Support processes should be there to help the customer.

If you are creating a support process to streamline calls for support, at the expense of the customer you are doing something wrong.

I have had a frustrating call to Vodafone. The support person was fine and understood the frustration. It was the automated process that was winding me up.

They have a phone system that checks your number to see if you are pre-pay or bill-pay. If you ring one but you have the other contract, it will hang up on you. As I had switched between the two and had problems logging in, the system thought I was the other when it came to checking. So it was impossible to ring support on my mobile phone.

Switching to a landline I had to navigate through many menu options to finally realize that the support system will never let me talk to a human.

So I had to call in again and pretend I never had an account with Vodafone. Straight to a real person. *Sigh*

Support calls

A little over a week ago I had the misfortune of having my credit card number stolen. So I spent some time ringing various customer support lines getting my details updated.

To compound matters further the expiry date was going to overlap with traveling to South Korea soon. So I had to get another credit card again, and go through the process again.

One of the bad points of working in support is that you tend to expect a higher level of customer service that most people would not expect. So it has certainly be an eye opener.

I am not writing this to have a go at the bad support. It is not a name and shame, but I will mention by far the Bank of Ireland credit card services has been the best support interaction (Air France a close second).

Here are some interesting points I took from all the support calls.

1. If there is a problem with the process, that the customer reports, acknowledge that to the customer and make sure you act as a replacement for that process where possible.

In this I had one situation where every time I rang the phone would hang up or go dead. I phoned an alternate number which got me to a different department. That person I spoke to responded back they would check into it. A minute later they explained they had reported the issue and were transferring me the waiting queue via an alternate number so I would not be cut off. They also flagged the call so when the next person answered they knew I had hassle with the phones.

Another company where I got routed to the wrong section (twice) the first person just hung up on me, the other just routed me to the correct place. No apology, or acknowledgement.

2. Don’t be afraid to say your name.

A name means that the person isn’t talking to some automated system. Your reputations tied to your name, so if you haven’t given it odds on you are not engaged on the customers issue. If the customer has to ask your name then it is liable you are not handling the call well.

3. Avoid negative terms and always give options.

While customers want to resolve an issue when they call, they also want to believe that they have a certain level of control. Responding with negative responses or no options will cause the customer to get annoyed. Comments like “I am not going to do that” really don’t help keep business.

Always give options. The options don’t have to be what the customer wants exactly, but it allows them to have some level of control.

4. Keep your personal feelings personal.

Worst thing you can do in the phone is sigh when a customer asks you something. You are having a bad day? Fine, just don’t pass that on to the customer. Be like a doctor/fireman and keep your feelings compartmentalized.

5. The customer isn’t always right, but you don’t win any points pointing that out.

OK I messed up my details on an online site and had to run the customer support. When I explained the steps I took (which I believed is what I did), the support person on the other said “No, you are wrong. That can’t happen”.

Not stopping there they proceeded to spend the next 5-10 minutes to prove I was wrong (putting me on hold at one point). When they explained that I was wrong and had the proof I was livid. I gave out to them and asked them to explain how that solves my issue of getting my details updated.

The correct response would have been to say something like “We haven’t seen anything like that before, I’ll make a note of it. Now lets fix your details”.

6. Even the little things can change customer satisfaction.

Gitomer calls these a WOW moment. This is basically where you do something in your support call that makes the customer have a memorable moment, or have gone beyond what you would normally expect.

Air France wins this one.

I had booked the tickets. Despite having all the paper work saying that I had the flights confirmed the credit suggested that the payment had not gone through (double checked with the bank).

Fearing that the tickets would be cancelled or I would end up paying more I rang Air France. The support person confirmed everything was OK.

Rather then ending the call there they proceeded to tell me I was fantastic for being so honest and making sure they got paid. It was a nice twist and greatly improved my morale. :)

Why you should use source control (doh!)

I have been tinkering with an application on and off for a few months. The plan was to submit to openNTF at some stage.

I am spending maybe 30 minutes max every couple of weeks. Each time I finished changing it for the day I would create a new copy of the database. That way if I make a mess I can revert back to previous version (safety vs Eclipse Local History).

I wasn’t using source control, because it was only one user and what could possibly go wrong? :) right??!!

So recent sit down with the code, I had CSS misbehaving and it was pushing my repeat control all over the place. After some annoyance I finally got that working. Checking it in the client while it worked I found one of the action buttons now was broken. I was pretty sure I didn’t touch the button.

I go back to the previous release and see there is a whole load of code differences. I paste them back in. I noticed however the code in the backup appears to be out of sync in what I did the last time.

Checking back further I realized that I was working from the backup of an earlier day and had done so a few times. -_-”

So now my code is working perfectly, just in multiple different databases.

On the plus side it looks like ExtLib will do nearly everything I had coded anyway, making life easier to create my Frankensteins monster of a new database. Only this time I will be using a source control.