Recently in discussions with other support professionals the question of a Philosophy of Support came up. I always enjoy reading books and blog posts about providing the best support. I will be creating a page providing a list of these soon.
After many years of working in varying support roles, I have developed my personal opinion on how support should be done. I was recently referred to a few books to read up on support and clarify my own philosophy; such as, Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. I was pleasantly surprised to find Tony’s opinions very much in line with my own.
I have worked in support centers where the number one metric was the average length of a phone call. Those who could go from “Hello” to waiting for the next call in under 10 minutes, were the stars. This did not work for me at all. I believe in taking time with the customer and making sure the issue is resolved. The philosophy of low call time, is a very poor metric to focus on. Don’t get me wrong, someone who takes forever to resolve every issue, is also a problem. However, pushing for short call times does not guarantee resolution of an issue. Some calls need to be long and some can be handled quickly.
The two most important items when working through a support case is to understand the question being asked and to satisfy the customer in whatever way is available to you. Hopefully you have many options at your disposal and great flexibility to make the customer happy.
Zappos does not focus on call time, but rather on a satisfied customer. In Delivering Happiness Tony records a truly special moment, which I believe truly exemplifies the principle of making the customer happy. Tony was at a Skechers conference and with a group of friends called room service to order pizza. They were informed that room service had stopped delivering hot food several hours prior. Tony convinced his friend from Skechers to call Zappos to try to order a pizza. The Zappos rep patiently took in all the information about the situation, put the Skechers rep on hold, and returned shortly with information on Pizza places near the hotel that were still open and delivering.
This is what it means to focus on customer satisfaction and not some internal metric like call time. While I don’t recommend calling Zappos to order a pizza, I have told about my own personal experience with them in the past. I continue to see a company that exemplifies the support and service values that I see as so integral to maintaining a strong customer relationship.
Have you developed a philosophy of support over the years? Do you find your philosophy in line with mine, or opposed? I would love to hear your opinion.
Ever told a customer they have zero fashion sense? Or held them to ransom just after their house was wrecked by a tornado? Maybe you’ve spent 20 minutes arguing on the phone like a spoiled child because they no longer want your service? If so, congratulations, you’ve made it into the exclusive club of the worst customer service workers in the world!
5 customer service fails that will make you squirm — James Thornton, Get App Lab
Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish. Google doesn’t have a phone number, doesn’t want to engage with most users. McDonald’s doesn’t give you a linen napkin. Fedex used to answer the phone on one ring, now it takes 81 seconds for them to answer a call. None of these things are necessarily bad, they’re merely examples of alignment (or non-alignment).
–Seth Godin, “What is customer service for?“
As someone who has always worked in service focused positions, I place great value on the quality of the service I receive. Where I do business, both in person and virtually, is heavily determined by the attention to positive service and making the consumer happy. Some companies put out a product just expecting that it will sell, no matter how little support is backing it.
This is why I enjoy open source software. The products are often supported by a community of volunteers who are really dedicated to the product and care about it. It’s not just a job. In fact, it’s often unpaid volunteer work. But when someone cares about the product and is passionate about it, they want to share that passion with others. They even give of their own time for that. It’s a wonderful thing to see. Now, once in a while you see a paid employee of a company truly passionate about their product or service and making it the best available.
So what inspired me to write this post? I have recently been reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Though I have not finished the book, I can tell you that he is clearly focused on the importance of passion in your work. I had a recent interaction with Zappos customer service and I have to say that they exemplified everything that Tony talks about in his book and I agree with.
A while back I bought shoes from Zappos that unfortunately wore through the sole quite quickly. I literally had a hole I could look right through in the bottom of the shoe. That makes for some very wet socks! I contacted Zappos to let them know about the issue and they were happy to make an exchange. I wasn’t ready to pick a new pair of shoes, so they happily made a note on my account and left it for later.
Due to various extenuating circumstance it took me more than a year to get back to Zappos with my decision. When I contacted Zappos Customer Service by chat, they happily assisted me in arranging my exchange of shoes. Despite it being almost two years since my original purchase they took great time and care to make sure I was happy with their product and service. I finished the transaction by 5pm, and I had my shoes delivered the next morning.
Zappos truly delivered happiness for me. This is what real support and service is all about. Something that is lacking too often nowadays, but we need more of. The classic rule of support is, “The customer is always right.” One thing I have learned is that this is not true. The customer is not always right. But that does not mean the customer shouldn’t be happy! If you respect a customer and make sure they walk away happy, they will feel that they are right. That is the real rule in support and service.
What experiences have you had giving or receiving service/support? Do you find my outlook to be right or wrong? Let me know what you think!