I have tuned in to Joel on Software (the blog of the owner of Fog Creek software) from time to time, and have always found his opinions refreshing. Today my brother pointed me to a recent article Joel posted about doing customer service the Right Way™. I find all 8 of his points to be really great tips – he has managed to very clearly and succinctly describe the approach I have taken to technical support duties in my various development endeavors. I remember vividly learing just how well Joel’s approach works when I was working at a small internet service provider in Saint Louis just after high school. We had a regular customer who would call in to complain just about every day because his connection was flaky. On one particular day, I was unlucky enough to take his initial call. I listened to his irate ramblings about how terrible our service was, how much our support department resembled chimpanzees, and how excited he was to come down there and teach me a thing or two about how much it hurts to be punched in the face. My naive response was (in retrospect) rather inappropriate: "Well, our other customers don’t seem to be having the problems you do…"
I was too young and inexperienced then to realize that this would imply he was a moron (well, so what if he was…) and the problems were his, not ours. It just seemed to me to be the logical response.
Boy howdy, was I wrong.
I put him on hold and transferred him to our senior support guy, and went to listen in on how he handled the call. He picked up the phone, and got an earful of explitives. He sat there patiently waiting for the steam to blow off, then calmly said "Sir, yelling at me won’t solve your problem, but I’m happy to listen if you need to blow off more steam. When you are done, I’ll be ready to attack and solve the actual problem with you." The guy was immediately deflated, and the problem was solved w/in a few minutes’ time. (turns out, it was the fault of the caller, but I won’t get into that. 😉 )
So, Joels’ thoughts are right on the money, in my opinion. The customer is always right (even when they are wrong), and you will be far better served by giving people an insanely great support experience than by providing the cheapest support possible.
Here is Joel’s article