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Setting the Bar for Customer Service?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the technicians-and-support dept.

Technology 275

meburke asks: "Computer repair, copier repair, customer support: It seems to be mostly done the same way for the last 40 years. That is: 'Something breaks, call the repair guy.' But customers expect more, and they can't tell us what they expect, so where do we develop guidelines for customer service and how do we improve? I've searched the net for three days now, and I haven't found a comprehensive list of actions or standards that distinguish the excellent tech from the average tech. Can anyone point me toward some sources?" It seems that as our technology becomes more complex, the service that is offered to customers continues to fall shorter of the mark. What kind of service do you expect from your vendors, and how close is reality to your expectations?As an aside, shooflot wonders: "If the definition of 'news' includes 'rarity' then good service must be news. My usual experience includes the kind of sulky and dismissive attitude I got from an Apple rep when my new iPod wouldn't charge (I eventually got him to exchange it). However, I was recently surprised by Rogers, my cellphone provider, when I followed up on some charges for ringtones I'd never downloaded. The service rep not only cancelled the charges but discovered I'd been wrongly charged an extra air time fee for the whole last year and credited me for the entire amount plus tax! What great service stories does Slashdot wish to share which (I hope!) may inspire all those other reps in the trenches?"

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ITIL (4, Interesting)

XorNand (517466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909762)

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL [wikipedia.org] ) is growing in popularity as the defacto "best practices" for IT services. It's not for the faint of heart (nor cheap), but it's extremely comprehensive.

And to blantantly plug the message board in my sig [smallbizgeeks.com] ... this is a topic that we discuss there frequently as well. "What's the difference between a 'computer guy' and an 'IT consultant'? [smallbizgeeks.com] " was one of the threads that comes to mind. I know that one of the more frustrating aspects of my job is having to clean up other techs' messes. And worse: having to charge the customer for my time to do that when they already paid the last guy a pretty penny. With PCs now in the magical $300 range, the divide between the two types of techs seems to be growing. I don't know whether this is helping my business or hurting it yet though.

Re:ITIL (1)

Veamon (733329) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909938)

Why do people quote Wikipedia as an authentic source?

Re:ITIL (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909963)

You have to love ads masquerading as Wikipedia articles.

Can I buy beanie babies on Wikipedia yet?

BicycleRepairman! (4, Insightful)

Doug Merritt (3550) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909972)

I haven't found a comprehensive list of actions or standards that distinguish the excellent tech from the average tech. Can anyone point me toward some sources?

The obvious example of excellent tech support to follow is...BicycleRepairman! Quoted from a bicycle web site:

My favorite Monty Python skit is one called "Bicycle Repairman." In the skit, we see superman walking down the street in his splendid costume. Then he stops to catch a bus, but surprizingly, the bus driver is a superman too, in an identical costume. Then, when he turns to walk back to his seat, we discover everyone else on the bus is a superman too. We go on into town, and there we find that every person in every store is a superman.

Then we see a superman riding his bicycle, but it begins to wobble badly, and then he crashes. The bicycle needs repaired, but superman doesn't know how. Then the call goes out for Bicycle Repairman. Everywhere, supermen are frantically searching for the hero.

In a crowded laundromat, a group of supermen are waiting for their costumes to wash, when another superman announces the emergency. One of the supermen looks around to see if anyone is watching him, and then he disappears into a dark recess, where he turns into Bicycle Repairman, with his brown coveralls and tool chest.

All the supermen are excited to see him, and he goes and repairs the bicycle. The message of the skit is, of course, that all of us can play an important role; we don't have to be superman. We can play some other essential role, such as Bicycle Repairman instead!

Setting the Bar for Customer Service: (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909768)

Re:Setting the Bar for Customer Service: (0, Flamebait)

bigwavejas (678602) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909791)

Apple? Setting the bar for customer service? Have you ever been to an Apple store? Talk about a bunch of elitists who have drank the Kool-Aid. Apple was cool back in the //e days, but now it's a bunch of stuck-up seperatists who look down on *anything* but the mothership. No thanks

Re:Setting the Bar for Customer Service: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909892)

Apple Stores are hilarious, all right. You keep expecting to see a curtain somewhere, with a bunch of people attached to E-Meters behind it.

The amazing thing is that Apple's customers just eat it up. Being processed like something out of a Huxley novel is just part of the "think different" experience.

I've always had excellent service at Apple Stores. (1, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910070)

I've been to an Apple Store many times. And I keep going back because the people there are knowledgable, and friendly.

I remember going to Circuit City once to purchase a PC. Do you know what happened? I got some foreign kid, probably no more than 18, who tried to tell me that I could run OpenVMS on a Dell x86 PC. So I asked him, "Do you know what OpenVMS is?", and he said "I have thoughts that I do, sir!". I told that kid, "Fuck off, moron," and then I went to the reliable Apple Store and got myself a PowerMac system.

Can't find all the answers in a book (4, Interesting)

Deekin_Scalesinger (755062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909771)

I think some of it comes from within - if you have a good people nature, you'll be a better tech, at least in the customer service area.I say this from a long time support background, but I have done a lot of different types of it and that internal desire to help others is a constant. A good heart radiates outward to your outlook, manner of working, etc. Wish I could point you to a specific doc, but meebe this helped instead...

Re:Can't find all the answers in a book (2, Informative)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909831)

While it's true that a good service attitude has to come from the heart, there are good books to guide one too. I have a copy of IDG Books Customer Service for Dummies, and it's got a lot of good ideas.

Re:Can't find all the answers in a book (4, Insightful)

hbo (62590) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909854)

Books can give you ideas. Kindness and tolerance come from life experience. I can be convinced that tolerance is a good idea, and vow that I will be tolerant in all my actions. But the real test come when some #!%& clueless user starts to blame me for their stupid mistakes.

Oops. 8)

In IT (3, Insightful)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909772)

Good customer service is doing what you said you'd do when you said that you would do it for what you said you would charge.

That sets the bar pretty low and is kind of a sad commentary on the state of IT customer service.

Re:In IT (5, Interesting)

DanteLysin (829006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909818)

I disagree. Simply doing one's job is not the same as good customer service. Good customer service can translate into repeatable business. I had a problem with my Air Conditioning. Twice it had failed, and I came home from work to find the house at over 80 degrees. I'm using to working in a server room. 80 degrees is pure torture for me.

The first company I called came out and fixed the AC. When I called them, the office assistant was short (almost rude). I had to take the day off waiting for the technician. When he arrived, the technician grunted and mumbled a lot. He did his work and left.

The second time my AC broke, I called another company. The office assistant was very pleasant to speak with. She offered to call to my cell phone to let me know when the technician was "on his way". So, I was able to work most of the day and saved a vacation day. The technician was also pleasant to talk with. Not only did he fix my AC, but he explained how it failed and how I can catch it in the future. He also went over some preventative maintenance tips with me.

The next time I have any AC problem, I will call the latter company. I passed along this info to my friends. Good customer service. Repeatable business. Referrals.

Re:In IT (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909836)

I agree there, but with IT - just showing up on time and doing what you said you'd do count as good service.

I don't think that it's a good state of affairs, but that's the way that it seems to be.

