I won’t tell you not to deliver a steak to an airport or spend 11 hours on the phone with a single customer. Those are real stories, but they’re also more about marketing than about service. Customer service is what happens to all the other people hanging on the phone while that one customer is chatting away.
When businesses set up well-designed systems, they can deliver customer support that’s high quality, repeatable and scalable. When asked, customers say that respecting their time is the most important thing a company can do.
Hold on just a second, I need to delight you
In fact, the smoother we make customer support, the more loyal customers become. Smooth support means that there is no unnecessary excitement, there are no hurdles to overcome, and agents don’t need to order flowers to say sorry for the mess. For many customer support teams, smooth support is exactly what they are empowered to provide, every day.
When we get out of our customer’s way, they become the heroes in their own story.
Often the stories we hear are on the extreme ends of customer service. Either the PR team is working overtime to share breathlessly exciting stories of agents going above and beyond the call of duty, or customers are complaining about the gross negligence of their credit card company. Neither of these examples is the gold standard of customer support.
And so, today, we bring you five stories of customer support where the agent simply did their job and got the customer back to work, without the dramatics. No one had to jump tall buildings in a single bound, there were no egregious overtime violations, and customers simply got exactly what they needed.
Try to stay awake, folks.
Illuminate Education answers a question
Matt Dale, VP of Customer Support at Illuminate Education, knows that their clients don’t need any extra excitement in their day. He shared a story where their team’s thorough training kept things moving along smoothly:
One of our clients called in with an issue creating district-wide testing rosters for our online testing product. They were looking for something a bit out of the ordinary; one school site in the district wanted the test hidden from students until their test date but the other sites needed access to the test beforehand. Kristi, one of our newer support agents, took the call.
Relying on her training in getting to the heart of the issue, she quickly determined what the client was trying to do. Kristi searched the help documents and found one that outlined a potential solution. After checking with a colleague to make sure that her response made sense, she responded to the client. In the follow-up ticket that was created as a result of the phone call, she shared the applicable help document with the client. The client gave a thumbs up on the CSAT and Kristi moved on to her next call.
Because Kristi had received thorough training during her onboarding and Illuminate Education has a thorough and up-to-date help center, the customer got exactly the answer they needed. By using the systems that had been set up for her, Kristi was able to do her job effectively and got a thumbs up from the customer for doing so.
The entirely ordinary secrets to success:
A well-written and maintained knowledge base
Thorough training for every new agent
Systems that automatically set up agents for success
Health insurance provider makes account update
Usually, a phone call to a traditional industry like an insurance company gets my heart beating a little faster, ready for some conflict. I often have to get up the courage to call, knowing that there will be a fight (usually involving the exclamation “A fax machine? In 2019? Seriously?”). However, if I was looking for excitement, I was calling the wrong company last Thursday. Here’s my story:
I called up my health insurance company to update the address on file, using the phone number listed on their website. After a brief welcome recording, I was prompted to push 2 to update my account information. An agent answered after the second ring, asked me for my account number, name, and date of birth for verification. He took my new address down, thanked me for calling, and I went back to making dinner. I received my next statement in the mail at my new address.
The snooze-worthy secrets to success:
A well-staffed team that didn’t leave me on hold
Agents who have the tools to do their job
Following through on the requested task the very first time
SmugMug simply does the Thing
Oliver Williams, Support Hero at SmugMug, likes to surprise customers … by turning potentially terrible situations into “no big deal.” Here is his typical, boring, customer service story from interacting with a customer last week:
Recently I had a customer write into our help desk who was clearly very upset — I could tell without reading a word because the email was in ALL CAPS. They were all sorts of worked up and on “the verge of tears” because they had accidentally deleted a whole gallery of photos from their site (a favorite dog eating an ice cream cone if I recall correctly).
While I hate to see a customer this upset, I actually really like getting emails like this because I can turn their day around with two words: ‘All fixed!’ Our engineers have created simple tools for us to recover recently deleted galleries with just a few clicks.
I restored this customer’s gallery, replied with my two favorite words and a link to their gallery, and hit ‘send.’ The customer was overjoyed, and I moved on to the next case with a smile on my face.
What could have turned into a difficult conversation at worst, and a longer conversation involving the engineering team at best, turned out to be…not that big of a deal at all. The SmugMug team knows what their customers get upset about, so they do the work to make “all fixed!” the boring, everyday response to emails written in all caps.
The pulse-maintaining secrets to success:
Systems that were built to help customer support agents help customers
Agents who are trained to use the systems provided
Empathetic team members who understand how important puppy pictures are
JobAdder Communicates Existing Bug to Customer
Jez Louise, Head of Support at JobAdder, might make a big deal out of their recent Stevie win for Best Customer Service Team of the Year. But that doesn’t mean her team makes a big deal out of every ticket that comes into their inbox. Even when something out of the ordinary happens, their team handles it and keeps rolling right along:
First thing on Monday morning, a newer client emailed our Support Pirates to ask why they couldn’t perform a certain action in the product. Since they were a newer client, this could have resulted in a poor first impression (amongst other things). Fortunately, Diane was on the case.
After reading the question, Diane went to the ‘Repair Center’ section in our Support Centre. This section lists all of the current known issues and is available to all clients and agents. Diane grabbed the direct link to the issue and added it to the pre-written macro, which included instructions on how to follow this section for automatic updates. Searching the Support Centre and selecting the pre-written macros took Diane about five minutes. The client now receives real-time updates on any new or resolved issues and they left positive feedback on Diane’s CSAT survey.
The non-thrilling secrets to success:
An up-to-date status page that offers customers the opportunity to self-serve
Agents who keep apprised of current issues and can respond quickly
Macros that reduce the need for agents to spend time typing repetitive information
I updated my own laptop drivers
Sometimes the most boring customer service stories don’t even include a customer service agent. When I needed to fix a computer issue, I turned to Google for help, and I didn’t have a single problem getting help.
The trackpad on my new laptop was lagging, so I searched Google for “lagging laptop trackpad Asus” and found a community support forum with an answer. The solution was simple: I needed to update my trackpad driver via the link another customer had supplied in the forum post. Five minutes later, I had downloaded the new driver and my trackpad worked as expected.
Community support can greatly reduce the amount of effort it takes for customers to get the help they need. While “I Googled the answer” might not make for the most exciting story, it’s almost certainly one of the shortest.
The unexciting secrets to success:
Maintaining an active community of power users
Reporting and fixing bugs as needed
Consistent, reliable service is the best way to delight
The best customer support teams rarely make headlines. They aren’t delivering steaks to their customers on the airport runway or taking pictures with a lost giraffe before delivering it safely home to a child. And while those above-and-beyond customer service stories are fun to read, customers don’t really need that kind of delight to be impressed with a company.
People rarely want "wow" moments in customer service; they just want their problem gone so they can get back to their lives. And the best way to do that is with consistent, reliable and effective service, delivered by people who are empowered to actually help and supported by businesses that train and pay them well.
Businesses who want to deliver consistent, high-quality customer experiences need to embed a customer-centric focus across their organizations and to let that focus create the time, authority and capacity for the customer-facing teams to do their best work.