Rage Against The Customer
I’m sure everyone has been in customer service at one point in there life and I’m sure you have a small disregard for customers relating to those cherished moments.
Coming Back To Reality
For a software company, one of my clients, they despise the ringing of the phone. They think their customers are completely and utterly mentally deficit of creating educated, technically sound decisions. And after speaking with a few of them I would agree to an extent. However, their contempt seemed a little unfounded.
They spoke of how their customers called in aflame with rage that their humble software was not working as promised, hoped for, expected, or acceptable to general technological standards every other software company holds true to. I felt like I was put into quite the predicament, on one hand I was there to perform a specific service for my client, and on the other hand their customer service people were being relentless by only providing the bare minimum and urging customers to call back another day so that they would not have to deal with that exploding problem today.
So I questioned a few people asking them if they had ever purchased software that was critical to their business or existence. They quipped quickly absolutely not. I then explained, feeling like the wise sage who has overstayed their welcome that if you ever pay for something that is completely intangible that it is expected that it will work as promised. I further interpreted that when I was with another company and paid $125,000 for a custom made piece of software it was EXPECTED that it would work as promised. They of course clamored with shocked saying it was different. But they relinquished their spasmodic response with a simple, short-lived empathetic moment. They thought I was accusing them of being horrible people, I told them that they are reacting normal for people who get badgered for eight hours a day.
I clarified my reasoning; I was not saying that it is the customers’ fault, nor their fault, nor the programmers’ fault. The fact was is that there were many issues that needed to be addressed. First, the software, it needs run stable, really stable. Second, the sales staff needed to address the customers’ expectation level; the sales staff was overselling what the capabilities were. Third, their knowledge base lacked the immediate defense materials to diffuse irate customers who meddled with their software inappropriately. Fourth, their customer service needed to put themselves in their customers’ position and realize that these people paid for the software they are complaining about. Fifth, the customer service staff needed to maintain the knowledge base as they would deal with the same problem for days before someone would write up a document to email to customers.
These suggestions are not the only things they need to do but they were the most obvious that could be fixed relatively quickly. The lesson to learn here is that sometimes we get so wrapped up in going through the motions that sometimes the answer is right in front of us. For my client they continued to handle tech support calls and had considered adding more people to help with the volume of calls. The answer for them was to address the levels of connection they had with their customers and fix problems at each stage, which in whole fixed a much larger problem.
The larger problem wasn’t that their customers were idiots; it was that they began to treat their customers like a number, a cash register who shouldn’t call when they have problems. It’s easy to get there because when you get in the rhythm of business sometimes you disconnect purely from the rhythm. I suggested that they stop for a moment and genuinely ask their customer how they are doing and shut up and listen. If we listen, we’ll most likely find the root to the problem their having. And yes, sometimes it’s because the customer is dumb but that doesn’t make their concerns invalid. It means we haven’t thought through our processes enough to make it error-free. It’s a learning process and one that never ends because as old users phase out, we are welcomed with new ones. It’s the right time to be human.
Photo Credit – cambiodefractal