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If you know me, you undoubtedly already know that I have a particular affinity for excellent customer service. When I encounter poor client service, it definitely raises my blood pressure and I tend to get hot headed, even though it takes a bit to get me there. As someone who often purchases goods and services, just like anyone else. I expect that the money I invest in these transactions should be accompanied with the assurance of competent and efficient assistance through capable staff, if/when needed.

Lets get down to the basics, customer service exists, for the most part, to help customers when things fail. Its plain and simple.Not rocket science.

Now, considering it from this perspective, you might argue that the pinnacle of customer service excellence would be the complete absence of any need for customer service at all. If I never needed any form of support through customer service again, that would unequivocally indicate that everything in the realm of that company’s operations was operating exactly as it should.

I believe that the first and most important step when talking about innovation and operational excellence in the context of customer service is to find a way to completely eliminate the need for customer service interventions. And I don’t mean getting rid of jobs per se or replacing everything with AI. (I’ll touch on that in just a moment.) This is a call to transform customer service, not to eliminate it. Customer support should not be the first point of contact when something goes wrong, but rather the safety net, the final line of defense. Instead of handling everyday glitches that could have been avoided with a more considerate approach to product and service delivery, it should be there to address those rare, unforeseen crises.

Let’s briefly examine it from a different perspective.

In my view, it’s high time we shift our perspective away from obsessively striving to provide the best possible service and instead focus on the fundamental goal of making our products and services so exceptional that customer assistance becomes almost obsolete. Why not approach the problem by focusing on increasing the intrinsic quality of what we offer rather than pouring resources into maintaining top-notch support desks, contact centers, or other customer care teams? Imagine a society where customers rarely need help because the good or service they’ve purchased is so well-thought-out and reliable. Wouldn’t that represent the pinnacle of achievement for any company? It sounds like a business utopia, I know. However, I genuinely believe that businesses should use every aspect of their customer service as a template for strengthening the fundamental essence of their product or service, regardless of whether it’s complex software, a straightforward notebook, or even a piece of furniture like an IKEA bookshelf. The ultimate goal should be to establish a setting in which complaints about customer service are uncommon and eventually disappear.

Think about it from your perspective as a customer: When you run into issues, it’s frequently a sign that the product or service has shortcomings. It’s an indication that more work has to be done on the product/service. Why not proactively (from the business perspective) use these challenges as stepping stones to innovation and excellence rather than just dealing with them as they come up?

However, the was I see it, is that in their attempt for progress, businesses typically ignore a crucial factor: the various degrees of issues they face. This omission is frequently the result of unresolved problems – this could be do to processes, or to staffing issues or lack of experience or training in staff. However, it’s critical to recognize that not all issues are the same, and they shouldn’t be handled in the same way. The distribution of support resources, in my opinion, should be determined by a logical hierarchy of priority. Yet when I look at some of the encounters I have as a consumer I see that the priority of support is lumped together into “something,” whereas perhaps it should look a little more like this:

1. The Whole Thing is Failing

Your product or service, regardless of what it is – is dead. Whether you’re in the business of hosting and your servers unexpectedly go offline, you develop software and a bug hinders proper installation, or you manufacture boats that end up sinking, the core of the matter remains consistent. The crux of this point is that customers have a natural expectation that you will honor the trade they make when they give you their hard-earned money in exchange for a good or service – and that is not being delivered on.

These are the customers who need immediate assistance – and I mean like “right now”. Not in an hour, not tomorrow or next week. If I give you money in exchange for something and you are not giving me my service or product, you better bet all hell will break loose. It is not my obligation to look for solutions in support forums, submit a ticket, or locate some elusive member of your IT department if your service or product is having problems. You are solely responsible for this. You made the pledge in regard to selling this product/service, after all, therefore it is your responsibility to make things right. You fix it. Not me. Not the customer.

Customers essentially crown you with the duty to deliver a flawless and dependable experience when they entrust you with their money. It’s a partnership based on trust, not just a business deal. By treating your customers like royalty and going the extra mile to rectify issues promptly, you’re not just fulfilling your obligation, you’re solidifying trust. And when customers have trust in you, they become your brand ambassadors, generating favorable word-of-mouth that draws new clients to your company. When this happens, you will hear a satisfying “ka-ching” as your company grows thanks to its loyal, satisfied customer base – even when things go wrong.

2. Money, Money, Money

Let’s get down to the core reason why any business exists: to make money. whether you’re selling your mouthwatering cupcakes on the weekend or developing cutting-edge software for WordPress users. There is a tacit agreement that you will provide something in return when someone opens their wallet and gives you their hard-earned money. The foundation of commerce is the reciprocal exchange of money for goods or services. The bottom line bed-rock.

