Whodunnit? A Customer Service Detective Story

(Lego Minifigs of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/minifig/3174009125/)

(Lego Minifigs of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/minifig/3174009125/)

Once upon a time, you had a problem with customer service and you mentioned the problem to your server, the front desk, or the person who interacted with you directly. You may have also called a toll-free number or a front office to tell them about your experience, only to find that no one remembered your call or logged it anywhere. If you solved your problem, you often did it by personal persuasion or by forcing the representative to follow a policy that was written on a wall or documented somewhere.

In the present, when you have a problem with customer service, you likely call the front desk, email the company, or call the toll-free number, and the person on the other end of the line knows that you called, logs it for their supervisor, and is able to do … very little. You might get them to answer your question. You might get them to do what you want, but it’s very hard to convince them what happen, to get something substantive to change, or to publicly acknowledge that they are changing their process to treat customers better.

In the near future (or for some the present), you Tweet at the company or complain in social media to make a point because it forces the company to acknowledge you and to at least say “We Got This.” Many times the individuals manning the social media communications channel can and do more than the people you talk to on the phone. And when you call in the representative knows you contacted the company online and can tell you what you did, what happened, what are the options for you to process, and how they can help you.

Now, imagine a future state where you will call or contact the company, they know that you contacted them, and they make it very clear to you what the steps are in the processwhat’s next, how to get there and when it will happen. If this dialog happened before you even knew there was a problem, you might really consider this “Wow” customer service.

What could we do with today’s tools and services to get closer to that state?

Step 1: The customer starts a conversation with the company and it moves into another channel like email.

There is a gap in today’s customer service process where the customer doesn’t know what was done to solve the problem, the company doesn’t have easy access to the transcript of the customer’s opinions and actions, and there are no clear next steps. Logging and categorizing the inbound contacts is “table stakes” for baseline customer success – there really needs to be a next step to understand the actions of a likely happy or sad or indifferent customer.

In a world where all of the customer’s interactions are treated similarly – as inbound communication – it will be easier for companies to know about the breadth of the customer’s experience across channels. Yet it places more pressure on the company to behave transparently (or at least, consistently) in public and private communications to the customer.

Step 2: there is a gap where the customer doesn’t know what is done to solve the problem.

It would be nice if simply saying “We Got This” was necessary and sufficient to solve the customer’s issue. The reality of many customer problems is that they are complex, nuanced, and not always easy to solve. When they are easy to solve and easy for the customer to know that they are solved, simply communicating the steps to resolve, the result, and the change in process may be enough. But many customer problems need first to be triaged, acknowledged, and dealt with before any root cause analysis is complete.

Step 3: companies cannot always share how they solved the problem in a transparent way to the customer.

There are many good reasons why you cannot always share all of the details of how a problem was solved. The customer only cares whether the problem was solved or not, and how they felt about the whole process. Making the problem solving process as transparent as possible is the best way to make the customer feel better. After a mistake, restore trust for the customer and make it “one in a row” for the customer by telling them exactly what’s going to happen for them and when and make sure it happens.

Step N: Take what you learn and make it better

When customers are upset, they are telling you important things about your business.You learn more from an upset customer than you do from a neutral customer, so take those messages to heart and do something about it. Customer feedback is the best way to solve your customer service mysteries and turn them into solutions.

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