Re:In IT (-1, Offtopic)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909968)

80 degrees is only about 27C centigrade. If that's pure torture, you have problems. Try opening a window or turning on a fan. This week it was 40C (104F) in the factory I work in. On top of this, I was wearing a thick protective suit and a full helmet, and doing hard labour. Yet I didn't complain about it. I think you're just soft. You're probably an office worker who loses his erection if the ambient conditions aren't absolutely perfect.

Re:In IT (0, Offtopic)

fredrated (639554) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910010)

Guess what mr. he-man, the human body adapts to the conditions it finds itself in. Work in a computer cold room and your blood thickens, your peripheral vasculature retreats and your ability to sweat diminishes. Work in a hot factory and your ability to sweat increases, your salt retention increases, you become irritable and your ability to think plummets.

Stupidity: it's a renewable resource!

Re:In IT (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910019)

This week it was 40C (104F) in the factory I work in. On top of this, I was wearing a thick protective suit and a full helmet, and doing hard labour. Yet I didn't complain about it. I think you're just soft. You're probably an office worker who loses his erection if the ambient conditions aren't absolutely perfect.
Haha, I get it! You are trying to tell him that you are a human phallus!

Re:In IT (4, Informative)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909864)

A few points to help:

1) Stand by your work. If the problem is not fixed on the first visit, return to fix it free of charge.

2) Follow up with your customers to make sure that the problems are resolved.

3) Send customers an email detailing the problems they called about, the cause, the resolution, and actions they can take in the future to reduce the need for service calls.

4) Err on the side of the customer when there is a dispute. Note that the customer is NOT always right (after all, if they were, why would they need us), but see disputes as opportunities to build goodwill.

5) Repeat after me: most customers aren't stupid. They feel lost amid the technology and they are frustrated. Try to explain things in everyday language so that they can feel that the mystery of the technology isn't so overwhelming.

All this takes discipline, and I even find myself slipping up on it from time to time. There are more points here that I use for my business, but these are the main substantive ones.

Re:In IT (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909895)

Good customer service is doing what you said you'd do when you said that you would do it for what you said you would charge. . .

And treating them as if you value them both customers and human beings.

That sets the bar a bit higher, although not so high that it should be the exception to receive it.

But I agree with your conclusion.

KFG

Three letters baby... (3, Funny)

neurokaotix (892464) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909773)

AOL

Support? (1)

debilo (612116) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909778)

The most obvious answer probably is:

Not having to call support in the first place.

This, of coursed, implies assuring high quality, durability and ease of use, in both software and hardware. But sadly, it seems companies are more focussed on producing and manufacturing as cheaply as possible.

Re:Support? (1)

debilo (612116) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909815)

By the way, I do realize that even high-quality hardware and software willfail sooner or later. And when that happens, I hope companies won't charge way too much for their support. It seems to become a new trend to try to cash in with ridiculous prices on the customers' problems that often the companies themselves created in the first place.

Re:Support? (1)

cnmsales (761493) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909977)

"But sadly, it seems companies are more focussed on producing and manufacturing as cheaply as possible."

I wonder whos fault this is though? In a society that demands products be cheaper and cheaper.

Re:Support? (1)

deep44 (891922) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909834)

Not having to call support in the first place. [..] This, of coursed, implies assuring high quality, durability and ease of use, in both software and hardware.
Unfortunately, some people just don't know how to solve problems on their own. Anybody who's ever worked in/around a help-desk knows the type of person I'm talking about. Instead of pausing for 2 seconds and using their brain, they pick up the phone and call someone else to do it for them.

In theory, you should be able to design products and/or services so they don't require live support.. but it just doesn't work out that way.

Easy answer (2, Insightful)

SirChris (676927) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909781)

Proactive not reactive.

Human Behavior Defies Classification (4, Insightful)

hbo (62590) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909784)

Although "technical support" may seem to be about technology, it's really about people and their behavior under stress. Having filled dozens of support roles in 20 years as a systems guy, I can tell you that the greatest factors in my success have been patience and humor. What book do you go to to learn those things?

Re:Human Behavior Defies Classification (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909800)

What book do you go to to learn those things?

The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Just look at the cover and "Don't Panic"

Re:Human Behavior Defies Classification (1)

hbo (62590) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909824)

That's where you go to read humor. If you haven't learned humor (or had it hardwired in, as the case may be) you aren't going to laugh, even at a name like "Slarty Bartfarst."

No, really. This is serious. 8)

Re:Human Behavior Defies Classification (2, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910008)

I'd agree, though I'd also add "good ability to research/find information" is a HUGE plus.

No tech can really be expected to know ALL of the answers, but there's no excuse for not having the skills to look it up using google, etc.

These days, except for providing and installing replacements for defective parts, most computer service is really about straightening out OS glitches, finding updated/proper drivers for devices, and removing software causing malfunctions.

You can buy yourself a surprising amount of time to figure out a problem by humoring the customer and keeping up a friendly conversation with them while you work -- but eventually, you still need to provide the solution.

And here, I was going to say... (4, Funny)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909792)

And here, I was going to say that you could just walk into the average Best Buy or CompUSA with a complex computer problem, write down everything the technician there does (interactions, attempted fixes, plan of attack, etc.)

The exact opposite of everything you wrote down is exactly what customers would really like.

Service vs Replaceability (4, Insightful)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909794)

As we pressure companies for cheaper and cheaper everything, we squeeze out the dollars they need to do support, and they outsource it--to us.

Do I want companies to offer good quality and stand by their work? Sure. Do I expect it? Ha. It's bad enough that I generally just hope the price point is low enough that when it breaks I can afford a new one rather than talk to some unhelpful jerk on the phone.

Look at what's happened to watch repair shops. No one repairs watches any more, they just replace them. Same with shoe repair. Heck, in some regions of the company, away from big cities, it's hard to find contractors to repair houses because the people who know how to do the relevant work find it both easier and more lucrative just to build new ones. Other "technology" will probably follow suit, if it hasn't already.

Re:Service vs Replaceability (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909821)

Except when you buy a new house you always get to move all your furniture. When you buy a new computer, it might be because your last one is toast and your data is gone.

good question ... speakeasy good, dell bad (4, Interesting)

cballowe (318307) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909805)

I find that my DSL company has excellent customer service. They aren't like the phone company who tries to convince you that you caused the problem and starts out by warning you that it will cost you if the problem is found on your site. I think the trick is that the person on the phone is able to fix 90% of the calls. I've called at 3AM, explained the problem, and had it fixed in 5 minutes.

I don't know what customers expect, but if the service was modeled after Speakeasy, I can't see many people complaining. I think part of the trick is that it's a very flat support organization - you don't need to escalate to a level 2 or level 3 person on the phone. The person you get on the call can do everything short of showing up at your door.

Dell, on the other hand, makes people jump through hoops when they call in with a problem (like a dead hard drive). This even happens on corporate accounts - the field techs at work have been known to spend 4 hours on the phone going through dell's script.

Re:good question ... speakeasy good, dell bad (1)

bostonguy (673637) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909921)

If you are a corporate account, you should ask Dell about having your IT guys become 'Dell Certified Technicians'. I did that at a job from about '97-'00. Just had to take a cert test online every (6?) months. When you have a hardware problem, you simply log into a web site and order the part.

They send the part, and you return the dead part in the same box. Takes a few days tops.

