There are many theories about great customer service. Certainly it is the core focus of many organisations, and although the cliché is that traditionally it does not include the IT industry (picture the arrogant, dismissive IT guy spouting technical jargon), nowadays any IT company worth its salt must have a strong focus on customer service. A great company also extends this ethos to how its staff interact with each other.
So…if customer service is such a fundamental element of an IT company why is it that when a customer tells the vendor that something is wrong, the following invariably occurs:
1. The customer wants to show the vendor how the product or service they have provided is not up to scratch
2. The vendor focusses on trying to find something that shows the customer how it wasn’t their product or service at fault, it is something else
This typical blame-game behavior is dysfunctional and will lose customers, or erode working relationships.
“Hang on!” you say, “if it’s not us, the customer needs to know that!”
Even if the vendor is correct and the issue is not the product or service failing, the manner in which this is identified, communicated and then resolved can potentially result in a terrible outcome if not handled in the correct manner – the customer then finds someone else they like more and moves their business. Or if a similar situation happens internally, a person gets passed over for a promotion because the management team don’t like working with them.
Why? Because we (humans):
1. Want to interact with people we like
2. Have fragile egos and hate being embarrassed.
Is this not you? Really? Sorry, you’re kidding yourself.
How many times have you gone to a store, and spoken to an arrogant or dismissive salesperson who made you feel silly or dumb – even just a little bit? How does that make you feel? Do you want to reward that person with your business, even if they have the most knowledge?
Nope! It’s because you’ve decided that you don’t like the person, because they embarrassed you. This may not be front of mind, but in my opinion it’s true either way. And the nature of human beings is that once you do that, your mindset shifts from being an advocate, to wanting to see them fail.
Let’s bring the clichéd IT person back again. In my experience, there are many IT people that relish proving themselves right by proving others wrong. It exists at all levels – tech, admin, management, you name it. Even just subtly, it all adds up to the thing in the back of your mind saying “You know, I don’t really like that person.” You may not even be able to put a finger on one particular event but they all combine to form an overall impression. If every time I speak to you I don’t feel great afterwards, I’m going to want to find a way to not have to deal with you.
So my advice is to really think about the situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. They probably don’t have the same amount of knowledge as you on the subject – but that’s why they’re working with you. Find a way to break down the jargon and resolve a situation that keeps all egos intact, no one embarrassed, and the problem solved. Be humble, and when outlining someone’s mistake, work out a way to do it without making them feel an idiot. I find the best method is to acknowledge the evidence they provided that made them draw the conclusion that they came to. For example: “I can understand how you thought it was the software, with the screen not responding that would absolutely be a logical conclusion. The information you provided me has enabled me to look deeper into the issue and subsequently resolve it. In the end, the webserver was overloaded which slowed the software down. Thanks very much for the information you provided, it enabled us to solve the problem more quickly.”
When wanting to succeed, all that matters in the end is the perception others have of you. Results are only part of the picture. I’ve heard many times that you can either go through life being right, or you can go through life being successful. Take your pick.