When Customer support is the problem


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Nothing is 100%.  Things fail, products break, even very important services go dark from time to time.  A Customer who expects and demands perfection is certain to be disappointed pretty often, and in fact is being somewhat unreasonable, if you ask me.

With this understood and its obvious importance, then, why is Customer Support so often the place where CX takes the hardest hit?  Surely some Customers are emotional or freaking out when something doesn’t go right.  But for the most part, people understand that accidents happen and we live in an imperfect world.  As upset as a Customer may be, when they call in needing support, they’re likely entering with a good degree of generosity and goodwill, even if tinged a bit by anxiety.  So why do so many brands squander that?

You may have a minor manufacturing issue that causes a small inconvenience for your Customers…say your widgets have a flaw in them.  Now, this isn’t the end of the world; surely it’s not good for your brand or your reputation, but many Customers may not even notice or care.  That’s less than ideal.  But then, when those Customers do contact you (via your Customer support channels), the real hit can come if everything takes a nosedive because your CS is so underwhelming.

Say, for example, I buy something from a company that partners with a particular shipper (think UPS or FedEx, etc.) for delivery.  But say that particular shipper is notoriously bad in my part of the country.  I may chalk that up to bad luck on my part, and even give the original company the benefit of the doubt, logistics being so often about economies of scale, so it may not be practical for them to change the arrangement with their shipper just to go outside that channel for my order.  But when I call this company to complain that their shipper screwed up my delivery, if their support department isn’t responsive, suddenly it is their CX problem.

Minor reliability or function issues can easily be passed over by most Customers.  They’re not necessarily going to bail on your brand just because they got one bum product or you were late one time for an appointment.  That’s certainly not something for which a brand should strive, but I think most people (and Customers are people, after all) have a good sense of humor and can roll with the punches.  But it’s a blow that feels like insult added to injury if your Customer support experience is horrible when a Customer needs your help.  The initial issue may be an inconvenience or a hassle.  But often it’s how you as a brand react to the issue that has the most impact.  While Customers may be willing to look past errors (as long as they don’t happen all the time), it’s inexcusable to leave them hanging or otherwise not be there for them when they have an issue with your product or service.  Mistakes happen…our true character as a brand shows in how we react to them.

I think this is why CX is so often wrapped up in Customer support:  Surely that’s where many Customers are lost.  I know when I worked in a CS organization, we felt a responsibility to ensure a closed-loop system of feedback that funneled insights into the product, sales, marketing, and other functions within the company.  That only makes sense.  But just as important, whether your CX department is tucked away inside CS or (if you’re doing it right), you’ve got a full-up Office of the Customer headed by a Chief Customer Officer, Customer support should be one focal point of your CX efforts.  It’s amazing (and amazingly sad) to note how many easily-recoverable circumstances are not even the reason a Customer leaves:  It’s how you handle the inevitable issues that come up.

So don’t stash your CX department down inside the Customer support division…but don’t forget that this is where a lot of your Customers may be lost…or saved.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


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