CXO

Service and support: Get the fundamentals right

MSN Money has published the results of their annual customer service survey. What's the biggest takeaway that techs can use? Don't blow the basics.

MSN Money has published the results of their annual customer service survey. What's the biggest takeaway that techs can use? Don't blow the basics.

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Looking over the list that MSN Money has published of the worst performing companies in a recent customer service survey is pretty interesting. One thing that immediately jumps out is that 4 of the 10 lowest-rated businesses are financial institutions or banks.

This is probably the worst possible time for consumers to be surveyed about their feelings toward companies like Citibank and Bank of America. Even when the economy is doing well, these corporations are so large that a percentage of their customers are going to be unhappy. But the banks' performance in MSN's survey is indicative of a significant consumer backlash against the institutions, due to their responsibility for the current recession in the eyes of the public. Why is consumer response so negative? One reason is proposed in MSN's accompanying article, and I tend to agree:

"Banks are there to manage our money and do that reasonably well, and many of them haven't," the University of Michigan's Fornell said. "So they haven't even done the basics…"

The surest way to disappoint a customer is by not delivering on what you promise. Support pros may not be able to fix each and every problem that comes along, but by remembering your customer service fundamentals, you can keep your clients from considering you negligent.

Be polite and professional. Duh. Seems obvious, but people screw this one up all the time. Be clear and concise. Explain the problem and your proposed solution as simply as possible. Avoiding jargon will help make the customer comfortable. Set reasonable expectations. This avoids disappointment later, and customers will appreciate having a clear understanding of the likely outcomes of their situation. If you can't deliver the moon, don't promise it. Stick to your commitments. If it's at all possible, and even at if it's at your own cost, deliver on your agreement. If you've set reasonable expectations, they should be easy to fulfill, but if your estimate has gone awry, the customer shouldn't have to suffer for your miscalculation.

Do you have any more customer service fundamentals to offer? Share them with us in the comments.

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