Tips for getting good customer support 25 May 2005
68 comments Latest by Prashant Patnaik
There are plenty of suggestions out there for providing great customer support, but there’s not much that I’ve seen on how to get great customer support. Part of being a great customer is the inevitable interaction with a customer support person when something goes wrong or when you have a question.
Being on the receiving end for thousands of support and customer service requests (I do the bulk of the customer support for Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da list) I’ve learned a thing or two about how you should go about putting a customer support request together. How you communicate has a lot to do with how your request is handled. Here are some tips:
- Remember there’s a human on the other end. It doesn’t matter if the customer support rep is here, there, in India, wherever, they’re still human. Treat them with dignity and respect. Their sole purpose is to help you so be kind and thank them in advance for their assistance. The nicer you are the nicer they’ll be in response — this is simple human nature.
- Don’t assume your request will be ignored. I’m always surprised by the number of people who start or end their email with “No one will probably see this, but…” Don’t assume that. It devalues the request, starts the exchange off on a negative, and puts the support agent on the defensive.
- Don’t start with a threat. “Do this immediately or else…” or “If you don’t do this I’ll report you to the Better Business Bureau” or “If you don’t do that I’m going to report this to my bank and other authorities” or “If you don’t respond within 4 hours you’ll be hearing from my lawyer…” It’s not uncommon to hear this on the first email from people. I don’t know if folks assume you are out to get them or they’ve been burned before, but starting with a threat never helps your cause. Given the choice to help two people, the customer service person is naturally going to help who appears easiest to help first. Plus, people will do more for others who are kind to them than they will for someone sounding bitter and dismissive right from the start.
- Provide useful, descriptive, relevant information. This can be a tough one since people don’t always know what’s relevant, but think it through before you send your support request. If you are having trouble logging in, don’t just say “I can’t login. Any ideas?” Instead say “Whenever I try to login, the login screen just reloads without an error message. I know my username and password is correct. Any ideas? Thanks.” That extra bit of information will help considerably and will reduce the number of back-and-forth emails between you and the support person.
- Don’t write overly detailed, wordy support requests. The longer your email the more of a burden it puts on the customer support person. They have to read the entire thing (I’ve seen simple support requests balloon into two printed pages), sift through to find what’s meaningful, and spend more time figuring out exactly what’s wrong. Since they’re trying to help you, you want to reduce their burden. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to help you. So, be clear, concise, and brief. More words often confuses instead of clarifies the issue. Save the wordiness for the thank you email once the problem has been solved.
I hope this is helpful. Just as customer support folks need to learn to provide great customer support, customers need to learn how to be great customers. Got any others? Got any tips for getting better support?