Marketing guru, Mary Schmidt, recently wrote a post, "Don't Get Defensive. Just Fix It." in which she makes 2 excellent points that bear a lot on how we in IT deal with our customers. As the HelpDesk often has to deal with "issues" this is especially important in that area. Schmidt starts off the post by saying "I’m convinced that many of the world’s problems could be quickly fixed or even avoided if people didn’t automatically get defensive when faced with an issue or disagreement."
When our customers come to us with issues we need to resist taking it as a personal affront lest we become defensive. Often we fall into the trap of using IT's weasel words such as "It works on my machine" or "No one else has had a problem with that." The implicit message in this is that the problem is the customer's fault which makes them defensive and it just escalates from there. As Schmidt suggests sometimes we need to just get beyond this and just fix the problem. Hang up the boxing gloves and work on the solution.
Joel Spolsky has a fantastic post, "Seven steps to remarkable customer service". Be sure to read all seven steps but pay particular attention to steps 4 and 5. In these Spolsky gives some great examples of what not being (or being) defensive can do. They illustrate the point very effectively.
Schmidt's second point is also very good in dealing with customer issues. Building off comments by Lee Thayer in his post "Explaining Things" where he notes "It seems that people get better and better at excusing themselves, while less and less competent at delivering the expected performance." Giving explanations and apologies is a good thing to do but we should remember Schmidt's point of "An explanation isn’t a substitute for results." Make no mistake people do appreciate explanations and apologies but most of all they want their issues addressed.
What are your tips for handling customer issues?
"hang 'em up" photo by SMN
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