Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Serve And Replace, or What Is Good Customer Support

Well, while the subject it still hot...

We all know, shit happens, things die. It's not "if", it's "when". So what do I, the customer, want from you, the manufacturer, when it gets to the customer service?

  • Be Immediate. I don't care if you can't afford to keep a 24/7 customer support line open. Otherwise, first of all, I will start to question your quality of service, then, my judgement in choosing your product. If you absolutely can't afford to keep the line - have a good automated system up.
  • Did I mention, Be Immediate? If my automated request for service falls into a black hole and I don't get any response, I get pissed. If I see HTTP 404, HTT 500 or Java stack traces or anything suchlike on your customers support site, I will get pissed even more. I will forgive those artifacts on your main site, but not on customer support site.
  • Be Transparent. In other words, Set Expectations. As long as you explain to me in plain terms what I need to do, and exactly what you will do, and how long it's going to take, and, most importantly, follow through exactly, I may be willing to overlook the fact that it was your product that had failed to begin with.
  • Be Fast. Not everybody has enough cash to throw around and buy a replacement immediately while you're taking your sweet time and move glacially. But it doesn't really matter - those who can afford to buy a replacement while waiting will hate you for making them spend extra, those who can't afford will hate you for making them wait and for lost opportunities. Both will bitch loudly.
  • Be Thorough. If you have to sneeze in order to make me happy, notify me about that in writing. And you bet your ass that I want to have the tracking number for that shipment you sent to me, 'cause not all of use live in neighborhoods where it is safe to leave a parcel on the porch. Even the carriers are not without fault sometimes.
  • Call Me, Don't Make Me Call You. Especially if you don't have 24/7 support line open. Most of us have jobs that don't allow to dedicate time on hold during your "normal working hours, 10AM to 2PM Wednesday through Thursday". If there is any movement on my case, no matter how insignificant, let me know so I can see you're working for me.
  • Don't Be Condescending. You don't know me. Assume I am a genius and know what I'm doing, until I irrefutably prove otherwise. If you treat me like a fool, I'm going to treat your product like crap that it is. And bitch loudly.
  • Don't Bullshit Me. If I catch you on a lie, you're dead meat. You may not keep records, but I do.
  • Know What You're Talking About. Along the same lines, if I catch you at not understanding your product as well as I do...
And, finally,
  • It's Not All About Money. It is about a spoiled gift (when it is DOA), or interruption of service, or lost profits (y'all know some people are telecommuting nowadays, right?), or lost opportunities ("damn, I have a job interview tomorrow, and all my preparation materials are locked up on a computer with a dead motherboard"), or missed deadlines ("<censored>! My coursework is toast, and it's due tomorrow!!!").
  • But wait, I lied, it is all about money. Go calculate how many of your products I have already bought in my life time, and then how many products I will not buy because of crappy customer service. And how many friends I will tell about my experiences with crappy customer service. And how many sales you will lose because of that.
So go and fix it already.

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