Re:good question ... speakeasy good, dell bad (1)

cballowe (318307) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909976)

Still seems like a bad model for managing support. Far cheaper to just ship the part - 4 hours of a tech on the phone has to be about the same price as a hard drive - especially for a company like Dell who buys in mass quantities. You'd think they would have better things to do with their time than walk through testing when someone calls up and says "my hard drive died".

Dealing with Dell (1)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909937)

I've found that my best bet for getting something done by Dell with little pain is to avoid the phone completely.<p>

I'll run tests (their diagnostics and others such as memtest), then do a detailed writeup of what I've tested, what the results were, what I think the problem is and any steps I've taken to try to resolve it (e.g. removing & reseating the memory). Then I go to the support site, put in the service tag, and go through the contact us bit and "Email Product Support." It may take a day or two, but it's worked better for me than trying to deal with them on the phone.

Re:good question ... speakeasy good, dell bad (3, Informative)

Mad_Rain (674268) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909942)

I'm going to second that. Speakeasy has been overwhelmingly good for me and my connection - They have knowledgable tech staff on the phone, who have a sense of humor, don't talk down to you, and have even given their extensions to me so I can talk with the same person over several days. They returned my phone calls! How many places are like that? Certainly not my cable company, phone company, gas or electric company.

Now, as I type that out, I think therein lies an additional piece of truth - they're able to adjust their skills and apply their knowledge to MY level of geekitude. Since different people are going to have different levels, flexibility in explaining things and providing transparency in what their doing would go a long way in customer service.

So for example:
Me: I have problem X, and have tried solution A, B, and C. Can you help me out with this problem?
Them: Okay, we're going to have a tech look at D, and depending on D's status, we'll do E, F, and G. In the meantime, check H. We'll call you back in an hour with an update.
Me: Great!

Now, if they're talking with say, my parents...

Parents: I'm having a problem with X. Can you help me with that?
Them: Absolutely. We'll send out a tech to check a few things, and get back to you in an hour with some solutions. It's probably just Problem Y, but we'll check over the whole thing for you, just in case.
Parents: Okay, we'll wait for the next update.

Re:good question ... speakeasy good, dell bad (2, Insightful)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909974)

That's because Dell isn't a service organization, they are a supply chain management firm. Once the machine leaves the door, they don't want to hear about it even again. If you are an IBM or HP customer you can easily contrast the support you get from IBM services division with the support you get from Dell. Dell just doesn't want to help you. IBM will be quite happy to help you; that's how they make all their money.

"done the same way for the last 40 years.." ?!?!? (2, Insightful)

sakusha (441986) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909807)

You are kidding, right? Service is getting to the point where all they say is "throw it away and get a new one."
In the early days of microcomputers, we used to do component level repair, for example, diagnosing and replacing individual memory chips, or replacing individual chips on disk drive controllers. It's been many years since that was discontinued in favor of swapping out whole circuit boards. And now that is becoming rare, it's rarely cost effective to replace boards, now the techs just tell you to throw the whole unit away and get a new one.
This is a major problem, the IT industry is not manufacturing technology products, they are manufacturing garbage heaps full of unrepairable electronic junk. I would rather buy repairable products that have a longer life, than to pay less for disposable junk.

Re:"done the same way for the last 40 years.." ?!? (1)

Jarnis (266190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909922)

Can't help it.

When a computer motherboard costs less than 15 minutes of qualified electronics repairman's time, there is absolutely no point in even trying to repair it. Just ship it to distributor/manufacturer for replacement.

Someone in some low-wage country will probably one day take a look at it and fix it, if its easy to fix... but in the western world, you can't find a person who'd work cheap enough repairing these things to make it worth it even when compared to the retail prices (let alone wholesale prices) of the broken component.

Not limited to computers. (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909959)

Try to get a blender repaired, or a vacuum cleaner, or a television set, or household furniture in most areas. If you find one or two shops that still do any kind of appliance or furniture repair in a major metropolitan area of several to several dozen million people, you're lucky.

And if you manage to track one of them down and carry in a product made after 1990, they'll likely tell you that it's unfixable because things these days "aren't made to be serviced" and there are "no parts available from the manufacturer."

If you happen to still have an older unit of some kind, and you manage to track a shop down, the price of repair will usually be double the cost of a brand-new unit with twice the features, half the energy consumption, half the noise, far better compatibility with accessories of any kind likely to be sold at department stores.

The nature of the marketplace dictates this; there will never be a major ad campaign for anything other than a new product, because new products are what must be sold in order to fund ad campaigns. In order to sell new products, old products must be made obsolete, either by premature failure, giving the impression that they are lesser (by developing new products with endless silly features), or by associating new products with fashionability (celebrity endorsement, bare ass on screen, young people party picture, etc.) and associating existing products with uncoolness. People want new things all the time, not because new things are better for the job at hand, or because their old things can't be fixed, but because they have been made to want new things by the logic of the capital markets.

In short, letting the marketplace decide what consumers buy and use necessarily leads to an overwhelming marketplace bias toward cheap, low-quality, disposable products and an endless cycle of wasteful consumption and re-consumption in order to drive economic "growth." This bias won't change until the marketplace begins to feel the effects of encroaching, toxic waste from all sides. And of course by then the landfills will have taken over the planet and the marketplace won't be able to do a damn thing about it.

Computing has become a commodity product. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909978)

Considering that the design and manufacturing of most circuitry has been outsourced to places like Taiwan and China, it is no wonder that computer componentry has become a commodity.

Computers are no longer crafted like they were in the glory days of DEC and IBM. They're more like a carton of milk or a bag of chips. What you're advocating would require a return to the days of "computer carpenters". That won't happen as long as China and India are designing and producing most hardware used in North America and Europe. It is in their best financial interest for computing to remain a wholly commoditized item.

be able to tune to the pace of the called (1)

hector_uk (882132) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909810)

being an apple certified technician when i call applecare or dell support for a friend to get them to send a replacement part or have them fix a hardware issue that i cant do without buying parts when it's under warranty i dont want them to treat me like an average joe idiot especially when i'm probably more qualified than they are and just want the thing sent off, the same applies to if my friends mother calls them and they should not jargon them to death, support techs need to tune to the ability of the caller and treat them as such.

Re:be able to tune to the pace of the called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909998)

This why tech support will never be 'good enough'. There are those out there that think they are 'above' the joe idiot.

Hey I *AM* pretty good at this (I am the one my tech support comes to for answers they can not answer them). Even then I make stupid mistakes. I do it all the time. Sometimes I need someone to tell me to 'check the plug'. I treat the person on the other end of the line like a human and you know I tend to have good tech support. I treat them like I am a god its funny how beligerant they can become.

On the other hand I have over the years had some real monster pricks on the other end of the line. They do not want to help me. 'What do you mean it is going to take 16 hours to defragment my hard drive? (*cough* *norton* *cough*)' 'What do you mean you do not know how to configure my computer, can you find someone who can? (*cough* *dell* *cough*)' Usually by the time I am asking those questions I am 2-3 hours into a tech call and am NOT happy.

For example sony used to have excelent tech support. You would call them and it would route you to the previous person you were talking to AND would ask you if it is the same problem. These days you are lucky if they have a passable english accent.

