Sunday, November 22, 2009

Get Your Customer Service Issues Addressed

Anyone who has studied customer service in any depth knows that most of your dissatisfied customers never let you know. Even consistent, well-constructed surveys often don't produce a clear picture of what you're doing right and what you can do better.

Why don't people tell us when they have a problem? Maybe it's because they think we'll be offended, or that they might get us "in trouble." Maybe it goes back to the old model of a "Complaint Department" at businesses and stores, and people don't want to be perceived as complainers. For whatever reason, the percentage of people who do let us know they are unhappy is often compared to the "tip of the iceberg" with the other 90 to 95% of dissatisfied customers remaining silent. This creates a big problem for those of us who care about and deal with customer service (CS) issues. How can we improve if we don't know that we're doing something wrong, what we're doing wrong, and maybe the customers' ideas on how we might improve?

You don't have to be angry about bad service you received—but you might be—in order to contact a customer service representative at a business. A business that's interested in having a future will work with you to find a resolution. Here are some steps you can take to get the right kind of attention on a service issue:

  • Get relevant details ready for your call, chat or submission
  • Find out what to do if your first contact does not go well
  • Tell your story as simply as possible
  • Get attention on the details that created your dissatisfaction or problem
  • Be prepared to escalate your case to the next level
  • Try hard not to be overly confrontational; making the CS representative defensive doesn't help
  • Be realistic - you won't get a house in Malibu because your dryer doesn't work
  • Don't sell yourself short - have some idea of what will make you happy, and stick to that
  • Be prepared to go to the competition on your next opportunity, and let that be known
Let us know how we are doing. Focus your feedback. In the long run, you'll get better service all around.

Give it some thought.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

After the Conference

If you happen to follow me on Twitter or be connected with me on LinkedIn, you probably know that I attended the First Wednesday Group's excellent Voice of the Customer Conference in Massachusetts this past week. This was my second time, and I'm so glad I attended. The producers put together a great range of speakers, and there is always a lot to learn.

But here's where the value of any conference is either made or broken: What's next? What did I take away from this event that helps my job, my career, my life? What did I hear—what topics were discussed that will make a difference for me over the next year?

Here, as I heard it, were the salient customer service points made at this conference:

  • If your company is not paying attention to social media (Twitter and Facebook especially), it should be
  • People are talking about your company, products and services, and if you are not in the mix, search engines will own the conversation more than you will
  • People consult social media, including reviews and ratings, before buying a product or service
  • The methods currently used to measure customer satisfaction need to be updated
  • Customer-provided voluntary support information can be extremely valuable. Knowledgeable people will post answers to questions, an will solve problems for people for free—but make sure you thank them*
  • Companies struggle with knowing when to step in with their own support
We are all learning how to use these new forms of global, instant communication. How to use them well is something we have to figure out as we go along. In my line of work, some organizations already are using Twitter as a method of getting assistance from the service desk.

It's an exciting time. How we deal with all this change will steer the customer service and support industry through the next decade and beyond.

What have you learned recently from a meeting, webinar, conference or workshop that will stay with you in your world?

Give it some thought.

*The Microsoft MVP community marked a 30% increase in questions answered after a word of thanks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Seat at the Grownups' Table

Many of us can remember Thanksgiving dinner in an extended family setting where those of us who were very young were sent to eat at the kids' table—usually a folding table set up just for the purpose. When we were "old enough" we were able to move up to the grownups' table. It was and is a rite of passage. For those of us who are the youngest sibling, this rite was even more important.

In business, a "seat at the table" means that your department or division or function gets to participate in decision-making processes. Your people get to be in the room when decisions are at least discussed if not made.

When there are business meetings in your organization, are there people who sit at the kids' table? Perhaps they are not taken seriously, or perhaps they don't care enough to be paying full attention. In the worst case, they are people who do care, who desperately want to be part of decisions, to be asked questions, to participate.

When you call a meeting to start a new project, are some of the people in the room relegated to the kids' table? Perhaps unwittingly, are you avoiding their opinions and perspectives?

  • Make sure that all stakeholders are represented at your meeting
  • Go around the table completely and give everyone an opportunity for input
  • Listen carefully for those unexpected gems that can help you get things done

The best insights often come from unexpected places. Don't forget to tap the minds at the kids' table. And don't forget about giving them a rite of passage to full citizenship within the family of your business.

Give it some thought.