Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Outcome Is Not Guaranteed

I have always thought of people as fundamentally optimistic. If someone tells us something, we usually believe it. When we buy something, we expect that it will work. We have a symptom, we see a doctor, we get a prescription, and we believe that we will get better.

I've also always thought that this is a naïve approach. Not everyone gets better. Things don't always work as advertised. And this is as true in computer support as it is in health care. No matter how we may wish to make everything perfect, fast, easy, and reliable, we can't always do so. Sometimes the outcome is a frustrated person on each end of the phone or help chat. The support person wants to make things work as the end-user expects; the end-user or expects that it's going to be fixed right now.

As hard as it is for many of us to absorb, not everyone gets well, or has their symptoms ameliorated. Some medical conditions fail to improve; likewise, some computer issues don't respond even after hours of work. There are so many variables in each case.

So, when you are faced with a computer issue and contact your support provider, bear in mind that the outcome may not be as you wish, but you can help minimize the chances that this will happen. The better communication you have with either your health care provider or your computer support person, the more likely you are to get your particular issue resolved.

Some helpful hints for getting the best results from computer support:

  • Be honest - if you dropped the laptop, admit it. You'll save yourself and the support person lots of time.
  • Be patient - lots of variables mean lots of questions and maybe some failed fixes.
  • Be understanding - if you are trying to connect to your office from a hotel, be aware that the service desk at your company has no control over the hotel network, and may not be able to make things work for you
  • Be compliant - if you're asked to restart, or unplug, or call the hotel front desk, please act in your own best interest.
  • Be trusting - don't immediately call your "cousin Bob, who knows a lot about computers" after the support person tells you that you need to do x, y, or z. The support person may, in fact, not be as smart as "cousin Bob," but may have information that Bob does not have about the network, or model of computer, or the state of the Internet at that particular time.
One more request: If you do figure out what the problem was, or if the symptom stops happening, let the support folks know. Believe it or not, we worry about these things, and often spend our off-hours reading and researching the fixes for unresolved issues.

Now, reboot and don't forget to take your medicine.

Give it some thought.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Now Is the Winter of Our Discontent

The pointed firs stand in defiance of the weight of the snow here in Maine, just as they are designed, fundamentally, by nature to do. It's the beginning of 2010.

This year, I believe that economic conditions will make it imperative for businesses to pay even more attention to the fundamentals. Those fundamentals include quality of product, value, and quality of service. Customers will also be thinking in fundamentals such as price, quality, value, and the Customer Experience. I'd like to think that 2010 is the year that businesses really start to believe that retaining a Customer really is less expensive than winning a new one. (Some sources say it's 5x, some say 7x more expensive to gain than to retain.) The Reference for Business also says:
...a company that increases its number of new customers by 20 percent in a year but retains only 85 percent of its existing customers will have a net growth rate of only 5 percent (20 percent increase less 15 percent decrease). But the company could triple that rate by retaining 95 percent of its clients.

What's the most powerful way to retain customers? Say it with me: Good Customer Service! So, ask yourself why Customer Service is not at the very, very, very (very!) top of every business's list of way to increase revenues and hold costs in check. Customer Service needs to be taught, spoken about, featured, tweeted, IM'd, written, inculcated, and ingrained into every aspect of organizational culture.

Good Customer Service not only means treating your customers with all the respect due to your prime source of revenue, it also means designing every aspect of your business to make the customer experience better.

  • Check to see if your Web site is designed for your Customers' benefit, or for yours. If it's the latter, change it, and change it now. Do not try to tell me (the Customer) what I want from you by planting a limited number of dropdowns or radio buttons. Give me the opportunity to express my concern, frustration, gratitude, rage, or interest. 
  • Have a trained, professional Customer Service representative at the receiving end of every Customer Service transaction.*
  • Treat every single Customer as if they are the most important person your business will ever encounter. (Know what? They are!)
Customer Service extends far beyond the sales counter, the Returns desk, the IT Service Desk, and your Web site. It's a way of life.

Do not let the weight of harsh economic realities snap the branches of your business: Learn how to build your business to adapt, like the pointed firs, to the Winter of Our Discontent.
Give it some thought.
* Considering outsourcing your Customer Service to the lowest-bidding call center? Would you do that to Investor Relations?