Think about how complicated money is. It’s more than simply currency; it evokes a wide range of feelings. People are acutely aware of how they earn, save, and spend their money. Or at least in most instances. For many, it’s a very sensitive and highly intimate area of life. The difficulty is that when it comes to money-related concerns, such as incorrect charges, billing disparities, or payment irregularities, the stakes are much higher than with other kinds of issues.

Problems related to money cause panic. Its that simple. Completing a payment takes trust and commitment from the customer, and any problems to do with payments or money will seriously hinder your reputation in the eyes of that client. Because, when confidence in a financial transaction seems to have been violated, a quick surge of anxiety results. Are you (and I) in agreement here?

Think about it this way: Completing a payment is more than just a transaction; it represents the customer’s faith and commitment to your company. It signifies that the customer has chosen to invest in your product or service, expecting a fair exchange. Any hiccup in this financial transaction, as I have already mentioned, from multiple charges to billing problems, threatens to undermine this confidence and commitment.

Addressing money-related difficulties should be a high priority in the grand picture of customer service. When a customer meets such an issue, they are looking for more than simply a remedy; they are looking for confirmation that their trust has not been misplaced. They want to know that your company cares about their financial well-being as much as they do.

3. There’s A Real Problem

Even with what I stated at the beginning, they say that perfection is an elusive ideal. No matter how methodically you develop your product or service, there will always be occasions when customer support is required. It’s an unavoidable fact of the commercial world. Let’s say your business made a product that, for the most part, works well. Almost everything works well, but there is one irritating issue that requires attention – a little blip in an otherwise flawless operation. For example; your mobile device may be a powerhouse, doing its digital chores with delicacy, but it has a quirk: when tilted, the user interface inexplicably vanishes. Perhaps you’ve created a sophisticated accounting system that flawlessly simplifies financial procedures, except for an unusual case in which attaching two contacts to the same invoice causes an issue. Or you manufacture a brand-new car, a marvel of engineering that zips down the road effortlessly with one minor exception: the handbrake is a little too loose. It happens. I get it.

In each of these cases, the essence of the issue is clear: the majority of what you’ve supplied is correct. It demonstrates your dedication and ingenuity. However, the presence of these tiny quirks or problems highlights the importance of customer support. It’s the realization that perfection isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, but rather a spectrum on which even little flaws might entail the need for assistance. And from the customers point of view, because everything else works so smoothly, these seemingly trivial flaws might be the most annoying for most clients. Well, to me it’s like having a fine dining experience ruined by a single unripe tomato.

These customers need help, but they don’t need it right now. They have a real problem and it needs to be addressed, but nothing awful is going to happen between now and “then” – then being your ultimate SLA for that issue. In essence, your product or service’s essential functionality is unaffected, and their financial transactions are untarnished. The customer’s experience is not jeopardized, but it is not as seamless as it should be. The goal in these situations is to recognize the problem as soon as possible. It’s about proving that you’re aware of their issues and dedicated to finding a solution. While your product’s basic functioning remains strong, these faults are like pebbles in a well-paved road; they may not derail the voyage, but they are evident nonetheless. The first step, the wayy I see it, is an intermediate solution – a workaround that permits the consumer to continue using your product without undue inconvenience. This interim solution addresses their immediate demands and gives some relief until the underlying problem is rectified.

However, if a permanent solution isn’t immediately attainable, it’s crucial to show good faith and genuine concern. Look at it this way: the customer bought for a product expecting it to be perfect, but instead received a 90% version owing to a persistent problem. This can be aggravating and discouraging. In such circumstances, you should think about rewarding the customer in some way to show your appreciation for their trouble. As a goodwill gesture, it could be a partial refund, a discount on a future purchase, or an additional service or feature.

By completing these actions, you are not just resolving the specific issue at hand; you are also reaffirming the customer’s trust and faith in your brand. It demonstrates that you are committed to providing value and excellence even when little setbacks occur. Hence, if you can’t fix the problem, give the customer something back to acknowledge that they paid for 100% of a product and you acknowledge that you only delivered 90%.

4. There’s A Fake Problem

Now, let’s talk about a different category of customers, those whose issues don’t stem from any inherent problem with your product but rather from their own difficulties in using it effectively. At the core, this is your fault. I have seen babies (unfortunately) in strollers that have no trouble using a phone, swiping around and opening applications to their favorite game. Your customers should feel the same confidence in your product. If I purchase a laptop and upon starting it need to go through 26 steps and then some to get it going, something may just be wrong in your product roll-out. You just need to help them out.

If they bought a theme, they can’t figure out how to install it. If they bought a flat-pack set of shelves, they’re putting it together backwards. If they have a camera, they’re shooting with the lens-cap on. The issue is the user. This needs to be addressed differently.

