Don’t put Legos down the drain

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Customer experience agents and experts often join the customer and provide sound recommendations and services to resolve their issues. During those calls, agents often spend a lot of time discussing the root cause and the remediations for each of the problems identified. However, make sure to tell them about the most obvious thing before rushing to explain, upgrade their services or operations, or perhaps deliver additional value-added services to the client (or company bottom line). In other words, Don’t put Legos down the drain! I’ll explain how a recent event raised my awareness of this common issue with support providers.

Recently, my bathroom tub joined the unfortunate number of household items needing expert repair. During bath time for my youngest daughter, the ceiling suddenly became a bubbling brook and a flowing stream. The leak transformed my wife into Florence G. Joyner as she ran up the stairs to assess the situation. Following her to the scene, my immediate work was to stop the leak and then call a plumber.

The following day, when the plumber returned to the house, he assessed the root cause. A collection of Lego squares and legomen coupled with average build-up and some errors made by the builders combined to create a perfect storm, and my kitchen ceiling is where it made landfall. He quickly suggested the needed repairs to resolve the immediate issue. After a few moments, he proposed some items to prevent future problems. The four suggestions were straightforward:

  1. Clear the drain with an auger (hand drill).
  2. Replace a broken overflow seal.
  3. Replace a worn-out and improperly installed drain seal.
  4. Redesign and extend the main drain to improve drainage and avoid future clogs.

The four suggestions all made obvious sense. Because the drain was still backing up, an obstruction was clearly present. Using the auger to release the block would allow the drain to clear out the current tub of water while making it easier to use the shower and tub in the future.
Once the tub backed up, the overflow valve came into play to keep the water from overflowing on the floor. However, the broken seal on the overflow valve (a construction defect) caused water to leak from the overflow seal and find its way to the floor. Replacing this seal would be necessary to handle future incidents where the tub backed up, or a nice bubble bath ran for too long. The plumber would have solved one problem without replacing the seal, but the other would still remain.

The third issue was also evident. While not a direct leak source, the worn-out and improperly installed drain seal was a problem. The longer it remained unaddressed, the sooner we’d need to call the plumber back to repair the shower and possibly the ceiling. As Stu (not his real name) explained, this seal wasn’t leaking yet, but it could at any point. Incidentally, Stu discovered that this seal was also improperly installed; to add a good measure, it was the wrong type of fitting.

The fourth issue was not as apparent without Stu, the plumber’s explanation. The main drain backed up so quickly because it was improperly designed. It lacked the proper depth, width, and opening – making it easy for objects to get stuck, clog the drain, and lead to costly damage or repairs.

Four obvious suggestions and recommendations. Fix the problems. Mitigate future problems. Make things future-proof as best as possible. While Stu did create confidence with his four tips, the fifth suggestion that Stu didn’t make was the most important. Don’t put Legos down the drain. Not once did Stu mention the need to keep legos out of the tub drain. While this wouldn’t have solved the issue with the broken overflow seal, worn out and improperly installed drain seal, or the poor design of the main drain, it was still sound advice. So, what’s my point? So, what are your customer’s Lego blocks? Honestly, that depends on the customer and your company. But here are four ways to find out which Lego blocks are at the root of the problem:

1. Ask questions

A great way to find out more information is to ask questions. Questions allow you to gather information, insights, and knowledge about the genesis of the problem. For example, when did the problem first appear? What did you notice about the situation? Were there any other symptoms leading up to the issue? What were you trying to accomplish? What further details can you share about your activity, issues, or process? By asking thoughtful questions, you can identify additional information that helps you understand what actions, processes, and even thought patterns are antithetical to success. As VP of Customer Experience at SIOS Technology Corp., our team’s willingness to ask questions helped uncover several “Lego blocks” and other non-essentials that a customer was incorrectly using while trying to perform product maintenance.

2. Look at past cases

Past cases are a great source of information, especially for customers with a long history. These cases can indicate trends, patterns, or problems that customers frequently encounter and help you trace backward to a Lego block or a critical process breakdown. Once any pertinent trends and issues are analyzed, your team can explain how the customer can avoid self-sabotage and destructive patterns at bay. Looking over past cases is also valuable in ensuring your team understands what final recommendation needs to be made.

3. Analyze their processes

What processes does the customer use with your software, service, or application? Analyze this process to look for the hidden Lego blocks that could be causing the cases that they report. For example, do they skip a step, have missing steps, or lack a process completely? What action or item repeatedly appears as an initiator or precursor to the problem and future problems? For example, at SIOS Technology Corp., common Lego blocks that cause emergencies in High Availability include running without a runbook, executing maintenance directly on production, and failing to have a rollback plan.

4. Research your product

Your product solves a specific set of problems in a defined way. Your customer may be trying to solve a similar set of problems, but in a unique way. Research the expected behavior of your products, services, or solutions to determine if the product is designed to handle the customer’s use case. Our drain was not designed to handle Lego men and Lego blocks. It was also not intended to address those little sponge zoo animals (a different plumbing nightmare). If your customer repeatedly hits a problem, it could be a sign that the product, service, or solution is not designed to support that item. That doesn’t mean it can’t do so with a few adjustments.

Sharing recommendations and improvements are a natural part of the customer experience process. Adding value and offering additional options for future-proofing against recurrence are also good ideas. But don’t forget to remind them, “Don’t put legos down the drain,” or in other words, remember to explain the best practices that the customer can follow repeatedly to avoid as many of the problems that lead to more significant issues down the road.

Cassius Rhue
Cassius Rhue leads the Customer Experience team at SIOS Technology responsible for customer success spanning pre-sales, post-sales and professional services engagements. With over 19 years of experience at SIOS and a focus on the customer, his significant skills and deep knowledge in software engineering, development, design and deployment specifically in HA/DR are instrumental in addressing customer issues and driving success.

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