all you need to give great support. The folks over at HelpScout talk a lot about best practices and how to level up your support game. At Wildbit, I’m fortunate to work with folks who value these attributes.

Often, the difference between great and average support is the effort you put into achieving the “WOW” factor. A quick, and friendly reply goes a long way — even if your response isn’t ideal.