Dan's Blog

March 12, 2010

Good service

Filed under: Customer Service — ddswanson01 @ 1:26 pm

Almost every position I’ve held has been in the customer support/service area, and quality of service is important to me. To me, the customer’s perception of quality of service is almost always dependent on the customer’s interaction with an individual service agent. If the agent is good, the service is perceived as being of good quality. Who is a ‘service agent’? My definition is “Anyone in a company or organization who deals with customers on a regular basis”. In my case, I managed Product Support agents, and everyone has dealt with Customer Service agents. But Sales Representatives, receptionists, cashiers, and wait staff are service agents as well.

If your company is in the customer service business (and almost everyone is, no?) there are some corollaries to the observation that the agent determines the customer perception of service quality:

  • If a particular customer almost always deals with the same agent, then your company’s reputation, in the eyes of that customer, is in the care of a single agent. You can’t afford to have a bad agent in this situation. This is one reason why two customers might have widely differing perceptions of your company’s service quality.
  • If a customer’s first experience with one of your agents is bad, it is very difficult to repair your reputation with that customer.
  • If your agents consistently provide a customer with good service, that customer is usually willing to overlook an isolated instance of poor service, but it is not easy to overcome a poor start.
  • If a customer regularly deals with several different agents, and one of them is good and the others are not as good, the customer is going to try to contact the good agent, regardless of the issue. So if you have a poor support rep and a great sales rep, your customers will tend to take their support problems to the sales rep. So a ‘bad’ agent, in almost any department, can make the job tougher on a good agent, even in a totally different department.

Again in my opinion, good agents:

  • Are pleasant, easy to reach, and good listeners
  • Know how to uncover what the customer needs. Customers don’t always say what they need or need what they say. A poor agent solves problems the customer doesn’t really have.
  • Never say “That’s not my job.” The customer’s issue might be ‘not an issue I (or even ‘my group’) can resolve’ but it is ALWAYS a service agent’s job to help the customer. Helping the customer reach someone who can resolve the issue is part of the job. Following up later is also part of the job, and that customer contact is open until the issue is addressed.
  • Usually have the right answer to most customer issues, but when they don’t, they are empowered to say “I don’t know, but I will find out for you”. And then follow up, find the answer, and get back to the customer. It is never acceptable to knowingly give wrong answers to customers to avoid the work of finding out the right answers.

When I was first hired as Manager of Support, I promised my company that nobody who worked for me would ever say “That’s not my job.” I never hired or had to release someone who had that attitude.

I dealt with customer service agents three times yesterday. One of them said “You need to contact <someone else> to help you”. I wasn’t happy to hear that, but she was right. Another one of them said “I don’t know the answer. Hold on and I’ll find it.” And she did. The third one (a guy this time) unraveled what I needed from what I said and gave me the correct answer. Whenever I find good service, I like to acknowledge it, and I did. When I’m the boss, that’s how I want my organization to operate. It should be everywhere you look; unfortunately it’s not.

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1 Comment »

  1. I was just reminded of something. The number one bad thing a support agent can say is ‘It’s not my job.” but right up there, for software or internet support, is “It works on my computer.” (So, Customer, it must be your fault…) Sometimes it is, like when the customer is still running Windows 3 (remember that?) and the software was written for Vista. But even when it is true, there are acceptable ways to say that without blaming the customer.

    Comment by ddswanson01 — March 12, 2010 @ 3:05 pm | Reply


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