A consistent theme of this series of articles is that The Best Support Call of all was the one that was never made because the product didn't generate the need for it. I've been advocating that basic reality for all of my career, and yet still encounter obvious examples of companies shooting themselves in the foot, wasting money and reducing customer loyalty. While there are times that you definitely want to talk directly with your customers, forcing them to engage in unprofitable and unnecessary conversation with a support rep isn't one of them. Are you throwing money away and discouraging customers in your company's contact center? Are you sure?
The e-mail was very specific, beginning with the subject line. Warning!! Don't Use [Product-X]'s New Upgrade -- High Risk of Data Loss!! Inside, the warning text alerted me that the latest “upgrade” for a certain vendor's software product was very flawed. Using it would put your existing notebook data at risk of contamination. Unfortunately, there were two aspects of the message that I found very troubling. The first was that it came too late -- I'd already installed the upgrade and had indeed lost data because of using it. The second was that the e-mail didn't come from the manufacturer.
What's the difference between a short-term policy and a long-term strategy? All too often, it's the difference between some limited revenues and sustainable profitability. Folklore has a very apt phrase for it: “Penny-wise, pound foolish.” In more corporate terminology, “The exclusive focus on immediate gains may put long range profits at risk.” In an era where companies constantly talk of the need for 360-degree views of the customer, Customer Relationship Management and of the importance of customer retention, why is it so easy to find myriads of examples wherein valuable customer relationships are mismanaged and lost?
Every day, every hour, customer support / service contact center reps exercise one of the few powers they unquestionably possess -- the power to lose a customer. What's worse, their use of that power is invisible, for no one is ever held accountable for the loss. Who gave the Support team members such authority? How did they come to have such a significant impact upon the company's profitability? For the answers, we have to look well above the pay-grade of anyone in the center itself.
The best Support call of all is the one that was never necessary in the first place because the product didn't generate the need for it. However, only buying high quality well-designed products is not a guarantee that you'll never need to call the manufacturer's customer support contact center. Here's what happened on a recent expedition into SupportLand, and the discovery that there is more to being Product-centric than building excellent hardware. Is this happening in your contact center? Are you sure of your answer?
For many years now, I've been strongly recommending that all CEO's and other members of the Senior Management team regularly monitor the conversations in their customer contact centers. Sometimes, they take me up on it and discover that the exercise is more than worth the doing. As one CEO succinctly put it: "You hear things on that hotline you just don't hear anywhere else!" For those that haven't taken the time yet themselves, let's bring the contact center right into their office. Read on for a painful example, and ask yourself: Is this happening on our support/service line? If so, what should you do about it?