After wearing different kinds of Application/ Technical/ Customer support hats in my last three organizations spanning 8 years, I realized I should write about some best practices that are my experiences in this world. They are easy to understand and implement. They have helped me and my teams in dealing with some of the toughest / craziest customers in the industry – both internal and external to the organization. Time is money so I will keep it short and precise. Most of my experience is from the extremely fast paced Investment banking / Finance domain but all of this should hold true for any other domain / sector.
- You should know about a problem before your customers do. Create a list of known problems and “workarounds” that you can give to your customer when they hit the issue and call you for help. For bigger / important / known issues, you should let the customers know in advance. This also means you need to have effective monitoring/alerting systems in place so that your alerts tell you about a situation (e.g. file storage space full, user account on a shared location locked on 3 wrong password attempts) before your customers get to know about it.
- Be empathetic and reasonably apologetic. Customers are paying for your product/ services and they hate late/ impersonal replies (even more in the Financial World but really everywhere). Every minute of delay might result in financial/ reputational loss for your customer. It’s obviously not easy to manage expectations but being silent never never never helps. They would like to know they are being attended to and someone in on their case. That gives them assurance and gives you some time to breathe, think and work on their case without being hammered by stinker emails. When something goes wrong, apologize and say sorry. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. In most cases talking to your customer on phone helps. Written communication is just 7% of the total communication while vocal tones add 38% to it.
- Make sure you repeat your understanding of the problem to the customer (on email and / or phone) and get the customer to confirm that. You do not want to spend days on a problem only to realize you were solving the wrong one. Most of the times, your language will be different from the customers. You are the expert, so it’s your responsibility to speak in a language that your customer understands. You cannot expect the reverse! Do not make any assumptions and be a good listener concentrating on the tone of voice, words and importantly how they feel. You will learn a lot about actual pain point for the customer.
I remember dealing with a customer from Brazil in my first job with IBM.
Me: “Now that your computer has started, can you see ‘Windows’?”
Customer: “I am sitting next to a window and its beautiful outside”.