“One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” – Jim Rohn
My college degree’s in education so grading is just part of it. You might roll your eyes with thoughts of past exams flashing through your mind. But I think it’s an important part of getting better not only for you but for your team.
We use so many words for it:
Whatever term you want to use, feel free (well, within reason). Just make sure you’re checking yo self out.
What do I mean by that?
Every time you interact with a customer, you should know how you did. Here at 37signals, we have Smiley for that. Each person I talk with can select from three choices – “It was great”, “It was ok”, or “It wasn’t good”. We include the link at the end of every email so you have a chance to see how things are going each time. After you click on the rating, there’s also a chance to describe how things are going more in-depth.
While there’s a huge upside to your own version of Smiley, here’s the big two:
1) The customer knows you’re listening.
Time after time, my customers tell me that they’re glad I listened to them. I wasn’t some automated robot or a soul-less person just going through the motions. I helped solve the problem and then asked to know how they feel now. It’s a way for them to express exactly what they’re thinking without any anxiety or huge survey to fill out.
2) You know how each and every customer feels.
With Smiley, I can see the trends in how customers are reacting to me. Sometimes, it’s a heavy feature request day and I see a row of frowns. That means my wording’s off and I need a better way to express what I’m trying to say about their ideas. Other times, everything’s jiving, the customer feels the support love and wants us to know about it. Seeing those rows of green Smiley’s proves to be an awesome boost and lets you know you’re doing a great job.
If you don’t have some sort of feedback loop in place, start one right now. And keep it as simple as possible. Three choices (rather than a billion like most surveys) and a simple text box in case they want to let you know why they picked that choice. Your customers will love being able to talk about their experience and you’ll love seeing how your customers think you’re doing.
Are you using any type of system to grade yourself? Tell me about it in the comments!
Ranjith Kumaran on his entire team working support:
All of our email addresses are on the website, we are all frequently on live chat, and when the phone rings anyone can pick it up and be helpful. The old world would argue that you should let everyone in the office work undisturbed but in today’s ever-changing market the people who build, market and sell the product need to have real-time information from the customer every day. By allocating more time to listen you tend to spend less time building and distributing the wrong product and going back to the drawing board.
The support team is going to be the first people to hear from customers on how they use your app, service, or whatever else you’re offering. Instead of sketching out what a new tool might be, answer a few support emails. Ranjith nails it in that you’ll build a better tool rather than having to redesign one because you missed it by a mile.
We do a lot of tracking with support at 37signals and one of the numbers we look at is wait time. If a customer puts in a ticket right now, what’s the average wait time look like?
It’s not a particularly new idea. You see estimated wait times for amusement park rides, heavy highways, and even emergency rooms now. In the support field, it’s not something most people offer up though, probably because the wait time is atrocious.
We put the average wait time right on the Smiley page so you know exactly what to expect. You can see what our average score is like and how long the wait is. If you’re a customer, these two simple pieces of data go a long way in helping relieve that anxiety feeling people get when contacting support.
How good is the team? Well, the last 92 people out of the last 100 that we talked to said great.
How long will I have to wait? Only about 9 minutes right now.
It’s a short and simple addition to the support page that goes a long way with customers.
What’s the average wait time been for your support team?
“We need creative influence to work with scientists and technologists to create that human factor which we’re missing so much in technology.” – Michael Wolf
This goes for us on support too. Don’t throw out the human factor in the quest to answer more emails. We should be finding ways to put more of the human touch back into support interactions.
I’ve touched on the power of words before briefly. Since our word choice is vitally important, I wanted to give you another example that I didn’t even think of before listening to Sarah Hatter’s Founder’s Talk interview.
Feedback. The word pops up all over the place.
“We truly value your feedback.”
“We’d love to know your thoughts and feedback.”
“Can I get your feedback on this one?”
Add “feedback” to our never, ever, ever use list. As Sarah puts it, feedback comes from a microphone in a very… unpleasant manner. On top of that, it’s on every corporate lingo/buzzword bingo board you’ll ever find. When you talk about a person’s ideas, don’t call it feedback.
If you’re writing a support email, the common place this appears is when responding to a feature request email.
I’m really loving your app so far. One question – have you thought about adding in a camera component to it?”
Thanks for your feedback! We’re not working on that at the moment. I’ll make sure to pitch your idea to the team and see if it’s something we can get in the next update.
Thanks for sharing how you’re using our app! We’re not working on that at the moment. I’ll make sure to pitch your idea to the team and see if it’s something we can get in the next update.
I only switched the first sentence but see how much better that works and sounds? The good email stands out from every other feature request email they’ll get. And it shows that you’re actually listening to your customers and how they’re using your app.
Feedback is from a microphone so kill it off in favor of a better word.
What other words and phrases should we add to our list to never, ever use?
Ever wonder about the yellow, happy face guy that floats around Support Ops? He’s the latest in a long lineage of smiley emojis, emoticons, buttons, posters, and who knows what else. There’s actually a pretty cool story behind the creation of the iconic smiley face.
Customer support is not a hard concept. Someone has a question/problem and it’s your job to fix it and make them happy. Not just satisfied but happy. And yet so many companies and people out there get that fundamental concept wrong.
Support Ops is my effort to help out. Here, you’ll find articles on customer support and customer service. Two different concepts but they’re intertwined around you and your customer. If you ever interact with another customer (both inside and outside your company), you’re in the right spot.
If you’re new, check out the options for keeping up with everything. There’s RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and all sorts of goodies to make sure you don’t miss anything. For you avid social fans, Twitter’s going with Facebook and maybe even Google+ happening later. For now, make sure to follow us on Twitter so we can get to know you. And here’s a great place to start.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be rolling out new articles, a few series in the works, possibly a podcast, and even an e-book to help out with your support emails. All I can say is that it’s been a blast getting prepped for Support Ops and there’s even more ahead!
Side note: If you’re interested in getting an article of your own published, check out our guest post page for details on how to make that happen.
What I discovered is that the customer is neither right nor wrong – the customer is privileged.
This means that the customer can be treated well as long as they follow the guidelines and intentions of the company, product offering, or service. I will treat them incredibly well at that. But, I also reserve the right to dismantle their privilege entirely (or revoke it) if they step out of bounds.
I’ve looked for years for the right way to phrase how I feel about the idea of “the customer is always right”. Everyone knows they’re not but they are paying your paycheck. John gets closer here with the idea of the customer being privileged. I’m not sold on “privileged” as the right word for it but it explains the customer relationship a lot better.
All of our products are fully warranted against all defects in materials and workmanship for 100 years. If you or one of your descendants should have a problem, send it back to me or one of my descendants and we’ll repair or replace it for free or we’ll give you a credit on the website (be sure to mention the warranty in your will).
I love that writing to show how truly great their warranty is. Your dad gives you his bag, it breaks, and their kids will repair or replace for free. Throw in the “mention the warranty in your will” and it’s just perfect.