Three Tips for Better Support

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Betsy was a 1999 Amazon Green Ford F-150, the first vehicle I ever purchased. I’m not sure how my truck got the name Betsy or why it stuck, but it did. For over 17 years, Betsy did everything from cruise the beach to race on the race strip, haul tons of landscaping supplies, and take my growing family across the southeast. After a lot of miles and years of learning how to care for a truck, she began showing the wear. On a particular afternoon drive, I noticed the temperature gauge creeping up to H (High). After a few conversations, I took Betsy to the Service department at a local dealership for the start of a week-long, self-inflicted ordeal.

On the first visit, I hastily provided the high-level details. “After a few minutes, the truck runs hot,” I said. Six hours and $100 later, I retrieved my truck. The technician couldn’t reproduce the issue. So, I was sent home with a diagnostic fee and a request to come back if it happens again. On the second visit, I hastily added that the problem happened after 18 minutes or 14 miles of driving more than 45 minutes on the commute. Six hours and about $375 later, I retrieved my truck. The technician was able to reproduce the problem with the new details, and they replaced the thermostat and the hoses. On the third visit, the call from the technician came early, “Mr. Rhue, you are going to need a new radiator.”

That’s the short version of the story. The longer version includes my failure to explain to the service technician that in between the first and second visit I had already replaced the thermostat. It also leaves out the fact that I performed a flush and fill of the radiator fluid and most likely left the hose clamp loose in the process. Most of all, it leaves out the fact that my neighbor, a mechanic, told me before the truck ever had this problem, to replace the radiator and perform other preventative maintenance. Now, what does any of this have to do with better Customer Experience?

Here are three lessons from my self-inflicted ordeal that will improve your customer experience, not just your next automotive service.

First, get and give all the details. On my first visit, I hastily provided the minimum details to the service technician. As a result, the proper resolution could not be achieved. Many events in the world occur at the most inopportune times, and bring with them a lot of pressure and time constraints, but it is still a best practice to provide your Customer Experience team with as many details as possible. When did you notice the issue, or when did the problem happen? What did you notice or what were the symptoms of the issue? What other things were going on at the time?

Give thought to any other supporting details that you may be able to provide, including error messages and error codes, software system logs, client logs, and any pictures capturing error conditions or symptoms. Many times we like to think things in software are unrelated, when in fact they are very much related.

Second, describe what you have done (good or bad). When I came in for the second visit, I did myself and the technicians another great disservice. Rather than explaining all the things that I had already tried (good and bad), and sharing about the failed attempts to resolve the problem, I delayed my resolution. If I had shared the fact that I had already replaced the thermostat, performed flushing and refilling of the radiator, perhaps the technician would have looked elsewhere for the problem. When you share what you have done to remedy the problem, and what you may have done to make it worse, it helps your Customer Experience team improve their responses, hone in on other problem areas, eliminate spurious red-herrings (unrelated issues or things masquerading as real problems), and provide an overall more excellent experience.

Lastly, execute on previous recommendations. Before the problem surfaced, my neighbor provided recommendations based on his years of experience and the age of my truck. He told me to replace the radiator, perform some preventative maintenance, and do routine checkups for the overall health of the truck. Most likely, your Customer Experience team has recommendations in their knowledge base related to your product and years of experience that relate to operating in an enterprise availability requirement. Use those for preventative maintenance, proactive adjustments, and checking your availability environment for its adherence to those best practices. But most importantly, when they make a recommendation, execute it. In the end, you’ll save a lot of time, money and hassle.

Two days after the third visit, the backorder for a new radiator arrived and I replaced my radiator. I continued to drive Betsy for several more years before finally exchanging it for a family SUV.

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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