7 support sins

Seven things you didn't know were hurting your support

Written by on January 28, 2015

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

When a customer writes in with a problem, you want to do everything in your power to make sure his problem is resolved and that his service experience is sublime. And you think you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to do the job – you replied on time, your emails were grammatically correct and you mentioned (multiple times) that you were delighted to help them out. Yet, your customer seems to like you lesser and lesser with every interaction – they’re not as happy to hear from you, they’re tweeting behind your back and they’ve gone so far as to request another support rep!

What could be the problem? You’re up to something that’s driving your customers away yet you have no idea what. Was it something you said or did? Or is it one of these tiny support sins with big consequences we’ve listed down below?

#1 Grovelling when you’ve made a mistake

Customer Support Sin #1: Grovelling when you've made a mistake

It was a rookie mistake but your customer seems to have taken it to heart. You get a sad face on your satisfaction survey notwithstanding the series of mean tweets about your support. Now, you have two options – you can sweep the whole thing under the rug or you can apologize and try to make things better.

And obviously, you end up apologizing. A lot.

But there is a fine line between apologizing and grovelling. Just because you’re overcome with remorse and want to make things right, it doesn’t mean you can bombard the customer with emails. Apologize gracefully, accept your mistake, and try to make things right for the customer. Just the one time. If the customer isn’t willing to be wooed back, respect his decision and don’t try to overwhelm him.

#2 Making the customer switch channels

Customer support sin#2: Making them switch channels

But this is Twitter Support 101, I hear you wail. Everyone knows this.

But what most people fail to realize is that it doesn’t belong to just Twitter. It’s a rule for all channels – a rule that most reps tend to violate in favor of phone calls. Even if the customer isn’t too comfortable with the idea of switching.

They argue that phone calls save the customer (and themselves) loads of time. But I have to disagree. It’s a sin because you’re ignoring the customer’s preference. If the customer wanted to call you over the phone, they’d have gotten in touch with you over the phone. They’re contacting you through a medium they prefer, so it’s rude to ask them to switch to a medium that you prefer even if the problem will be resolved faster that way.

I’d go so far as to say that you should switch channels only if

a)The customer asks for it or

b) It’s a high priority issue that cannot be solved with just one email. Even then, I’d insist that you politely check first before pitching a call.

P.S – It’s a whole other story if your support number isn’t toll-free.

#3 Pointing out customers’ mistakes

“I’m always right. Even when I’m wrong….I’m right.”

Customer Support Sin #3: Pointing out customers' mistakes

A few days back, I heard about an unpleasant service experience that felt like it fit right in with this post, so here it goes. My friend Jane told me about this one time when she’d misunderstood something that the rep had asked for and provided the wrong information. This triggered a long, protracted exchange that had felt more like a battle of wits than a support interaction. Her mistake was something that the rep had brought up a lot over the course of their exchange. So, unsurprisingly, by the end of the conversation inspite of a proper resolution, Jane felt beleaguered and frustrated.

Most customer service stories can be easily slotted into one of two buckets – clients-from-hell and crappy-customer-service. This story, on the other hand, wasn’t easy to slot. This rep was proving that he was right all along at the cost of hurting his customer’s feelings. A wise old man once said “The customer is always right”. While agents needn’t take everything lying down, they need to pick their battles and learn to let some mistakes go. After all, like Lo Marino told us in her interview, nearly everyone eases up when you shoulder some of the blame.

#4 Not providing a reason for why you’re resolving the ticket

Customer Support Sin #4: Not providing a reason for resolving tickets

Always, always, always provide a reason for your every move. Never leave anything up in the air because you think it’s implied. Explain why you’re reassigning the ticket, explain why you’re bumping down the priority, explain why you’re resolving the ticket, put everything down on record for your manager as well as your customer to understand, no matter when they come back to take a look at it. Your customer’s not omniscient so leave nothing up to chance.

#5 Using “but…” or “however…” immediately after “Thanks” or “Sorry”.

Customer Support Sin #5: Using but and however in emails

It wasn’t until Carolyn Kopprasch wrote this excellent article about how she was going to refrain using the words ‘actually’ and ‘but’ in her customer emails, that I realized just how much they bothered me as well. ‘Actually’ does carry the air of condescension with it, especially in a medium in which tone is incapable of imparting a second meaning to your text. Plus, I’ve always thought there’s something mean about the phrase ‘Sorry, but I can’t help you with this…’ like you’re not really sorry but you’re saying it just for the sake of posterity. Even if you meant it.

So, go ahead. Throw “actually” and “but” to the curb. You’d be surprised at the difference it makes in your emails. I know I was.

#6 Resorting to a template every single time

Customer Support Sin #6: Reply templates all the time

The way it works in most organizations is that, every newbie is handed a set of reply templates for every occasion before they’re set free to play around with the helpdesk. These templates are meant to provide direction for the newbies, to show them what’s acceptable and what’s not.

The problem happens when people take the templates to be their bible and try to incorporate its suggestions in every email in the same conversation. The template makes for an acceptable first response, it just doesn’t cut it when further interaction is required. Dishing up the same boilerplate every time, however polite and amiable, just makes you seem robotic.

#7 Rolling out the sales pitch

Customer Support Sin #7: Bringing in the sales guy

I’d wager there’s nothing more frustrating than writing to support only to come face to face with a sales guy. And let’s not forget that in a startup, pretty much everyone is the sales guy. They mean well; all they really want you to do is make you see how awesome their product is, so they’re doing everything they can to make sure you get the best of it. If it means trying to bump you up to a higher plan, then so be it, they think. However, this doesn’t always translate well. Because when the sales guy is earnestly trying to convince you of a higher plan’s charm, all the customer can really think about is how they don’t care about their problem. And how they feel like just a number in a balance sheet.

So, until your customers ask for help exploring their options, do yourself a favor and keep that sales pitch tucked out of sight.

Your turn now.

Have you ever been a recipient of a support sin? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Drop us a line in the comments down below.

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