In reality, tech support is a cost center. It costs money and time to do tech support. So it is not surprising companies are farming it out. However it really makes me think twice. For example my company is giving us a 750 dollar discount off a laptop. Thats a pretty good deal. For me though I have a problem, it is from Dell. Their corp tech support is fair. Their home tech support is complete crap. 2 bad tech calls in the past 10 years has really made me stop and think twice about buying from them. JUST because it is a Dell.

Re:be able to tune to the pace of the called (1)

rich_r (655226) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910000)

If you talk like you type, that's because they can't get a word in edgeways ;)

There are some weird expectations out there. (3, Interesting)

baryon351 (626717) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909813)

I've seen some bad customer service, but I've also seen some shocking customer expectations. A friend works at Apple, and one of his headbutt-the-desk moments that come up all too often is when a customer phones complaining that a new model is out, and their 3 month old powerbook/ibook/whatever is now out of date... and will he give them a refund or a replacement unit.

Having also worked on an ISP helpdesk, some of the customer expectations there are equally insane. One business had thousands of business cards, letterheads and other stationary printed with their email address listed as "http://www.businessname.com/". Who did they immediately phone? us - demanding that when someone sends email to "http://www.businessname.com/" that it get to them.

Pity their hosting wasn't with us, even if their net service was.

The technically clueless just want someone to blame if something doesn't work to their satisfaction - and that's entirely fair - however when they come on all insistent that their problems can be fixed by places they can't, or they don't realise their expectations are entirely unrealistic it's when service providers just turn off and want to go "piss off, idiot"

Re:There are some weird expectations out there. (1)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909882)

I'm afraid you are part of the problem described.

What happens is customer service is about servicing the customer. About performing work for them in exchange for the pay they give you for that service. It's people who understand that that I will go back to time and time again.

Instead of giving excuses on why you shouldn't replace something or why you won't do something for them think next time about putting your brain to work. ask "How can I fix this persons problem". then go do it.

You will find you have a customer returning next time.

Re:There are some weird expectations out there. (1)

iCEBaLM (34905) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909939)

Did you even read the comment? Customers want unrealistic things. It is impossible for someone to email a website URL for instance. It is also completely unresaonable to expect a company to exchange a 3-4 month old unit for one that just shipped.

Where do you get off telling the GP he is part of the problem? It's like bitching at your electrician because you have to actually plug devices in to power sockets instead of having power delivered wirelessly or wanting the car dealership to trade in your 2004 chevy for a 2005 which just came out.

The problem is uninformed customers expecting the moon.

Youth prank calling Dell call centers in Delhi. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910003)

My young nephew was telling me about how some of his college buddies have been prank calling Dell tech support centers that they know are in India just to pose such questions to them. Indeed, they'll say stuff like they put their DSL "Intarweb" into the floppy drive. Or that they want their monitor to work but they don't want to connect it to their computer. He told me one story about a call where his friend said he had cockroaches coming out of the computer.

Indeed, if tech support people have to face such horrors, then it is no doubt that the quality of their services will drop! They have no incentive to be courteous and knowledgable.

Personal Experience (2, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909814)

Netapp. They have excellent customer service, and they cover what I want in service quite well.

There are three basic lines of support, which I appreciate - and a methodology that is very important.

  • Online Documentation and forums. You can find information, HOWTOs, simular problems, best practices, example deployments, in depth technical details into how things work under the hood. This is an invaluble resource - I want to find and learn it myself, not depend on telephone technicians.
  • Application (or in this case, appliance) phone home and two or four hour onsite support. I prefer to find out that I had a hardware failure when I wake up in the morning to find a set of emails - one from the appliance, one from the vendor, one from the datacenter, and one from the tech - that my problem has been fixed.
  • Competant telephone support. If they cant answer my question on the phone, they'll escalate. If they cant cant resolve my problem, they'll escalate. I'll get an accual engineer on the phone if my problem is big enough.
  • Willing to take responsibility. If its broken, and I didnt break it, then its the vendors' problem. We had a problem a few weeks ago with one of our Filers, and after two failed attempts to fix the problem they accually flew a tech to our office and told him he wasnt leaving until it was properly fixed according to our schedule (as it was a production filer). And he was there for two weeks.


Go the extra mile. Thats what I look for in support and customer service.

Re:Personal Experience (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909996)

You have obviously never encountered the "Fast WACK", the fsck-equivalent for NetApp that their sales organization swears does not exist, and their support organization has never heard of.

NetApp are a bunch of chronic liars, and no amount of support can cover up that problem.

Ask your customers.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909825)

what they actually want instead of guessing or asking people who don't do busines with you (/.).

Insource Call Centers (2, Informative)

Carcass666 (539381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909826)

Trying to purchase some Dell notebooks this week was an excrutiating excercise. The online credit application initially rejected me and gave me a number to call. The person I spoke to was very polite but had absolutely no authority/ability to assist me in getting my credit line established or switching my order to use a credit card instead of the credit line. The order ended up getting cancelled, and the two notebooks I selected from the Dell Outlet site ended up going to somebody else by the time I ended my fruitless 2 hours on the phone. The problem isn't so much that the call centers are offshored, it's that the staff are not provided with any meaningful mechanisms to address customer concerns. They seem to have a list of things that they are expected to respond to and responses they are allowed to give. There is no "go-to" person that you can speak to that can make decisions or provide intervention if the system behaves unexpectedly. Since the call center is located on the other side of the globe from where the orders are managed and shipped, the call center staff is pretty much powerless to act on a customer's behalf.

A remote call center is fine to talk Joe Average in figuring out why their AOL connection isn't working as expected. But when it comes to making a purchase and spending money, I want to speak to somebody who can take action on my behalf. Having my order cancelled and then getting thanked for choosing Dell does not constitute adequate customer service.

Re:Insource Call Centers (1)

Nevo (690791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909911)

The problem isn't so much that the call centers are offshored, it's that the staff are not provided with any meaningful mechanisms to address customer concerns. They seem to have a list of things that they are expected to respond to and responses they are allowed to give.

It's more fundamental than that. The culture in India is one of extreme politeness, but self-directed thinking just isn't a part of their culture. They know how to follow instructions. As a culture, they don't know how to think and act idependently of an authority giving them approval. Thus, they can read from the scripts and be unfailingly polite, but often can be of no use at all.

Re:Insource Call Centers (1)

Carcass666 (539381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909988)

It's more fundamental than that. The culture in India is one of extreme politeness, but self-directed thinking just isn't a part of their culture.

I have never been to India, but that seems a little harsh. There are a lot of examples of very creative art and literature from pre-colonial India, and plenty of cinema now.

I imagine that employees of call centers are encouraged less to solve problems than to contribute to metrics of "customer satisfaction" so that the call center can keep its contract. I'm sure this has to frustate the call center workers as much as the customers.

Re:Insource Call Centers (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910069)

The word in the call centers is that the culture in the U.S. is to condescend until you're back in your comfort zone.

Depends (2, Insightful)

tom's a-cold (253195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909828)

A lot of companies treat their customer service as a "bag on the side" rather than as an integral part of the business. As a consequence, the reps aren't empowered to do anything to improve the customer relationship (for example, fixing accounting errors or offering complimentary goodies). Instead, they're held accountable for keeping the costs down by ending calls as soon as possible, by any means necessary.

