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This is a story with a simple solution for poor customer service.
I like word puzzles. The New York Times puzzles are an ongoing distraction for me, whether it’s a crossword puzzle or their accursed spelling bee. There’s even one called Vertex, which is a mindless connect-the-dots puzzle. Their puzzles are well-designed and thought-provoking (except for Vertex, which is mindless). Like the vast majority of people, I use my phone for nearly everything, including the NY Times puzzles.
Recently, I was working my way through Vertex, pinching and zooming to adjust the size of the puzzle on the small screen of my phone. I used my finger to move the puzzle so I could see the section I wanted to work on when suddenly the puzzle closed and went back to the previous page. This happened several times before I finally gave up in frustration.
I noticed a feedback link on the app, so I sent a message to the New York Times explaining what happened. It was a very polite message in which I complimented them for their great puzzles and explained how much I enjoy them. I also, of course, told them of my frustration with the way the app would suddenly close the puzzle. Again, I made a point of being polite and respectful.
The next day, I received an email from someone at the Times explaining what pinch and zoom do on smartphones and how I could use that to enlarge the screen. There was no mention of the problem with the game closing. I’m pretty sure the person who responded scanned my email, made assumptions about my technical ability, and responded without giving it much thought.
The response from the Times was a little frustrating, but it’s just a puzzle, so it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll continue subscribing to the Times and I’ll continue playing their puzzles. This minor glitch in handling customer complaints, however, is a symptom of a bigger customer service problem and not just at the Times, but throughout all types of customer interactions.
How to Solve Poor Customer Service
I’ve noticed that some customer service providers forget to use their empathy skills when dealing with customers. Empathy is when you put yourself in the other person’s position and try to treat them the way you’d like to be treated. If the person at the Times would have done that, they would have taken the time to thoroughly read my brief email to fully understand the reason I sent it.
Your business success is directly related to how you and your support team handle customer interactions. Certainly, one really bad customer service experience can undermine years of hard work creating great customer experiences. Little glitches, however, can also accumulate and cause bad feelings. So, even though an experience like the one I had with the New York Times was only a minor glitch, those small customer support glitches can add up and, over a period of time, undermine great customer experiences just as much as a single bad customer service situation.
The fabled football coach Bear Bryant was right, “It’s the itty-bitty, teeny-tiny things that’ll get you.”
Part of Apple Computer’s success was due to Steve Jobs’ maniacal attention to minutiae.
A simple reminder from a manager at the Times to re-read customer emails before responding could have prevented this issue from ever happening in the first place. A poster with a reminder to always put yourself in the customer’s position, a reminder about empathy, might help someone pause for a moment and think about the response they would want if they were the customer sending an email.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, but do pay close attention to it. The saying, “The devil is in the details.” gets it right. Your customer service could be excellent overall, but a few thoughtless email responses or comments from a technician can undo years of hard work building your company’s reputation.
So, the solution for poor customer service is to put yourself in the customers’ position and pay attention to details.
Talk with your team about the details!
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P.S. I subscribe to The New York Times and The Seattle Times. Support professional journalism. Keep professional journalists on the job.