Working in customer support at IT companies for the last four years, I have three general tenets I honor while working with customers:
- Treat People as People
- Make Customers Lives Easier
- Make it Fun
These tenants mean you treat your customer like a human being with real feelings and real needs. You respect their business and personal needs while holding empathy in your conversations. Also remember that they really need to get home and have a life outside of work. We spend more time at work then we do with our families and friends, so I want my customers to have an enjoyable a time experience working with me at an attempt to not to take work home. That is a job well done in my book.
Although our communication methods are increasingly digital and less in-person, it is imperative that you learn how to connect with customers digitally. Create rapport by asking questions about her personal life (that doesn’t dive into the nitty-gritty), tell a PC “dad” joke, etc. Small talk is a dying art though it is perfect for establishing relationship. I highly respect pre-sales folks that are conversant in pleasant small talk; they more often times win the sale than the aggressive, bullish sales rep.
In technology, it is just a matter of when something will break, not if. Have you ever accidentally deleted your music library or your computer crashed without a backup? The twitch in my eye remains from when my computer malfunctioned without a backup and I had to no data from which to restore. Terrible. For post sales support (such as myself), the relationship becomes absolutely critical when something breaks. Customers, and people in general, want to know why the critical incident occurred. The relationship becomes the cornerstone of relaying bad news and the “why” it happened. In my experience, telling a customer about a 3 hour network outage with no “why” leads to churn and a negative experience that could be displayed over social media. This event may even snowball into a negative social media bandwagon and it needs to be put to addressed immediately. Not explaining the “why” corrodes trust from the customer and reinforces negative behavior. For example, they might start calling in more often to test your engineers knowledge or start picking fights on billing issues. It is better to tell the customer as much information as you can, without giving away proprietary information (and EVERY company has proprietary information no matter your “transparency-related” core value) so their rational and emotional sides of the brain can connect and empathize with you as you deliver this bad news. I have found that most who have worked in IT understand when something unfortunate happens; the key is what are you, as a service provider, going to do next to prevent it from happening again and restore the customer’s trust.
Ultimately, this philosophy bridges the overwhelmingly large chasm between “just another vendor” and “vendor relationship.” If you have a relationship with your customer, he will be more likely to understand when an unfortunate event happens, your company has a restructure, or your prices change. Building relationships with your customers leads to more of a friend-like relationship, which is the sweet spot of customer service.