It’s way too easy to imagine a system so perfect that every tiniest detail is carefully tailored and fussed over, where every member of the team flawlessly carries out their job, where every piece of the selling puzzle is perfectly sliding into place, where every brochure, web site, catalogue and leaflet is so carefully crafted and designed that it needs no further explanation. It’s easy… but unfortunately reality is often quite different.
In the best possible world customers would never need help: every bit of their experience would be perfect, from the initial contact to the final handshake. Perfection is very easy to imagine, but painfully impossible to achieve. Therefore you know that there’ll be some slight problem, some huge disaster, some mild but unexpected bug in your system, some stupid but unavoidable hiccup. You already know that somebody, somewhere will make a mistake. And that’s why customer care exists: to fail better.
But it’s extremely important to understand that making a mistake doesn’t necessarily equal failure: if we perceive every customer asking for help as a failure, we end up developing a moody and defensive approach that will lead us into passive-aggressive behaviors. On the other hand, attaining a positive and relaxed attitude can help the customer care team in a number of different ways.
1. You already know customer care mistakes are coming, so train to get rid of ‘em.
Knowing in advance that mistakes are unavoidable allows the customer care team to prepare for them, both technically and psychologically.
For example, you can invest ahead and develop a strong and in-depth knowledge base, filled to the brim with previously solved problems and most frequent issues. Even better, you can also prepare an effective strategy to both solve the problem AND delight the customer, keeping close at hand that PDF tutorial, discount coupon or replacement item that (you already know) is going to be needed soon…
2. Laugh at your customer care mistakes with customers (and avoid hearing them laughing behind your back)
No point in getting angry: everyone makes mistakes. And although customers will be understandably mad at you, the situation will be much more easy to handle if you keep your head clear of any passive-aggressive feeling and your voice free of that unattractive snap. By letting customers vent their anger, and being able to deeply empathize with their concerns, your team will not only sound more direct and human, but they’ll also solve the problem in a fraction of the time. And without any screaming contest going on.
3. Make mistakes, learn from them, get rid of the body.
It might sound cheesy, but making real customer care mistakes is actually the only way you have to learn something, correct it and make every customer point of contact better. Reality is too complex to be carefully planned out, even in the most detailed product development strategy: as soon as your product finally hits the road and people start to use it for real, they are bound to discover the most atrocious and unexpected fallacies in it… and to bitterly complain about them. And that’s where your customer care team will become your product development’s most trusted ally.
A request for help from a customer doesn’t necessary mean there has been a failure, that there’s somebody to blame, or that the product is constitutionally buggy. It simply means that somewhere, within the terribly complex relationship between you and your customer, there was friction that needed to be better oiled. But that friction can quickly become an incredible advantage, just like in true life relationships.
Think about it this way: without mistakes there’ll be no need for customer care (and you’ll save a bunch of money, all right)… but there also won’t be any customer engagement, any up-selling opportunity, any product development. At all.
To develop the best attitude about it you should stop perceiving help requests as failures and start considering them as truly great opportunities.