January 29, 2014

Technically correct, the worst kind of correct

This is an article I posted previously on my personal blog, but that really should live here. A while back my wife returned to a local kitchen goods store, toddler and pre-schooler in tow. She wanted to ask about repairs on a Thermos bottle which had a broken lid (the bottles come with a decent warranty).

The store owner immediately (and in a none-too-friendly way) told her that “the warranty doesn’t cover child damage” and that she wouldn’t take the bottle back to even check on the warranty. Now it turns out she was correct, the lid isn’t covered by the warranty. Which is understandable and not a problem.

The real problem was that being correct was the least important part of the transaction. What she should have done was to say “I don’t think they will cover that, I’m sorry, but they do sell replacement lids and bases and I can order those in for you right now”. Which is what we eventually did ourselves.

So now we won’t go back there, and my wife will tell this story to any number of potential local customers. This scenario could play out many times during your own support processes, especially when you are not face to face with a customer (and can’t tell as easily when they are unhappy).

Getting beyond technically correct

Being correct is important; the friendliest, most helpful response will still cause problems if it isn’t accurate. It just isn’t enough to churn out the correct answer.

Give your customer the answer they asked for, and be sure it is accurate

Go back and look at what they asked, and how they worded it, then consider what they might want to achieve. You can sometimes explicitly ask people what their end goal is, so you can help them better.

Offer additional resources or alternatives that will help them reach that end goal

They may not have considered alternative options to get the same result. Consider searching for and providing the answer even when it is outside of your own service (for example, looking at support forums for plugins or even competing products.

I’ve personally had success with that last option. We have people coming to us at Campaign Monitor for something we don’t provide, and I’ve let people know about other tools that can do what they need. It’s a win for the customer and next time they are deciding which product to use they’ll remember who truly helped them.

Being merely correct doesn’t make for happy (or even satisfied) customers on its own.