Reducing Frustration in Customer Support: A Handbook

Written by on September 2, 2014

Every support rep’s dream is to provide the kind of heartwarming support that people end up raving about. The only downside of waiting for that moment of glory is that you tend to lose sight of the customer’s problems. Instead of giving the right answer to the customer queries, you start focusing on making a good impression.

But when you think about it, being a customer support rep is a lot like fighting a war. Your strategy has to focus on winning the war, not every little battle. And that means that when there are a lot of things that you can do to delight your customers every once in a while, making sure that none of your customers are frustrated helps you retain your customers and grow your business in the long run.

More often than not customer frustration has nothing to do with your product. It has more to do with forgetting little things, not understanding issues quickly and miscommunication that ends up causing more damage than you imagined. But with a little practice, it shouldn’t take too long for you to get things right. Here are 6 pointers you need to keep in mind to avoid all that trouble and heartburn:

1) Never make a promise you cannot keep

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When somebody asks you for a feature that’s years down your roadmap, make it a point to say no to them right away and not take any half measures that sound like a yes. Sure, there are a lot of us out there who are all for the “never say never” sentiment. But the truth is, open-ended promises figure very high on the list of things that frustrate a customer.

And why wouldn’t it? Your ETA doesn’t have a shred of truth to it and as time flies past well beyond your false promise, your customers will stop trusting you because you weren’t honest. So even when leaving your customers dissatisfied now is hard, you’ve got to learn to say no to a few things instead of promising a change and disappointing them later.

2) Do a background check and personalize

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Always make sure you check out who the customer is before hitting reply. This simple rule will help you figure out how quickly you should be respond, what tone you should be using and what you should put in your reply in a matter of minutes. And once you have all the information you need, putting yourself in their shoes becomes 10 times easier.

Every customer is different (the corporates will not appreciate any form of whimsy), and it’s important to know exactly whom you are dealing with before you take any further steps to help them out. Doing a background check upfront will also help you see if your customers have had a not-so-great relationship with your support during the past. That way, you can sense a bomb going off even before it actually happens and start pacifying right away.

3) Communicate first and then resolve

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Sometimes, letting your customers know that you are working on their issue could prove to be more critical than actually getting it resolved quickly.

Despite you pulling out all stops to help your customers as soon as possible, some problems just need a lot of time to be fixed. However, waiting for seemingly long periods of time can play havoc with a customer’s mind. Not hearing from you for quite a bit can lead them to think that you don’t care or that you’ve forgotten about their problem. So, they start hitting you with angry emails and frustrated tweets even though you’re doing everything you can to help them out.

That’s why you should take some time out to periodically update them on your progress, to reassure them that you are working as hard as you can to resolve their issue. It’ll just take a couple of minutes for you to shoot out that email but those couple of minutes could end up saving you a customer in the long run.

4) Read, re-read and prioritize

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Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Your customer may be angry because of a simple problem, but when she contacts support, she’ll probably tell you every problem she’s ever had with your product. But it is your job to figure out the underlying problem, and do the right thing so that they aren’t frustrated with your support.

For example, your customer might have misunderstood your verbiage on your pricing page when she signed up for your product, only to find out that she’ll have to pay more than what she expected later on. When she sends an angry email to support, she talks about how you made false promises, how the product was buggy anyway and that she wants to stop using your service.

The right way to deal with the issue would be to give her a discount or complete refund immediately without trying to find out ways to not take the blame for it. Making your pricing information more clear, or fixing those bugs should come next but should never replace your solution to the actual problem.

5) Escalate to someone with authority

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Sometimes you might end up having to take care of a high-priority ticket even when you aren’t in a position to help the customer out right away. You might just not have the authority to push another team for a specific change, despite the fact that a customer is frustrated and waiting for an immediate resolution.

During these situations, make it your responsibility to escalate the issue and get somebody to work on it immediately without delay. At the end of the day, you have to go with your instincts. If you think the problem is big enough that will lead to the customer leaving you and bad mouthing you, escalate the problem to someone who can call the shots.

6) Pick up the phone already

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The first step towards helping customers is accepting the fact that they don’t have the same level of expertise as you do with your product or business. To you, it seems like an obvious answer. But to him, it’s the map to King Solomon’s mines (or something worse). If a conversation runs on and on, arrange to get on a call or a screen sharing session with the customer instead of writing back to the customer.

Phone calls are a great way to settle issues quickly. Customers love it when you call them proactively and they love it even more when you show and tell them the whole workflow, step by step.

But always keep in mind that calling customers for every simple question is not a great idea either. If you switch channels unless it’s absolutely necessary, you will end up committing one of the 7 sins of customer support.

 

And there you have it – the secret to building long-lasting relationships with your customers. You don’t have to go the extra mile to win their love; you can do that by just making sure that their frustration levels are closer to the water table than the atmosphere.

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  • Sampathkumar Iyengar

    Thanks for Sharing simple, but very relevant points.