Dear Service Provider #poorservice

So I decided to post a little something to help our wonderful service providers across the world because apparently it seems that logic is lost in translation wherever you are when dealing with the 10th wonder of the world that is the service desk. My rant has to do with an experience I had with my current service provider BT. Now most of the information below is a generalization and is not targeted at BT but it can’t hurt to mention it anyway.

Thus, I’ll give you a brief explanation in an effort to compress the story, get to the point and to fit it in to the proverbial nutshell so to speak… BT upgraded our package but failed to upgrade our TV add-on (included in package –> to make if clear to those who are struggling with this concept as BT seemed to) which was (I kid you not) exactly same price as the previous add-on at the time. The benefit of this new option was the 20 extra channels and the reason we could now benefit from the updated add-on was because of the extra bandwidth we had from upgrading our package to a faster connection. That’s right, we upgraded our package which one would assume generally meant we upgraded everything in the package including the add-ons or so we assumed…

Lo and behold, our service provider protested when we contacted them to query why this part of our package was not upgraded. They refused to upgrade it and would not include it in our current contract with the company. No…instead they justified the fact that we had to order upgrades to add-ons of the package individually and offered to start a separate contract at a higher rate for a further 18 months. Apparently the upgrades team (because BT needs a department for each function apparently) was too inept at the time to use words to educate its customers about how add-ons which formed part of the package (I reiterate the package part again) were meant to be upgraded individually.

Needless to say, we were not happy with this and the she-bear promptly decided to escalate to a supervisor after wasting time debating the flawed logic of the system with the fledgling 1st tier service team who were flapping around aimlessly spouting contractual terms. Fortunately the supervisor was able to think outside the box instead of following the generic service templates used to herd clients like cattle through the system and provided us with a solution that accommodated our needs. In the end, we got what we wanted but it could have been a much more pleasant experience on the whole. Perhaps a few pointers are in order…

You are doing it wrong when you:

  • Spout contractual terms when telling a client that the service provided falls within an acceptable medium in terms of what is legally expected. Do you really think that’s going to help…
  • Try to manage the client’s complaint or problem without learning the history of the current issue you are dealing with. Nothing makes people more upset than having to repeat themselves 50 times
  • Try to misdirect the client because you think they are ignorant. Sure, sometimes you can get away with it but you risk a bigger problem than you initially had when you get caught red-handed
  • Ignore the client, hang up on them and hope they will go way. You may as well go agitate a bee hive then
  • Hire incompetent staff, fail provide them with inadequate training and then use them as a scape goat because that’s the clients problem
  • Dodge your responsibilities by closing a lodged complaint without resolution. You are sure that the client was hallucinating at the time. Checking if a customer is satisfied may result in you actually having to deal with the problem
  • Respond to an issue and then forget / fail to follow-up for days on end. Let’s face it, the majority of the time, the problem magically resolves itself. No…you are still doing it wrong you tool
  • Make it as difficult as possible to escalate a complaint when a client is absolutely irate with the service they have received. Nothing is better than watching a client chase their tail while they try to demand assistance from someone who can’t make a decision
  • Train your first tier staff to be complete and utterly mindless drones who have the EQ of “Eeyore the donkey”. Have them read a 10 line questionnaire with prompts. Then enforce this as standard practice with the belief that it will address 99% of all problems raised with the service desk and hope the remaining 1% gets figured out on the fly as long as it doesn’t become managements problem

What you should be doing:

  • When a company first provides a client with a service, it creates a standard and an expectation that the customer becomes used to. That is the standard you need to maintain. Learn to manage your clients expectations and be consistent with the service you offer
  • Treating each interaction with your client as if it’s the first time you are trying to sell your expertise or the business service you represent
  • Provide the service desk with a way to quickly retrieve a clients history of the current problem and try to avoid having to ask the client to repeatedly tell you what the problem is. You are just aggravating the situation
  • Don’t treat clients like imbeciles. Try to disclose as much as you safely can and use the information that the client gives you as much as possible. If they sound like they know what they are talking about then the general rule of thumb is that they usually do. Use that information to expedite resolution if possible
  • Never ignore your client…period…The service desk shouldn’t be in that position where a client is so upset that the thought of hiding from them would lead to a more positive outcome
  • Hire qualified staff and if you do hire staff that may not be as skilled as you would like them to be then make sure you have a training program in place to expedite the required skill set
  • Rather play it safe and always check that your client is satisfied before assuming it’s OK to close tickets. Enough said…no one should have to explain that
  • Provide clear channels of escalation both internally and externally to people who can make authoritative decisions. Empower 1st and 2nd line service teams to make judgement calls to placate clients within reason. Always make sure there is someone on hand that has service management experience if need be and don’t make it hard to escalate
  • FYI…Generally the most frustration a client experiences is at the first tier of communication and support within an organization. This is not necessarily due to incompetence but the lack of empowerment, training, product knowledge or internal support structure. Build a good foundation in service areas clients frequently have access to and you’ll have happy customers

Come on guys…It’s really not that hard and all you have to do is look at it from the customer’s perspective. Deal with the problem and find the middle ground between what the company can provide and what the client believes is fair. It’s not black and white and there is always a solution that works for both parties. At the end of the day we are the cash cows that fund the business and there is only so much abuse that a customer will take before they fight back. Remember customer retention is better than customer acquisition.


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