Feb 222007

Joel Spolsky over at Joel on Software has a great article on how to provide remarkable customer service. He provides seven eight steps that, if you are able to implement them, will ensure you are providing remarkable customer service. And he means remarkable literally — “the goal is to provide customer service so good that people remark.

The one that really caught my attention was #2, “Suggest blowing out the dust“.

Microsoft’s Raymond Chen tells the story of a customer who complains that the keyboard isn’t working. Of course, it’s unplugged. If you try asking them if it’s plugged in, they will get all insulted and say indignantly, ‘Of course it is! Do I look like an idiot?’ without actually checking.

Instead, Chen suggests, say ‘Okay, sometimes the connection gets a little dusty and the connection gets weak. Could you unplug the connector, blow into it to get the dust out, then plug it back in?’

They will then crawl under the desk, find that they forgot to plug it in (or plugged it into the wrong port), blow out the dust, plug it in, and reply, ‘Um, yeah, that fixed it, thanks.’

And here is the point:

Many requests for a customer to check something can be phrased this way. Instead of telling them to check a setting, tell them to change the setting and then change it back just to make sure that the software writes out its settings.

I have been on both ends of that conversation. But it is easy when I am on the ‘help desk side’ to unconsciously make the folks at the other end of the phone feel like they are idiots for know knowing ‘the obvious’.

The other seven points are just as good or better, #1, “Fix everything two ways“, in other words, fix the immediate problem and also fix it so the problem does not come up again.

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