Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Customer is Always Right? Part II

The Customer is Always Right.

In my last post, I talked about how this little statement is often made and then ignored by companies. In fact, it is ignored or twisted so often, it becomes meaningless.

Let me introduce a piece of heresy here. It is a statement that I picked up along the way, unfortunately losing the source somewhere in the fog of time. Wherever I picked it up from, it was the first thing I drilled into customer service reps that came into my departments:

The Customer is NOT always right. However, it is your job to make sure they feel they are.

My reps knew that there were certain policies that we could not get around. However, that didn't mean we couldn't work with a client to see if we could come up with something that made the customer feel good, and at the same time didn't violate whatever policy the customer had run afoul of.

Sometimes it was something as simple as staying on the phone and letting them vent. More often it wasn't a policy issue at all. It was making sure the customer didn't feel stupid when they realized if they had just read the manual, they wouldn't have run into the problem in the first place. At one software company, we actually had a code to record such incidents: RTFM (Read The Freaking Manual).

Now before you rage at me that using the code insulted the customer, understand two things:
1. That we often reported back to development that there was a high incident of those codes for a particular feature, and we would work with them to try and rework that section of the system so that it was easier to use. (this process will perhaps be covered in another post)
2. The reduction in stress among the Customer Service Reps was marked. The goal of the team became thinking of ways to work with the customer to get a Win-Win, instead of stressing that management would capriciously decide that the reps answer insulted the customer or insulted the company.

The perfect answer of course is to have no policies that would contradict what a customer may ever call about, or software/hardware that works flawlessly everytime, for everyone, no matter what is done with it. I won't be holding my breath for either of those to happen anytime soon.

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