Support me not

Cartoon: https://dilbert.com/

I recently received the response below from a company that provides me with network services. They are a great crew and good at what they do – this is not a pop at them, and I recommend them whenever I can.

From: XXXX Networks - Support [mailto:support@XXXXX.com]
Sent: 26 April 2021 11:09
To: XXXX XXXXX
Subject: [SUPPORT #NO OO1-245-12394]: Redirecting domain


Hi,

It looks as if there was a stuck process on our Name Server which only updated xxxxxxxxxxx.com and not xxxxxxxxxxx.co.uk, I have now corrected this and you should see the IP change shortly.

Thank you

Ticket Details [yada yada yada]

On the face of it a decent response – no ?

But notice a couple of things:

No human signature

Out of curiosity I checked back and found that the support team rarely sign support responses. From my perspective as the customer, it leaves me with an odd feeling that they don’t want to be identified and a vague worry as to why not.

I run a support team and I can appreciate that with modern systems the person who deals with the case at this stage might not be available in ten minutes to handle the next part of it, so it makes good sense to avoid locking a case into a specific support team member. But heading that issue off is more about support team discipline and traffic management. I also know it’s a safe bet that the support team can see in their support systems case log who responded, so there is no disadvantage from their side in not giving a signature.

But from the customers perspective, not giving a name on the response leaves me feeling disconnected. Are you real or are you a bot? And that diminishes the value they have built in our relationship by having given me great support.

Put another way, “Great artists put their names against their work because they’re proud to have produced it – why can’t you?”

‘Should’ versus ‘Will’

The use of the word ‘should’ feels loaded. It leaves me considering the probability of the outcome being a fix, or a further issue. Did they really fix it or are they unsure themselves? If they don’t know what the hell do I do next?

The rule is very simple – if you believe you fixed the issue then say so and state the facts. Use ‘will’ not ‘should’. If you cannot be certain then explain why and the mitigation around any uncertainty.

Acknowledge early

Whilst this is not specifically related to the email we’re looking at, I’ll mention it because this is another simple win.

Acknowledgement is a simple thing – just send a response saying ‘working on it, back soon’. That tells me that my cry for help has been received. The experts are on it, the lifeboat is coming, etc.

Contrast this with the lack of an acknowledgement. I sit and wonder, I send another follow up, I call the support line, I fret, I look up the SLA ready to complain, I start an email in which the first paragraph includes the words ‘lamentably slow response’.

So do the easy, and the right thing, and send a human response as soon as you get into a case, even if you have to prioritise it a few hours away – say that. Even if you have to pass it on to a colleague – say so. Don’t keep your customers in the dark or you chip away at their confidence, even if you fix every issue promptly.

Summary

In his book ‘Don’t make me think’ Steve Krug (http://www.sensible.com/ ) talks about a customer having a ‘pot of good will’ toward a supplier, and that every frustration along the way reduces the pot, it cannot be recovered, and when it reaches low enough even the most ardent champion for your cause will be heading to your competition and telling their buddies about it all.

So when you don’t sound confident, the pot of good will reduces. When you don’t acknowledge me early, same. And when you don’t treat me with the courtesy of a human signature, more goes. It doesn’t matter that your support is great – you are still losing this fan.

Bear this in mind when you are working on support.

Thanks for reading.

VW July 2021

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