Worse, I've been at a lot of clients where customer satisfaction is not systematically measured, where there's no incentive for reps to do the right thing, and where there's no awareness that future sales depend on the company's reputation for service as much as on the product itself. This includes some well-known companies where you'd think they'd know better.

The FPP anecdote about Apple is a great example of how great products aren't the end of the experience for customers. The other side of the coin is the somewhat pricey ISP I use. If cost and connectivity were the only drivers, I'd dump them in a heartbeat since broadband is a commodity product. But their tech support and customer service are much better than the (admittedly lousy) average, so I keep on paying the premium.

Re:Depends (1)

Jarnis (266190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910014)

""they're held accountable for keeping the costs down by ending calls as soon as possible, by any means necessary. ""

This 'method' of saving costs is the easy way to ensure the customer support is total CRAP.

No sane person with any knowledge of the product/service/area of expertise will stick around in a workplace where short call > resolved call. All you get is drones that do their damnest to end calls and/or bounce them around so their 'minutes per call' is kept low and they seem 'l33t support techs' to the PHB's as they can 'resolve the calls so quickly'.

I actually worked in such a hellhole for a few weeks way back (phone support for PCs and stuff), and the job relationship was toast about two weeks in when I was reprimanded for actually doing my job (spending bit over an hour on the phone resolving some poor sap's problem with his PC)

I said straight up there that their policies were insane, and that I would continue to do the job the customers expected (resolve their issues) without watching a stopwatch. I was fired a week later for 'being uncooperative', and I was happy they did it. And lookie, less than 6 months later the shithole company was bought out by a bigger company for cheap as it was almost bankrupt anyway.

Reason why short call > resolved call? The stupid company had made a deal with the PC manufacturer on the NUMBER OF CALLS ANSWERED. Which is the most braindead metric you can use for outsourced tech support. So the company would get more money if every support person would randomly hang up the calls and/or ask the customer to call back later, but if they'd actually take the time and resolve the issue, that would actually result in less funds to the people paying the paychecks of the support techs.

Insane.

Book: Cutstomer Satisfaction is Worthless... (3, Informative)

ChrisBrown1 (212711) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909837)

I would highly recommend the book: "Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless : How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know" [amazon.com] .

This is required reading at my company. The book has a lot of self-hype, the author can't seem to grasp the concept of ordinal numbers, and is a bit condenscending, but if you get past that it has a LOT of REALLY EXCELLENT customer service advice for all businesses.

Don't just limit yourself to examples from IT (2, Insightful)

Original Buddha (673223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909838)

Look at the world around you and recall the times you felt you received good service. Doesn't matter if it was from a waitress or a plumber. The first thing that I recall with good service is the persons willingness to step up to the plate and take ownership of you and your problem and following through on doing their best to find a resolution. Even if it's not fixed the first time you know they're doing everything in their power to get it done.

Here's the answer (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909843)


Excellent tech = me.

Average tech = you.

Lousy tech = the one who still does that for a living.

Great Service Story: Staples (4, Interesting)

rkcallaghan (858110) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909847)

On Thursday this week, I went in to a local Staples store, found a desk and a chair that I liked. I went ahead and ordered it.

A nice man helped me get it all set up for delivery, and gave me the information on some people that can assemble it for me. Wonderful. He says they can email me a delivery time estimate, and that he knows personally they don't sell it or anything like that, so no spam even from them. Very cool.

Yesterday I get a call on my cell, its the delivery guy at my apartment and the managers office won't take delivery or let him in (even at my request) to drop off my stuff. The delivery guy is very friendly, especially considering he's gonna have to come back. He gives me the number I can call to reschedule.

I'm dreading this call. Ohhhhh gawd I think, I'm gonna have to talk to some phone jockey retard who couldn't care less about helping me. So I call. It asks me if I want English or Spanish. BEEP! For a moment, I start to groan to myself as the customer service hoop jumping is about to begin. Wait? What's this? Hello? Holy smokes! A live person, right away! He's friendly and asks me for my name and whats wrong before my order number. He tells me he's going to have to get someone from another department. My stomach sinks again, oh junk, here we go, its the run around. I get about a minute of hold music, and then, woah wait a minute, its the same guy! He's doing a warm/live transfer, and the new guy already has all my info and knows my situation! WOW!

The new guy is friendly too, he gets me set up for a new delivery time, and we part ways.

What's the moral of this story? I mean you'd think it sounded pretty plain. These days, it doesn't. I've come to expect to be punted, lied to, have to jump through 3 dozen hoops until I yell at a manager, just to get the simplest requests past the call center guys that are paid to reduce the amount of customers that want stuff that costs the company more money. Treat me right, give me a little customer service with no bullshit, don't get in arguements with me over who's fault it was I didn't get the email, answer the phone when I call, don't cold dump/punt me, and I am now a Staples customer for life (or at least until they go down the shitty customer service is cheaper route).

~Rebecca

Great rebate service too (2, Informative)

Original Buddha (673223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909884)

In the past I've avoided rebates like the plague. To the best of my knowledge Staples is the only company that has an option to submit your rebate online AND has a way to track the rebate even if you've mailed it in.

Re:Great Service Story: Staples (1)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910006)

I think the live transfer is the mark of a higher standard in technical support. I had a similar experience with Apple and was shocked at how polite and personable they were over the phone. The live transfer to another tech was also something I hadn't seen before then and it made a world of difference in terms of my perception. I didn't have to repeat myself and the new tech was already up to speed as if I had just talked to him myself! Not only that, you just get warm fuzzies with live transfers. Good stuff.

Re:Great Service Story: Staples (1)

troll (4326) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910058)

Thanks for the good report! It boils down to the Golden Rule.

If companies used some of their advertising budget for customer support, they'd probably get more new business by word-of-mouth than billboards, TV, or radio.

There must be a comprehensive customer support package for call centers out there, preferably Open Source :)

No matter what you can do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909848)

It's always the same. You can find all the guidelines needed to do an excellent job. But if you lack good attitude toward service, the customer will be always doomed. Sometimes is the low level of your will to help people, sometimes is the customer who knows nothing about the problem. Other fact is that the internal politics of a company are too restrictive when a customer rep tries to help. Even when he/she does the best, if the internal politics book says no, is no. So, there's no perfect support with added value, and if so, there's a charge for it, and at the end, it will taste as plain normal support.

Horror stories and one good one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909849)

Well, wish I had better news...

Mac/PC Mall shipped me a CD-RW drive that not only wasn't "new" as advertised/ordered, but was missing items from the box and *broken*! Rather than ship me out a replacement and a return label I was *told* how I was going to ship the broken device back for a refund, but they had the right to refuse a refund if the box was missing any items! Given that part of the reason for returning the drive was, um, missing items, I called BS.. Over the course of 2 days I was hung up on TWICE and was lectured on how I was being offered a solution, but obviously didn't want to do it. All I wanted was a new working drive, um, like I *PAID* for!

The 2nd recent disaster was an order for some wifi equipment for a client. Their credit card was declined, there were phone calls back and forth between the client and the vendor, then the order was canceled. My calls however were never returned! Que vender rep complaining to me about how his calls were never returned! Heh. Pot, kettle, kettle, pot...

My only recent, and ongoing good cust. service experience is/was with a local PakMail franchise.. Damn, they're great.. If you drop off items needing to be packed and shipped, they go the extra mile to be sure things are packed properly. (as you would expect!) Compare that to other shippers where your items may be tossed into an empty box and taped and shipped w/o bubble wrap, foam, peanuts, etc... (yeah, I've had that happen!)

