Key Lessons in Customer Service
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
When my internet service goes down, I seldom call customer service to report it. I simply don’t have the time to waste with my provider’s nonsensical troubleshooting process. Instead, I usually wait in hope that someone else will report the outage and achieve a timely resolution.
This hasn’t always been my approach. When I first had internet service, I would dutifully call customer service at the first sign of an outage.
However, their agents’ poor customer service skills and the time-consuming nature of their queries left me feeling angry and frustrated.
The agents acted as though the problem was my fault and proceeded on the assumption that a correction would be found by reprogramming my computer or repeatedly resetting my modem. And after several years of service working, asking if I installed the modem correctly is ludicrous.
In essence, they operate on the assumption that I and my computer are guilty until proven innocent. Feeling remorse over forcing me to invest up to an hour of my time before a trouble ticket can be taken is seemingly beyond their comprehension.
Even more astounding is that apologizing for an outage is apparently not part of their protocol.
To compound the situation, in the process of “troubleshooting” they instruct me to make all manner of changes, which would result in leaving me unable to connect to the Internet once access is restored.
Never once have they given any instruction on returning my computer to its original configuration. They even neglect to suggest that I make note of the original settings so that I can later restore them. Fortunately, I am wise to their foolish ways.
In a monopoly environment, this indifferent attitude would be understandable, albeit untenable. However, I have options and will select the provider that irritates me the least.
Notice that I did not say that I seek a provider with excellent service, or who delights the customer, or that has the first-call resolution. My customer service expectations are so low that I merely desire to minimize my annoyance.
I will not even suggest that my phone company pursue customer service best-practices. They can go a long way towards improvement by merely adopting a few commonsense ideas.
The people I talk to act as though their network is impervious and the blame lies with me. Even if the customer is at fault, agents should back into that conclusion, assuming that there is a network problem until a contrary conclusion can be correctly ascertained.
Isolate the Problem
The final troubleshooting tests they perform is to connect to my modem. This should be the very first test. If they can connect and run diagnostics, then the problem resides on the consumer’s end. If they can’t access the modem, there is no need to harass the customer with needless tests and counterproductive reprogramming.
Is it that difficult to say “I’m sorry that you are experiencing problems?” Even more germane would be to say “I’m sorry that I hopelessly messed up your computer configuration and have no idea how to put it back to the way it was.” Of course, if they followed the two prior suggestions, the first apology would suffice, and the second would be unnecessary.
Use Customer Relationship Management Software
If they had a functional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the agents could readily determine that every time I call it was because of an outage and never once have I called because of a problem on my end. They should be able know that I have a history of being credible and not wasting their time—even though they have a history of wasting mine.
Customer Service Success Tip: Train technical customer service staff to respect customers’ time and not assume they’re at fault or stupid.
Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer Service, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.