In the digital age we live in today, software applications are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, both from a personal and professional perspective. From apps on a phone to software tools used in the business world to programs that run vital medical equipment in hospitals, technology is literally everywhere. One aspect of this pervasiveness that is often overlooked by software companies is the need to properly support the user community.
It is not uncommon to hear horror stories from customers detailing their unsatisfactory interactions with companies’ technical support staff. With the proliferation of social media that can become a huge issue, as one customer’s bad experience can go viral and cause problems that actually have an effect on the bottom lines. In the era of internet transparency, the old word-of-mouth concept can take on a life of its own and either enhance or wreak havoc on a company’s reputation, depending on how they handle support interactions with their customers.
Support calls, emails and instant chats are three of the most common ways customers communicate with their vendors, so it is especially important to prioritize those interactions. Below are a few simple ways companies can make sure their customers are getting the support they deserve, particularly on calls:
1) Empathize with the customer
If a customer is taking time out of their busy schedule to make a support call, send an email or initiate an IM chat, it means that the issue in question is important. It often involves production critical scenarios, which raises the stakes considerably for all involved. With that in mind, a support agent needs to approach the call knowing that the customer might be a bit frustrated and even upset. Expecting this, you can allow the customer to vent a bit before engaging in troubleshooting steps. Empathizing with his or her situation right away will enable you to progress to focusing on getting the issue resolved. Phrases like “I understand what you’re going through”, “I know it can be tough to deal with issues during month-end processing”, etc. can go a long way to getting the customer in the proper frame of mind to try to deal pragmatically with the issue at hand.
2) Always be Professional
As stated above, customers can often be frustrated, agitated and angry when calling in for support. It’s important to always maintain professionalism so the call does not escalate to a point where no work is being done to resolve the issue. It can be challenging at times to not take things personally but, as long as the customer is not being flat out inappropriate (i.e. using profanity directed at the agent as a person), the support agent should remain calm and try to diffuse the situation as best they can. This way, they can move on to addressing the issue at hand and restoring the customer’s confidence in the company.
3) Know your Stuff
This might seem obvious, but it is very important for staff to be knowledgeable about the products and services they are supporting. Good agents will always work to better themselves by becoming more of an expert on the subject in question. Some responsibility also sits with the management team and how they set up their support organization. Tech support positions are typically considered entry-level and there is nothing wrong with that, but the support managers need to be diligent in who they hire and how they train their support staff. As mentioned earlier, the support front line is where people will be in direct contact with customers, so it’s important to make sure that they’re adequately equipped to deliver positive experiences.
4) Take Ownership of the Problem
Another thing that customers hate when they call in for support is when they are passed around from person to person and department to department. It is important for a support agent to take ownership of the issue, even if the problem may be a bit outside of their core responsibilities. In addition, the management team needs to create an environment in which a support agent is encouraged to own an issue and then, if they are not equipped to resolve it, to then find the proper resource. There are a number of ways to set this up as an organization, but the main takeaway is to deliver a consistent message to the customer while their issue is being worked on by multiple resources and having a single point person, rather than several disparate voices, communicating with the customer.
5) Empower the Customer
There is a bit of a stigma associated with calling in for tech support. I’d go out on a limb and say that some people may prefer going through a root canal at the dentist! OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is that nobody really wants to call in for support. So companies should empower their customers and provide as many self-service options to resolve their software issues as possible. Things like a good support website, community forums, and a frequently updated knowledgebase can all go a long way in providing customers with the tools they need to independently address their own issues. This can also reduce the volume of support calls, allowing your company to reallocate resources.
-Julio Dos Santos, Senior ECM Consultant