Wish I had better news.. It's bad out there these days..

People suck..

later all.

Sorta like medicine? (2, Informative)

Logic Bomb (122875) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909863)

I don't want to make a straight comparison between someone who fixes technology and someone who heals people, but I think medical professionals and IT/computer professionals can be evaluated by some of the same basic questions:

1. Is the problem resolved?
2. Was the resolution as efficient as possible?
3. Will the fix make it harder to help the person/fix the device in the future? (You want a 'no' on that one :-))
4. Did the fix put the person/users of the technology through any unnecessary hardship? (Another 'no', hopefully.)

Good support is like pornography; you know it when you see it, but it's hard to define.

Re:Sorta like medicine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909934)

Good support is like pornography

You feel embarrased about asking for it in a shop

Customer Service in the real world (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909867)

There's not likely to be a useful comprehensive list of best practices because too many would be industry or company dependent making much of the list useless to others.

There's an organization based on improving customer service, but you have to join to get access to most pf their material: http://www.socap.org/ [socap.org]

It took me years to figure out why my father came home in a bad mood every night from his TV repair shop. All the phone calls he receives were from people who were (1) angry because their TV was broken, (2) angry because their TV wasn't fixed yet, or (3) angry because their TV was fixed but cost so much. People call customer service because they're upset about something. Many will remain so regardless of how good the customer service is. Using them as a metric for satisfaction makes as little sense as letting the companies rate themselves.

However, if people get good enough cusomer service to remember it long enough to want to tell others publically, then customer service awards sites like The WOW! Awards Website http://www.thewowawards.co.uk/ [thewowawards.co.uk] would at least provide a listing of companies that obtained enough good reports, and one would assume such awards would give the rationale for each case. Hardly comprehensive, but then it'd be simpler to read up on companies in a similar business than try to sort through a long list of variable applicability.

As someone in a "tech support" position ATM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909875)

I just tell my customer.. they called tech support... and if they want customer service... call the billing dept. If they want their problem fixed however.. stay on the line.

Wrong approach (4, Insightful)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909876)

There is no master list of steps. It couldn't be flexible enough to allow excellence. Here's my vague, hand-wavy suggestions:

1: Do a little more than the support contract says you have to. If it's a serious problem, call the customer a couple days after fixing it to see if it's still fixed.

2: Have your support people educated. Flowcharts and checklists for solving common problems are fine, but don't let anybody answer your phone who doesn't understand the product.

3: Don't use your support system as a sales channel. Solve the customer's problem without fobbing more product on them.

4: Don't put a mediocre support person on first-tier phone support because it's "easier" than the levels for more complex problems. First tier interacts with almost everybody who calls in, it's an important job, get somebody good at it.

5: If a support person in the field calls the home office, the office guy drops everything and deals with it. Make sure you support people know this is an option.

6: If possible, have your field support people familiar not just with your products but with your customers' processes. This helps communication. It's a nice perk when your customers are rather homogenous, but probably doesn't matter for something like photocopier repairs.

The best answer (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909879)

The best answer is both simple and complex. As pointed out, better quality equipment would be very helpful, but alas, machines break, it is their nature.

When they break, people are stressed, and quite often they will be trying to get services that they have not or are not really willing to pay for.

Given that these seem universal truths when customer service is required, the best answer is a combination of all answers. Polite and helpful C/S agents who are both knowledgable and able to help customers no matter what the problem is. This ensures a respected and smooth experience.

Second, the technology is now available to make the machines smart enough to know what went wrong, when it went wrong, and what should be done to fix it. (remembering the Load PC Load Letter scene from office space?) They are putting black box type equipment in cars now, so it shouldn't be so difficult to put similar equipment in other machines. Obviously a machine like a desktop PC that is overly customized is difficult to do this right now, but copiers etc. are of fixed function and should marry well to such technology.

Additionally, there are nearly ubiquitous networks that are more than capable of carrying data to and from such equipment despite its location. I'm thinking of the 2-way paging networks. They have good in-building penetration and very large coverage footprints. While they only have about 6kbps bandwidth, this is more than enough for the copier in the break room to tell the service company that the toner is low, and that there have been three incidents of paper stuck in the mechanisms in the last 36 hours, indicating a need for the local tech rep to make a visit.

If its not your copier, perhaps it is refrigeration units that no one pays attention to until the office gets hot... again, very cheap embedded processors coupled to the 2-way paging network will be more than enough bandwidth to allow the service company to keep tabs on the status and health of the equipment that they maintain for you, and give them the ability to call you before it breaks rather than try hard to show up quickly after there is a break down.

Better customer service is about being smart, not simply about charging people for the work you do. Working smarter means making the technology work for you. Its not just about calling them before the equipment breaks (like the dentist will call you to remind you that your 6 month cleaning is due) but think of the value add that this gives your service organization. While you have a tech rep on the south side of the city for a service call, you can make the most of his time and your resources if you are able to schedule other non-failure work around travels that they have to make anyway, reducing wasted miles driven, reducing wasted man-hours, and generally making your service organization more efficient all around because you know what is coming, you know the health of the equipment that you are maintaining, and the relationship between expenditures and salaries etc. is a very real one, done in real time, and predictable over a longer period.

To say that information is power is good, but not accurate, to say that what you do with information is power is closer to the truth. Having the information is the first step, doing the right thing with it will turn your service organization into a world class success.

The answer to technology problems is often enough more technology and better use of it and the information that it can provide.

At least that is my opinion.

Most customers don't want to pay for a higher bar. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909881)

The higher bar for customer service is coming in once a day/week/month running maintenance to prevent problems occurring in the first place. The problem is they don't want to pay for us to come in everyday and check for any problems and fix them while they are small. If they do pay for the service it will not last long when they switch a CFO they will go why do we have a guy looking at the product it never breaks. Alternatively there is also a monthly service agreement where the company pays the service company so much per month and when there is a problem they are there in 1 hour 2 hour 20 minutes or whatever. And will fix the problem without having to pay for replacement parts. The problem is that the better service you want to more you need to pay for. If you want 20 minute service and the company is 15 minutes away you will need to pay a lot of money because when you call they will need to drop whatever they are doing even if it with an other customer to get to your location.

customer satisfaction is satifsying the customer (4, Informative)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909887)

So, this is something studied for years, and companies still don't get it? I guess especially in technical arenas I've seen they really don't, though I can't begin to imagine why not.

It's really about satisfying the customer... treat 'em like they're people, don't lie to them, do any and everything you say you'll do, don't make promises you can't keep.

My best experiences with any support be it on-line, by phone, or in person have little (if anything) to do with final resolution of the problem, but more to do with whether I was treated respectfully. Some of my best "support" experiences have come from people who clearly didn't know the answer to my problem, but knew steps to take to ensure my problem was addressed.

Companies who drive support to "bottom line" criteria are missing the much bigger picture of what an unhappy customer base does to the bottom line. I go out of my way to stay loyal to businesses who care enough to have a relationship with me. On the other, for example, a bank whose exponential growth over the last 10 years has grown at the cost of their local flavor and service has lost me as a customer... I've moved all of my accounts from them to another friendlier local credit union.

