During my career in the support and service industry I’ve often wondered, “Am I or my team delivering the best possible service and support for our clients?”
I never could find an easy way to answer this question. I really don’t think there is even a “best” out there. Pushing any bias aside, in my experience, I found that the key when looking for this answer isn’t finding all the best qualities – it’s finding the bad ones too. Looking for the signs of poor service is often a lot easier than trying to find if you’re dealing with the best. Sounds negative, right? Absolutely not! I’m going to explain some of the things I’ve found, which is 4 ways to know if the person on the other end of that call is working with you, or against you.
- We're all humans
When dealing with phone, email, and chat support; it’s often forgotten that the person you are dealing with on the other end is in fact a person, just like you. It’s important to know when dealing with a technician or service representative that no matter where your skill set lies, there should be a strong alliance between the both of you, in finding the answer to your problem. Treating you with respect and being patient with you are crucial in knowing that your techie is not doing you a disservice. We all sleep, eat meals, and go to work, right? Why should you feel like they are talking down to you? You shouldn’t. Everyone makes mistakes, you shouldn’t have to feel bad for it. Empathy goes a long way and if your techie is belittling you or making you feel like you lack intelligence, there is a strong sign that you’re getting some bad service. Have you ever locked your keys in your car? I know someone who has locked it in twice in the many years I’ve they’ve been driving. Okay you got it - it’s me. But when you talk to that CAA representative or tow truck driver who’s getting you back into your car, do you not already feel dumb enough? Guess what won’t help in this situation – if they make you feel even worse. But they didn’t. You know what they said? “It happens! Don’t worry. Lots of people do it”. Phew, okay. Looks like I’m human and they understand what it’s like to make a mistake. So… what can you do if you’re feeling like you’re not being treated like a person? In my experience, their manager may already have an idea about them but no conclusive evidence that they can draw on for feedback. Send a respectful email or call their manager, explain that you felt like you were not given the respect or patience you feel you deserved. Try to provide specific details or comments and don’t embellish anything. On the other hand, the manager may not even be aware there are things the employee needs to work on unless you tell them. Now there’s a way for that person to grow or get better.
- Updating your expectations
Try to imagine being in this scenario: You called to get your email setup and it took 45 minutes?! Whoa, that’s a lot of time wasted that you could have been spending making your company money. They left you on hold for about 70% of that time and you have no clue what happened but it’s working now. Why is that? What happened that it took so long? I expected it to take 5 minutes. There’s the classic comment: “I expected [Insert expectation here]”. Before you called in you expected that the email would be setup in 5 minutes but it’s not always easy to understand what is happening on the other side of the call. One of the fastest ways to become frustrated is having your expectations not met but more importantly – not updated. A wise representative will explain to you in terms that you’ll understand as to why it’s taking longer than it should. I mean, how are you to know what you don’t know? Sitting in the dark with your expectations brewing up is painful. Your helper should be letting you know what’s going on by providing constant updates and feedback or even offering to make things easier for you while you wait for it to be resolved. Ever been stuck on hold for 5 minutes only for them to come back to advise you that they need you to sit on hold for another 5 minutes? All it takes is 30 seconds to say, “Hi Russ, you know what? There was a recent update to your computer that increased security but is now causing email to be difficult to setup. Rather than explain all this techno-babble, can I take over your computer briefly and call you back when I have this solved?”. Well, now my expectations are changed, sure it’s not convenient and I’m losing time spent dealing with emails, but I know they are dealing with a problem that they couldn’t control first, to be able to solve my original request. I really doubt they want to be fighting with my computer to get their job done, so I’m not going to treat them like they’re doing this on purpose either. I let them know it’s important to me to get into my email but I understand that there’s an unexpected issue that requires my expectations to be updated. Open communication and keeping it simple are key points to knowing you’ve got someone who cares about your issue and your time.
- Empathetic communication
In a quick Google search, empathy is defined as; the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Doesn’t it always feel a little better when dealing with a problem that, someone else is also dealing with it by your side? Or understands you pains, your frustration? Empathy is the tool your techie needs to exercise to feel like they’re on your team. Feeling all the same woes that you do. Besides the feeling that someone else shares the pain, they also understand the pain, and feel more compelled to give you the service you need to get out of the situation, or have your problems fixed. Empathy is something we push for with our technicians. In some cases, you don’t even need to push for it; they already have it. That may come down to intrinsic values and the type of person you hire. It’s a factor I want to look for during the hiring process. What motivates this person? Are they going to work alongside the clients and provide them with ace service? I recently had dealings with a Realty Management organization that made me feel like I was being dishonest in my report to them. The truth was, I was being 100% honest and upfront. I also communicated with them in a very kind and professional manner. This was a personal matter - not business – but that’s just as good as any reason to display empathy to what they deal with. The short version is, I was expecting three items in the mail and those were not delivered in several weeks. When going back to them, I told them how I know it’s tough dealing with individuals who may not treat them well all the time and that I was here to work alongside them in helping me out. The response I got was jaw dropping. I was told exactly, “they were mailed out 2x we will not send them out again. We mail them out to 5 other units at [Mailing Address] and not once in the 5 years that I have been here has anyone ever not received”. This is a jarring response considering how honest, kind, and empathetic I was being to them. If you didn’t skip the first section on being human, my feelings for this type of response is to inform the manager about the issue as constructively and as friendly as possible. I stated that I’m unsure why the conversation took this turn in tone and then detailed how they can benefit from empathy while reiterating that I understand how much they go through on a day-to-day basis and that I’m here to be easy to work with. The response from the manager was fantastic. She took ownership of the issue and the next day I received an apology from the actual individual! It turned the conversation into a whole new tone and we were all very professional and friendly from that point on. I really do feel for them and that was expressed many times in my emails. I would tell them that I remember the great things they did for me in the past and mentioned those several times to display appreciation for their hard work.
- Professional or Friend?
Why not both? This one is a lot trickier than the others, for the person providing service. The balance between being a professional and a friend when working with clients is challenging to master. They shouldn’t go overboard in any one direction and you don’t want it to feel like they’re just putting on a show. It’s important that the techie does try to improve that relationship, though. Eventually you won’t want to call on anyone else for help. You like that one person who treats you like you’re their friend. You come to trust them and rely on them. When they make mistakes, you’re a little more forgiving on it as well. I think that’s a critical item in building the client-trust relationship. For some people, it’s all professional. Anything else is considered a negative trait. There lies the challenge. A wise service representative should try to pick up signs that it’s leaning too far in one direction and adjust the way they handle those calls.
I hope that after reading this post that you can reflect on your own interactions and see if the help you receive or deliver today and in any future instances is; understanding, informational, empathetic, and friendly.