A couple of days ago, I found myself in a dire situation. I needed to reach out to the technical support of a company I had recently bought a plugin for my blog from. Being a nerd myself, and having spent a sizable amount of my very young career working in some form of technical support role, my ego kicked in a little bit, but I had to swallow my pride and reach out. In this case, I determined that the time it would take me to ask for help from the folks who wrote the plugin would be way less and worth my while than diving into the code. After all, that’s why I paid for the plugin.
First, I got a boilerplate response to my first support email-
You have reached XYZ Company support. Thank you for emailing us. We have received your inquiry and will reply to you as soon as possible.
Cool! A ticketing system, and one more email in my mailbox I went ahead to delete immediately.
Next, I started twiddling my thumbs waiting for a response, keeping myself busy with other tasks while constantly refreshing my mailbox to see if I had gotten a response from them. About 24 hours later-
Thank you for emailing XYZ Company support. Can you provide us with your domain name to confirm your purchase of our plugin?
XYZ Company Support
Great! I had waited 24 hours for a reply asking me to confirm my domain name. This company had taken my email address when I made a purchase, and I was emailing them from an address that bore the same domain name as the one I bought the license for. At this point, I was starting to get a bit impatient. But hey, companies are different. Maturity in service delivery also takes time, so understandable. I replied with my domain name about 5 minutes after the email came in. The thumb twiddling began again.
About 6 hours later-
I looked at the issue you sent to us. Have you seen this article?
XYZ Company Support
Okay, the run around. I had a pretty straightforward problem and needed a quick solution. At this point, I dove into the code and fixed it within 30 minutes. Then I replied letting them know I had fixed it, and what I did. I also expressed my dissatisfaction in the level of service I received. Their reply-
We are sorry that we could not help you fix the issue. We are happy you found a solution. Thank you for your feedback.
XYZ Company Support
Needless to say people, I was not happy. Being a technical support professional myself, this enabled me empathize a little more with the customers that we serve every day. I will jump right into the tips here-
- Use auto-responders sparingly, except it has an objective that adds value to the client’s experience.
- Reduce the barriers to service – Do not ask your customer a question you can find an answer for yourself.
- Be timely – Invest into technical support staff, or publish an SLA. That way, customers will know what to expect when they reach out to you.
- Be personal – Avoid language like “we”. I’m a human, relating with another human hopefully. Take ownership of the issue you are handling, and address your emails as you, being a representative of the company and not as the company. The company is not a human. I want to be able to call you by name.
- Knowledgebase articles – Knowledgebases are awesome. But if a customer has reached out to you, just handle the issue while the customer is interacting with you. Reaching out to you is frustrating enough. Don’t make it even more frustrating by referring them to an article.
- TYFYF – Please do not tell me “thank you for your feedback”. Appreciate my expression and let me know if you actually plan to do anything with it. Sarah Hatter talks about this extensively in the free chapter of her Customer Service Handbook to be released soon, as seen here.
These are pretty basic tips but will significantly improve the experience your customers have when they reach out to you for technical support. Little things like these are what make customers dread their experiences with us. We can redeem our image, technical support folks. Some of these rules apply in basic friendly communication. Your customer is your friend, that needs some help. Treat and address them as such.