Not sure why this is such a hard problem for businesses to solve...

Re:customer satisfaction is satifsying the custome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12910038)

> It's really about satisfying the customer... treat 'em like they're people, don't lie to them, do any and everything you say you'll do, don't make promises you can't keep.

There's a problem with this sentence, and it can be summed up in one word:
Salespeople.

Where I work, we've had the occasion incident where the salesperson told a client our software could do something that (at the time) it couldn't. The feature was in the development pipeline, but no set release date.

The customer (who bought the software because the salesperson told them it did this function) then becomes irate with the support staff who have to tell them that no, the product does *not* do that currently, but it is being worked on.

The salesperson, who by that time has already gotten their commision check, and they are pretty much never in the office anyway, rarely has to take the heat for this. The customer therefore feels that the support provided is poor, and the customer/support relationship gets off to a bad start.

My solution (which I have no power to implement)? The salespeople don't get their commision check until the client states they are satisfied with what they purchased. If the salespeople want to promise features that might not be ready for weeks or months, let them wait on their commision checks. Teach them in a hurry not to promise what can't be delivered when they think it should, rather than when programming can.....

AC, because several of my co-workers read Slashdot.....

Not in my case (1)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909891)

> That is: 'Something breaks, call the repair guy.'

If someone's computer breaks, they usually end up calling me because I'm the "computer expert" who knows more than the store techs, and I work on the barter system. I'm talking neighbors, parents, cousins.

Is that how it usually works anyway? Something breaks and they call the local computer geek in the neighborhood who'll fix it as long as a steady supply of Dr. Pepper is on hand?

Consumer Reports (1, Informative)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909893)

The most recent issue of Consumer Reports gave Apple by far the best scores in customer service for their computers. They got basically double the points of the next best company.

More what? (3, Informative)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909898)

That is: 'Something breaks, call the repair guy.' But customers expect more...

More what exactly? Psychic predictive repair? Technicians dressed as 1950's pop icons? Free balloons for the kids?

Look, it's computer repair. You can talk about making computers more reliable or easier to use, but there's always going to be a need for the "call the repair guy" option. At that point, the customer just wants their computer fixed. Quickly and efficiently, and preferrably cheap or free.

Yes, there are a lot of companies out there who are horrible at computer service, but there are also some good ones as well. The focus needs to be on improving that level of service, not redefining or creating new services.

They want it FIXED. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909909)

They want the broken item FIXED, and fixed QUICKLY. If that is done, then the customers will be happy.

The Best Article... (3, Informative)

Tteddo (543485) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909915)

As a person who has been doing this awhile, the following link was the best article I have ever read on this subject: http://whatexit.org/tal/data/techjob.html/ [whatexit.org]

Ask them. (1)

brinkzor (662950) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909916)

"But customers expect more, and they can't tell us what they expect" Have you tried asking some customers what they expect?

Educating the customer a small bit (1)

empvirus (881998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909919)

In my years of freelancing PC repair, I've found that the customers are more satisfied in knowing exactly what I'm doing. I sort of explain things in their terms a bit.

I don't think there is an answer (1)

badzilla (50355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909928)

You just run up too hard against human nature when you get close to technical support. I know this from my own expectations:

- I want it as cheap as humanly possible and will frequently switch providers the minute I spot the opportunity to save a small amount of money on support costs.

- I want the best experience possible, I want the service tech to fix it even before it breaks but if that's not possible I want expert and friendly service that goes above and beyond the minimum required to provide a basic correction to my problem.

If you know how to reconcile those two then please go right ahead and claim the Nobel Prize for Advances in Customer Service.

Business Process Helps (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909931)

The best support organizations I've run across had well defined customer support processes and made sure that all their employees were on the same page with respect to how the processs worked. Actually a good business process in general can make the difference between a poorly performing business and an excellent one. Of course, you can't just hit amazon up for all their customer support process and business process books -- you also have to understand which processes work best for your particular company. Simply parroting a process without understanding the reasoning behind it will simply add buerocracy to your company and lead to disgruntled employees.

There are quite a few [amazon.com] books on the topic and a bunch more on business process in general. If your company has more than about 60 or 70 people working in it, I'd strongly suggest hiring a process person whose job it is to look at how your company does things, how your company can improve how it does things and to keep an eye on how everyone else in your industry does things so you know if you're doing better or worse than they are. All processes should be documented and accessable to all employees, but there should also be flexibility to go outside the process on the rare occasions when it becomes necessary.

No seriously, AOL (1)

unfortunateson (527551) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909944)

I don't use them myself, but when I've had to help out relations (most of whom I've eventually steered away from the Time Warner Borg service, regardless of the fact that I own stock in them), AOL's customer service has been
(a) prompt to respond -- short hold times
(b) accurate
(c) willing to admit what they do and don't know, and that they have to go ask someone (rather than just, 'hold please'
(d) willing to call back
(e) surprisingly consistent in calling back!

(e) is my biggest pet peeve with my hosting service, by the way.

One other note: helping relations with computer issues is the most thankless job in the world: my mother had me hook up her DSL (jeez, the cartoons on the case the installer disk came in covered everything pretty darn completely), then the painters came and moved everything, and I've had at least three calls which all amount to the #1 item on the tech support tree.

Wait for it.

"Is it plugged in?"

On the other hand, a buddy of mine had me help with some HTML, CSS and CGI stuff, and when I told him my hourly rate, he offered to pay me off in shrimp. Cool!

quite simple. (1)

Heem (448667) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909945)

I expect my vendors to:

Answer the phone. In well spoken and understood english (or whatever the native language is for the region that the hardware was sold)

Respect the fact that I am an experienced system administrator, and I don't need to be told to reboot the machine. Granted, there are people that need to be told that - those customers should be given a different number.

Get me on and off the phone quickly. I'm busy. If you can't get to me right away - thats fine, but maybe you could call me back or even send me an email or IM when you are ready to deal with me.

Expectations (1)

sedyn (880034) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909950)

To be perfectly honest, I think the thing people expect most is an appeal to the pathos.

40 years ago, the easiest way to apply to the pathos was through a uniformed middle-aged employee (in this type of service). Now, it's a lot harder, but still revolves around delievering the same, cookie-cutter perfect image, just with new packaging.

You know, the unwritten requirement of employees to have a smile plastered on their faces while they do any job. No matter how difficult or frustrating.

Take computers for example, the average person can't look under the hood. All they can do is see and feel the responses of the interface. So services like spyware and virus removal don't really have to be complete, they just have to remove the signs a person can see.

Now as for competent customers, the only appeal one could make is to the logos. Which means having informed people working for them.

In either case, the thing people want the most is good sales people. We want good, quick (thinking and acting) people when the shit hits the fan.

Expect no service but lip service and marketing (2, Interesting)

anagama (611277) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909955)

How about companies that use technology to track whether you are a customer and haven't paid your bill, but can't get their system to work? It's the non-customer who pays (either time or money). Case in point, 3.5 years ago I cancelled my AT&T phone service. Yesterday, I had to deal with them billing me the final bill yet again. Last summer, and the summer before, and other times as well, I've been told that the problem is permanently corrected and I won't have any more problems. Yeah right, I'm keeping my copy the cancled check for $12.27 dated January 16, 2002.