These customers don’t need help quickly. They just need help.  There’s a small caveat here though: The actual importance of the customer support issue is sometimes vastly different from the perceived importance. For example, the customer shooting with the lens-cap on thinks that the camera doesn’t work at all. They think that their support query is level-1 importance – a.k.a. “help me out right-the-fuck-now” – and even when we don’t like having those type of customers, it’s indeed prudent to act swiftly and provide the guidance they need.

For the remainder of customers, those who do not have urgent difficulties but require assistance, the aim should be to assist them whenever possible – in a realistic SLA. If their questions or problems necessitate significant assistance that extends beyond the typical boundaries of customer service, then this is an opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to customer education. Yes, the customer is king. I mention that above, but it is also about educating people. You can explain that their specific needs fall beyond the normal scope of support, but reassure them that you will go out of your way to help them as much as possible.

In essence, it is about realizing that these customers are sincerely looking for your knowledge and direction in order to get the most out of your product. It’s not about condemning individuals for their difficulties, but about understanding that everyone has varying degrees of experience and skill. I’m pretty sure, my parents can’t code apps. You’re not simply solving an issue when you offer help in a patient, understanding manner; you’re also cultivating loyalty and ensuring that your clients get the most out of your product. It’s a win-win situation for both your clients and your company.

5. Feedback From Customers

Often times, customers have feedback and suggestions for your products. They see how it works, and they’ve thought of a better way of doing it. Have you not ever done the same with something you use?  Other times, they’ll just have things they want to ask you that aren’t a problem – like “Do you want to sponsor my conference?” or “Have you considered making/selling a related product or service?”

These customers fit into a distinct category: they are low-stress and low-maintenance. Their statements are usually not motivated by immediate worries or current challenges. Most of the time, they’re reaching out with criticism or questions that, in the larger scheme of things, are very insignificant. They may not even expect a response, yet they are eager to offer their thoughts or obtain additional information. These exchanges might be a breath of fresh air in the world of customer service. Unlike high-pressure questions that require fast action, these clients engage in a more relaxed and casual manner. They’re not searching for quick fixes; they just want to connect and talk and tell you or ask you something fairly inconsequential.

However, striking a balance is critical. While these consumers may not be at the top of your priority list, they should not be ignored totally. After all, they represent an engaged section of your user base that is taking the time to offer their thoughts or engage in conversation. A courteous response, even if it is delayed, shows that you value their feedback and appreciate their interest in your products or services.

Additionally, these encounters can occasionally lead to unexpected opportunities (I know I have had such encounters), such as a significant product enhancement suggestion or the opportunity to pursue collaborative projects such as sponsoring an event or extending your product line.

In summary, while these low-stress, low-maintenance customer contacts may not require the same level of urgency as others, they are nonetheless critical. They reflect the various ways in which people interact with your business, and by reacting intelligently and respectfully, you not only maintain your reputation for outstanding customer service, but you also open the door to possible innovations and partnerships.

In Closing

There you have it. My view of customer service hierarchy in regard to response. We’ve crossed a landscape in customer service that ranges from the urgency of addressing serious situations quickly to cultivating connections with customers who seek your advice, even for seemingly trivial difficulties. The common thread that binds it all together is the critical importance of recognizing and catering to your clients’ different requirements and expectations.

Exceptional customer service entails much more than just problem resolution; it entails developing connections, building trust, and ensuring that every aspect of your product or service meets the high standards you’ve set (hopefully). Whether you’re dealing with severe failures, minor flaws, or people who simply want to share their thoughts, every interaction is an opportunity to improve the customer experience and reinforce your reputation.

And in all of this I know, that the transformational power of AI cannot be overlooked in the wide field of customer service. AI can process massive volumes of data, forecast client demands, and respond instantly. There are so many use cases. Despite all of these technological marvels, one fundamental truth stays constant in my world view: providing good customer service is fundamentally a human activity. While AI can help with many elements of customer service, it is the human touch that makes all the difference. A support agent’s sympathetic answer can turn a dissatisfied consumer into a devoted champion. It’s the capacity to pick up on the intricacies of a customer’s question even if they don’t clearly articulate it. A genuine smile, even if just transmitted through text, reassures a customer.

In essence, providing outstanding customer service is a multidimensional undertaking that includes everything from firefighting to fine-tuning, assuaging urgent concerns to fostering relationships, addressing big issues to welcoming user feedback. It’s about understanding that every client interaction, no matter how minor, is an opportunity to deliver quality and leave a legacy of trust and loyalty.

So, when you begin your adventure in the realm of customer service, keep in mind that it’s not just about giving answers; it’s also about creating experiences that leave your consumers not just pleased, but actually delighted. It is about comprehending their requirements, exceeding their expectations, and continually exhibiting your unshakeable dedication to their fulfillment.

With that being said, grow your business.

Make it happen.