Daniel Breston

#TechEthicist on great practices in the Cloud

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Communication and the customer business

Myself, and several others at Virtual Clarity, have years of experience in leading teams that provide support to customers locally or around the world.

We recognise that we have three sorts of people that we serve: our staff, those that use our services and those that provide support in the delivery of our services.

Early on in our careers, we all made the same mistake: we did not plan how we would listen and learn from communicating with our customers.

Example 1: I recently switched to a new broadband provider whose service worked Friday and Saturday but failed on Sunday. I called the support line, who asked me to perform certain actions before they agreed to send out an engineer on Tuesday. The engineer, outsourced, sent a text message saying when they would arrive. What a great communication tactic! The engineer unfortunately could not resolve the issue so told the main provider I needed a replacement router, which was immediately ordered and dispatched. However, the new broadband provider could not tell me when the router would arrive. How come I can track when my curry will arrive, but not my replacement router? They stuck to this message all through Wednesday and Thursday. However I felt about them initially had been destroyed and I even wondered if I should switch again.

Example 2: Airports and banks! Why is it that when something goes wrong at airports and banks, the news is usually not about the event but about how it was communicated? We expect things to go wrong and hope we won't be affected, but when it does affect us, we expect the provider to be able to honestly inform us about our options or the current status. Without this data, how can we make informed decisions?

Example 3: I reserved a flight using an online service leaving on a Wednesday and returning Thursday evening. For various reasons, I missed the Wednesday flight and so rebooked a Thursday outbound after rearranging my schedule. The online service still showed the first booking to be in progress, so I did not bother to book a return flight. When I got to the airport on Thursday, they informed me that my return had been cancelled as, when I missed the flight, the whole ticket became void. I showed them that their partner, one of the largest online reservation services in the world, displayed my ticket as still valid. They scrolled down 18 pages to show me the line that says if you miss the flight, the ticket is void. Did I appreciate this sort of communication?

Use communication to learn how to help your customers

Tip 1: Your support team is typically the lowest paid part of your organisation, sometimes even outsourced. They rarely are involved in scenario training or have the tools needed to provide accurate information to customers. Worse, the scripts they use can tie them into making statements that annoy instead of help customers. Yet, these same people are the first and sometimes only people customers interact with. Please use scenario training and give them the tools to help them help customers.

Tip 2: The first words out of most organisations when they hear a complaint is “this is how we will compensate you”. It’s not always about compensation, it’s about service. Tell me something that helps me and also tell me that you think my complaint is valid enough to change the way you deliver your service to me (which is what the online reservations provider did).

Tip 3: Look at how and when you gather information. Is your customer data via monthly reports? This method only allows you to make improvements 11 times a year and, by the time you find out whether your change worked, you have lost four weeks. How many customers can you lose in four weeks? Would it not be better to have real-time data? Update your tools and make use of social media to help improve your services rapidly, based on customer feedback, not a biased report.

Tip 4: Even better, let your service teams make decisions within certain guidelines, as the first responder has the best data. If they can make decisions on what to say or how to help, then this response will endear you to your customers.

Tip 5: If you are management, get out from behind your desk and go seek real customer feedback. How often do you listen to customers calling in or actively monitoring social media? How often do you ask your support teams to tell you what they would do or need to improve a service? We did that in our careers and, from it, achieved high customer retention and attraction. It even made us stop the time-wasting effort of creating monthly reports.

You are in the customer business

No matter what you do, you have consumers of your products or services. Internal staff and external customers need to know that, when they want to talk to you, you will listen and respond appropriately. Even if that means saying that you do not know but you will find out and get back to them, they won’t care as long as you keep your word.

If you do not have communication as part of your operating model supported by modern tools, give us a call. Virtual Clarity are proficient in helping maintain what keeps you in business: your customers.