I was recently asked to give a presentation from a customer service perspective to our engineering team at Phone.com. After about a minute of deep soul searching, I came up with the title What Customer Service Folks Want Engineers and Programmers to Know About Customer Service…and Other Stuff For Kids Who Can’t Read Good. Please tell me you got the Zoolander reference and that this didn’t come across as a horribly insensitive title.
Sharing Our Service Standards
My presentation had two major components. First, I set out to share with them our five service standards (caring, quality, choice, accessibility and value) that make up awesome customer service. I sought to show them how they too could help uphold these standards. I even dropped a couple amazing quotes on them:
Treat your employees the way you want your customers treated — maybe even better! ~Shep Hyken
If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is. ~Jan Carlzon
After all, engineers are in fact doing internal customer service every day when they support the customer service team and others within the organization. Much of their work is also designed for customers to use, which means they have a huge impact on the overall customer experience as well.
The second part of my presentation was to share the results of a survey I administered with our customer service team that gauged their expectations of the engineering team in the following areas:
- Willingness of engineers to speak directly with customers
- Expectations when approaching engineers for assistance
- Feelings about approaching engineers for assistance
- One critical customer service skill they wish engineers possessed
- The frequency at which they approach an engineer for assistance
Willingness of engineers to speak directly with customers
With 26 total respondents, 44% said that engineers are never willing to speak directly with external customers, with another 24% saying they are rarely willing. Engineers aren’t expected to speak with customers so this result was expected.
Expectations when approaching engineers for assistance
36% said they just wanted engineers to fix the problem, 24% wanted them to take ownership of the issue and work directly with the customer, and another 24% wanted to be empowered and trained to understand and fix the issue themselves.
Feelings about approaching engineers for assistance
We found a fairly even distribution between being nervous about being made to feel incompetent, anxious about having to fight for the customer, eagerness to learn, confidence that the issue would be resolved in a timely manner, and frustration that they would likely be blown off. 24% said they were confident and another 24% said they were frustrated.
One critical customer service skill they wish engineers possessed
The customer service skills we emphasize every day with our customer service team are:
- Positive Attitude
- Willingness to Help
- Desire to Empower and Traing
- Never Say NO Mentality
33% valued a willingness of engineers to help and another 20% wanted to be empowered and trained.
The frequency at which they approach an engineer for assistance
Finally, we found that 100% of our customer service staff approaches the engineering team for help less than once per day.
At the conclusion of the survey, I gave respondents the opportunity to share any other thoughts they had with the engineering team. Without going into great detail, the staff wanted the engineering team to understand customer service from their perspective. Customers can certainly be demanding and impatient and generally would rather have their issues resolved without having to make a ticket or leave a voicemail.
After hammering home the point that we need our engineering team to equip and train our customer service team and illustrating how critical they are to the customer experience, a rich time of discussion ensued. Some of the key points made by the engineering team included:
- Time and Focus- Customer service needs to understand that fixing problems takes time and focus. The more detailed customer service can be in describing the problem, the easier it is to fix.
- Customer Satisfaction Insight- Engineers want to see some of the feedback from our customer satisfaction and net promoter score survey data for insights into how their work affects those metrics.
- Why People Call- The engineers want insight into the problems customers call about and the frequency. They want to know that the projects they are working on are helping to alleviate pain points and helping reduce calls about those issues.
- Preventing Calls- One engineer made a great point in saying “I do not ever expect to have to call my phone company. The phone should just work!” As a VoIP phone company, this is a fantastic perspective for any employee to have.
While the chance to cast vision and share survey data was valuable, the greatest value by far was the open discussion with the engineering team. To know that our engineering team understands how they affect the customer experience and that they want to know the way in which their work is moving customer satisfaction levels up or down is extremely encouraging.
It is essential within our organizations to have these types of cross-departmental discussions to better realize the ways in which our work is interdependent. We truly are stronger when we work together!