At the end of my hourlong session on the phone, the lady then asked:

Can I interest you in our phone ...

At which point I cut her off stating I was a life-long non-customer of AT&T based on this experience. Then she launched right into:

How about broadband ....

At which point I said again something like: "I'll never ever even consider AT&T - I want you guys to delete me from your DB completely, don't just flag me as closed. Never call me, never send me mail, don't email ... don't even think about me!'

The lady on the phone actually giggled when I said "don't even think about me!"

I'm sure I'll get to reuse the joke next summer when the AT&T bills start coming again (I ignore them and wait for the calls to start -- I figure it costs AT&T more money that way).

Re:Expect no service but lip service and marketing (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910015)

Hand the check and bills to the local AG and your PUC. Let them drop the hammer on their hands for screwing up this badly.

Re:Expect no service but lip service and marketing (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910044)

In my opening tirade, I did mention the Consumer Protection Division of our state AG's office. Next time around, I will do something like that -- after sending AT&T a corresponding bill for my time (I'm a lawyer -- it'll be a lot more than $12.27).

"Raising the bar (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909964)

and then in a deadly, powerful stroke, bash the customer's head. With proficiency, the experienced CSA [customer service associate] only needs to deliver only one blow." -- From Hewlett-Packard's customer service handbook.

Hmmm (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909989)

"I've searched the net for three days now, ...... Can anyone point me toward some sources?"

The library?

Library: {
  1. A place in which literary and artistic materials, such as books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, prints, records, and tapes, are kept for reading, reference, or lending.
  2. A collection of such materials, especially when systematically arranged.
  3. A room in a private home for such a collection.
  4. An institution or foundation maintaining such a collection.
}

A good book on the subject... (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909997)

Customer Service for Dummies (ISBN: 0764552090, find at your favorite bookstore) is a good book on customer service, deals mostly with face to face interaction than at an organizational level. However it's those little things that count mostly. Find it and see!

know when to say when (1)

DuctTape (101304) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910009)

Especially if you work for a small company, having a tech know when to say when is a Good Thing. My adventure with our tech here [slashdot.org] gives a kind of nightmare condition where their zeal and exuberance can actually be a detriment.

The response to that post said it well (and I repeat it here if you don't want to hit the link):

A famous general once said that there are four types of people:
(1) The lazy and smart kind, like him.. These are the thinkers and the leaders.
(2) The lazy and stupid kind. These are the grunts, the soldiers, the factory workers. The world is mostly these kind and the world needs them. They are valuable.
(3) The smart and hardworking kind. These people are the glue that bind organizations together and make civilization function. They are the lieutenants, managers and designers, the people who push things forward.
(4) But beware, said the general, of the fourth kind, the stupid and hardworking man. For he shall certainly be the death of you.

Oh yeah.

DT

I think its just the whole attitude in IT (2, Insightful)

manavendra (688020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910026)

maybe it's one of my pet peeves now, but i think being short, rude, couldnt-care-less attitude is the norm in IT:
  1. You go down to PCWorld, and the reps there try to brush you off with the tersest replies they can muster. Worse is the look in their eyes if you ask them something and you can almost see the smirk twirling around their lips as they answer you. Which is wiped only when you trash their whole theory that I should buy a PC, when you tell them how you checked the motherboard and concluded its the SMPS that's busted
  2. Countless software vendors I've worked with in the past have had the same attitude - 'dude, its your problem.'. Until you send them a log of their own software falling over itself every two minutes, or how it encountered an 'unexpected situation' and keeps writing a wierd error message in the logs.
  3. Not that I'm dyed-in-wool. I'm currently working for a company recently acquired by Micromuse, and they mess their customers around as soon as they receive the PO. The sheer infighting and the jealousy kills any scope of friendliness and care for the customer. Little wonder the customers turn nasty
I don't think that people have woken up to the fact that buying a software is so unlike buying hardware. If its faulty or doesn't work, the hardware may be repaired or exchanged, while in software, they just mess you around, till you either threaten to sue them, or worse still, get your money back, return their software and lose your precious time

comparing desktop sales (1)

SlartibartfastJunior (750516) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910027)

I am looking to buy several low-end desktops for my (small) library. I figured I'm probably best off doing something out-of-the-box, so I call Dell, Apple, and Gateway.

Dell: LONG phone tree, but I reach a really helpful guy who gets me what I want and sends me an email quote. The email was basically a long chart of the various features available and what prices they would add to upgrade.

Apple: short phone tree, but I have to talk with a hippie. Helpful, but not at all professional. Also sends me an email, but this consists of text like 40G/288Ghz/E/mes/10.1 . . . no explanations of what these numbers mean, if I didn't already know what was measured in Ghz and what was in K.

Gateway: four phone calls over two days got me four different individual's voicemails, and nobody called me back. I went to the "chat online" function and got a rep who gave me another number - another voicemail. Great. Tried to send feedback to the website that their service sucks, but it won't accept feedback without a purchase number, which I don't have because they won't talk to me. When I finally do get ahold of a rep, he wouldn't listen when I explained what I needed, and kept trying to upsell me to something more expensive. He said he'd send an email, but it hasn't come yet.

So who do you think is out of the running? If Gateway would have only talked to me, they would have probably gotten my business, but as it is I'm going to pay a bit more to go with a company that has a government & educational department that is a bit more with it.

Listen! Ask! Do!!! (1)

ShortBeard (740119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910029)

These are what I use to make the customer happy. Althought I can't stess enough that one should also COMMUNICATE!

I base the previous on a Roman Catholic premise (no, I am not a christian). What is Hell? Well if that's a little vague to answer then let us ask "What is purgatory?". Well Dictionary.com says:

purgatory
n 1: a temporary condition of torment or suffering; "a purgatory of drug abuse" 2: (theology) in Roman Catholic theology the place where those who have died in a state of grace undergo limited torment to expiate their sins


So what is the difference between Hell and Purgatory? Knowing! If you know you are in Purgatory then you know it will end.

Now in Hell I don't think you would be told where you were. You would not know. That is what Hell is, not knowing!

So let 'em know! Be Dependable. Be timely. And for the love of the customer be like Horton the Elephant who "Says what he does and does what he says".

You don't have to hear a Who or lay an egg, those activities are optional.

Make communication job one (1)

BDZ (632292) | more than 9 years ago | (#12910072)

I think the most important thing you can do to stand head and shoulders above most repair and tech services is to simply communicate. What does this mean? First, and most importantly, return calls and emails immediately. Nothing worse than not hearing back from your vendor or service for days after leaving multiple messages. Actually, this is really true for almost any business. It seems less and less people can be bothered to return calls. Secondly, don't treat the client like an idiot, even if he is. Take a little time to explain what you are doing/did/going to do in non-techie speech if necessary. People like to be kept in the loop when they are footing the bill usually, and no one likes to be treated like an idiot. And remember no one is an expert on all subjects in life. Ever deal with a mechanic/plumber/contractor who talked down to you and got angry at your innocent questions? Thirdly, when you bill, give a rundown on what you did. Not just "fixed the problem" -- $500. People like to know what they've paid for. Finally, remember the saying (I think it originated in Japan?) that the customer is god. Doesn't mean you need to kiss up. Simply that you should be respectful. All together, these things will make for happy clients who will use you again and tell others about how you are better than your competitors. -BDZ
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