Good customer service is an opportunity to strengthen a relationship with a customer despite an initial problem. On the other hand, bad customer service can turn a minor frustration into raging fury… as I discovered recently. Hopefully we can all learn some lessons from my pain.
If you’re worried about catching a virus, then there’s no scenario quite so terrifying as a group fitness class. Thirty people crammed into a single room, dripping sweat on the equipment, and breathing their germs all over each other for an hour.
So pre-vaccine, I’ve been attending remote classes – which are more expensive than just watching an exercise video on Youtube, but vastly more effective because I actually show up. Or I try to.
“Studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood” – WebMd
On this particular morning, nothing went right.
- Alarm goes off at 4.50am. I crawl, bleary-eyed, out of bed.
- Somehow I manage to get my computer set-up and my gym clothes on, ready for my 5.15am work-out. I hit start.
- Error: “Class has not started yet. Please try again.”
- Every 10 seconds for the next 3 minutes, I hit Start again, getting increasingly frustrated as the same error occurs.
- I hit the Customer Support chat button, and enter a message explaining my problem, including the name of the class and the instructor.
- Tech support comes online and asks me which class I’m having a problem with. I grit my teeth and repeat the same information again.
- They claim it’s a problem with my profile and have me log-out and back in again. Same result.
- Several minutes pass, and then they realize that other people are reporting the same problem, so maybe the coach hasn’t started the class. They say they’ll contact the coach’s local gym directly to see what’s going on.
- More minutes pass. They ask me if I’ve heard from the coach. Umm… no? Wasn’t that their job?
- At 5.35am I give up and send an angry message to customer support about their whole system sucking.
- They tell me they appreciate the feedback.
5 Lessons about Good Customer Support
Thankfully, this happened three weeks ago, so my boiling anger has cooled to a gentle simmer. We may not run virtual gyms, but many of us are involved in supporting customers, and we can learn a lot from this example.
#1: Design for user experience
My first frustration was a product design issue. If you try to join a class before it has started, why not show a “waiting” pop-up so the user doesn’t have to keep hitting Start.
We all make decisions that impact user experience – the design of an IVR system, whether to include a direct phone number in your email signature, whether communications are by SMS/email/phone, not to mention all the design decisions involved in a website or mobile app.
If you annoy the user every day through poor design then your customers will start off frustrated before they even contact you.
#2: Prevent problems from occurring
The core issue was that the coach didn’t show up for class – he apparently didn’t realize he was scheduled for that class. A proactive gym could easily implement systems to prevent this from happening – for example a reminder 45 minutes ahead of time which required him to respond confirming he’d be there, with some kind of backup plan if he didn’t.
In the same way, we can design our networks with safeguards in place – redundancy, back-up routes, and regular testing to show potential issues.
#3: Spot errors when they occur
In my scenario, tech support responded to the ticket as if it was a problem unique to me. They didn’t even know that the class hadn’t started until they realized that multiple people were complaining about the same thing.
Does the same thing happen to you? Do you discover there’s an outage or network issue because multiple customers complain about the same issue? Wouldn’t it be much better if you had network monitoring in place to highlight the issue to the NOC, so that you could start investigating before you received multiple customer complaints (and so you can tell the customers you’re already working on it)?
#4: Use the data that you have
One of my frustrations was that I needed to repeat the class information to tech support (despite being logged in, so they presumably could see which classes I was signed up for).
This is really annoying for customers, so make sure you’re informed when you communicate with them – have you read the history of the ticket, have you looked in their record to understand which DNs are assigned to them, and how they’re configured, do you know whether they’ve seen this issue before?
#5: Own the issue and the resolution
My “favorite” moment in this exchange was when they said they’d contact the local gym then asked me if the coach had contacted me. We need to take ownership of resolving tickets – continuing to investigate until we reach a resolution. If a customer continually needs to contact us for a status update, or feels like they need to push to figure out a solution, then we are failing in our responsibilities.
One of our core values at Award Consulting is “Solve the whole problem” which captures this idea of ownership but also the need to keep digging and resolve the root cause, not just the surface level symptom.
Why not use these 5 lessons to guide a discussion with your own support team to see how everyone thinks you’re performing in these areas. If you’re feeling brave include some representatives from sales in the conversation, as they may be hearing things from customers that you’re not.
If you are worried that your customer support interactions tend to leave your customers frustrated, then contact us and we can discuss training options. If you’d like to learn more about the support services we offer our customers, click here.