I’ve recently had two notable customer service experiences. One was awesome, the other was autrocious. Both are worth sharing as a lesson for businesses that engage in customer service.
The amazing customer service experience I recently had was delivered by Apple’s MobileMe.
For some time I had been experiencing a problem with syncing failures between my desktop iCal calendar and the calendars on the MobileMe web site and my iPhone. I had spent a considerable amount of time self-troubleshooting the problem using Apple’s online support documentation, and I had failed to resolve it. By the time I chose to engage with the chat-based support of MobileMe, I was borderline irate. In fact, I was actively researching alternatives to MobileMe.
It didn’t take the MobileMe support technician, Nicholas C, long to cool me down, however. After he read my brieft rant about all the time I’d spent on the matter already, he replied: “I really appreciate the insight to the issue and im sure we can get this up and running as it should.” As simple a reply as it was, I found it reassuring. He didn’t dismiss my efforts, was able to see past my somewhat rude mannerisms, and he approached the problem with positivity.
Throughout our hour-long session, in fact, Nicholas punctuated our chat with statements like, “Awesome, you’re doing great Andrew,” and, “you did great.” I consider myself an advanced Mac user, and many of the troubleshooting tasks he had me perform were mundane. However, the simple fact that Nicholas was recognizing the time and effort I was investing into the process was satisfying.
Nicholas worked with me through Apple’s online documentation twice, but he was not able to resolve my issue this way either. At this point, I asked him: “should I just cry now? ;-)” He replied: “please no tears, i dont want to give up. This is pretty different though… lease give me a moment to research this for us… I want to see what im missing or waht else can be done”
I like how he recognized that the situation was now unusual, and also that he referred to “us,” recognizing the fact that we were working together on the matter. I’ve never experienced that before during a tech support session. Typically a support technician has difficulty disassociating him or herself from the role as a representative of their employer. This can lead to adversarial discussions when the technician becomes defensive of the company’s product or service. Instead, Nicholas adopted a tone of advocacy, and that had a tremendous reassuring effect on me.
In fact, despite the fact that this technical problem with MobileMe was consuming a tremendous amount of my time, Nicholas’ ability to openly recognize my interests and communicate a commitment to collaboratively resolving my problems overcame my anger at the technical failure of the MobileMe service itself. And by creatively problem-solving with me, effectively reaching a resolution, my chagrin was turned to gratitude and I left our session with a renewed faith in the MobileMe service.
Nicholas closed our chat session by saying, “i really appreciate your patience working with me,” and I believe he honestly meant it.
Now compare that to an abysmal customer service experience I recently received from the web business services company, Business Catalyst (aka Good Barry).
In a nutshell, a variety of company representatives including several members of the executive team, stonewalled my efforts at communication for over 7 weeks. I won’t go into great detail on this matter, but suffice to say that I was attempting to rectify a minor billing matter with the account of a not-for-profit client. For some reason, however, the accounts team, the sales team, and the executive team opted to completely ignore my repeated email and Twitter requests for assistance.
When I finally announced my client’s departure from the Good Barry hosting environment as a result of the poor customer service I’d received, one of their team invited me to email him regarding the issue. I did. Not surprisingly, he failed to respond.
I finally received an email with a resolution to my problem the other day — a full two months after I’d first made a request regarding it. There was no apology for the delay, no recognition of the tremendous amount of time that I’d invested in seeking to have a simple matter dealt with; just a simple email with an explanation of the action that had been taken.
Ironically, Business Catalyst provides a suite of web-based tools that promise to enhance customer service for online businesses. My experience suggests that more than software is required for a positive outcome to a customer’s concerns. More valuable are people within an organization who take a genuine interest in them.
With MobileMe, I started my customer service experience ready to move on. Thanks to Nicholas, my commitment to MobileMe is instead renewed (as will be my account later this year).
Back in January when I began my efforts to resolve my issue with Business Catalyst, I had lined up several clients to subscribe to their service and was on the verge of investing in the company as a resale partner. I’ve since placed those clients elsewhere and am now sworn off dealing with this company in any manner at all.
When I deal with clients, I act transparently and place their interests ahead of my own in the relationship. Clients and customers are the reason for any business’ existence, and it’s absolutely important that they remain satisfied with the business’ service, feel recognized, respected, and compelled to maintain the relationship.
Apple recently made me feel valuable and wanted while Business Catalyst silently expressed a preference to have me go away. I hope that me own efforts in customer service fall on the former end of that effect spectrum and never the latter.