What about the customer’s that don’t say anything?

In support, it’s common to track positive and negative feedback. At Automattic, we call those green (good) and red (bad) robots. Happiness Engineers review green robots to celebrate awesome conversations and red robots to identify areas they can improve.

There’s another robot that frequently gets ignored—blue robots.

Blue robots are the equivalent of “Meh, the support I received as alright.” It wasn’t great. I probably got my question answered, but I wasn’t blown away.

Blue robots don’t tell their friends about Automattic’s products. They aren’t tweeting how wonderful WordPress.com is. They aren’t “raving fans.”

There’s another group that we certainly ignore. These are the customers that don’t say anything. They get a feedback survey after a customer interaction and don’t feel motivated to reply. We didn’t cause a strong reaction either way.

You can’t move every customer to the poles, but it’s worth reviewing these interactions too and asking yourself:

“What could I have done to turn this customer into a raving fan? What would have set this interaction over the top?”

It’s logical to focus on the poles but don’t forget about the middle.

H/T to Dean at Automattic for originally pointing this out to me.

Two Polarizing Customer Support Examples

I’ve had to contact customer support on two different occasions in the past week. They were polar opposite experiences.

In one, I walked away frustrated and amazed that it took so long to accomplish such a basic task.

In another, I walked away happy, solving my problem in less than two minutes with none of the headache I expected.

I want to talk about what we can learn from both, but I’m going to leave the name out of the former as the point isn’t to trash the company but to learn from the experience.

Situation #1: I need to cancel a service.

I’ve been a customer of this service for some time, but it’s time for us to part ways. I scour the site for a way to cancel myself and do some searches in their support documentation. I can’t find anything except upgrading my service so I hop on live chat.

It took nearly 30 minutes of live chat with two operators to get this service cancelled despite having super clear intentions from the very start and making known that this wasn’t up for debate. At one point, I was transferred to a Customer Loyalty Administrator, which was frustrating. I had already waited for quite some time, and now I was transferred elsewhere?

In total, that chat took over 31 minutes from start to finish (disregarding the 5 minute wait in the queue).

Key takeaways:

  • When your customers want to leave, let them leave. I’m a believer that energy is normally better invested at the top of the funnel (getting the right customers to use your service and getting them in the right buckets) versus the bottom of the funnel (saving cancellations).
  • Give everyone on your team the power to solve problems. I might have been transferred to the Customer Loyalty Administrator for any number of reasons, but I can think of two likely ones: 1) they wanted one more shot at saving the cancellation or 2) the original operator couldn’t cancel my account.

Situation #2: A package didn’t get delivered.

I ordered something from Amazon, and although the tracking information read “Delivered,” we didn’t receive it. I went straight to contact support expecting to have to pay for the replacement.

First, I was amazed at the simple solution Amazon has in place for phone interactions. Customers don’t have to wait on the line and press a series of buttons to get themselves in the right department. It’s all handled through Amazon.com. You select what order you’re calling about and the reason for your call. You enter the phone number and they call you. The agent is immediately up to speed on your issue.

Second, the conversation was super fast. She said it was delivered on a day in November. I said I didn’t receive it. She then said, “No problem. I’ll ship a replacement out right now.”

No arguing. No blaming the delivering company. No hassle.

Key takeaways:

  • Find ways to alleviate customer pain points on the front-end. Having phone customers pre-select what their calling about trumps the traditional “Hit 1 for questions about an order” process every time.
  • Give your people the power to make the situation right. I’m guessing there is some sort of dollar limit on the amount they can immediately replace. In my case, the product was $60 so not exactly cheap. In any case, give your support pros the power to solve issues and provide a delightful experience.

How Can You Make Developers Care About the End-User?

I’m in the middle of reading Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard (highly recommend) is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a really great read about behavior change. A key piece to behavior change as Chip and Dan describe is addressing the two parts of our brain, the Elephant and Rider.

Think of the Elephant as the emotional part of our brain. It’s often look for the quick payoff. The Elephant is impulsive. It’s the part of our brain that rationalizes hitting the snooze button or binge eating ice cream at night.

The Rider is the rationale side of the brain. It’s capable of looking at the pros and cons and sacrificing short-term gratification for long-term gain. The Rider excels at planning beyond the moment. Where as the Elephant is impulsive, the Rider is deliberate.

Compared to our impulsive Elephant, the Rider is relatively small. That’s the problem. In a pinch, when we’re exhausted and driving home from work after a long day, the Elephant can easily overpower the Rider forcing us to drive right past the gym and into the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

What in the world does this have to do with developers and end-users?

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Bots versus humans in support

There’s a lot of talk about using computer bots for customer support at the moment. Bots and A.I. are the new thing and garnering quite a bit of media attention. This article from Paul Adams on Intercom summarized many of my thoughts:

Bots have serious limitations, but it is exciting to think that bots can help in win-win situations. Sometimes we don’t want to talk to a human – we just want a quick answer to a simple question. For example, bots can deal with all the repetitive questions sent to customer support teams, which frees up support staff to answer much higher value queries. The effect of this will be that support teams will shift from being perceived as cost centers, to being seen as increasingly strategic assets to successful companies.

Paul lays out some pretty sound reasoning why bots won’t put humans out of business for customer support in the near future. Humans excel in areas where bots fall short, namely empathy. Humans know what it’s like to feel upset or frustrated and when to go the extra mile for a customer.

Bots are going to get better, far better than they are now. Down the road, a bot could be indistinguishable from a human in chat conversation. The future that Paul outlines, where bots and humans work together to provide amazing customer support, is one I can subscribe to. Rather than building bots to replace humans, build them to amplify what humans can do in the context of support.

Want more?

Photo credit: Intercom

My Winding Path to Customer Support

This is part of the 2016 Support Driven writing challenge. Here’s the prompt: “History: Our history shapes us — what path led you to Support? Was it a planned career? Or did you happen upon it?”

I just passed my three year anniversary at Automattic, which is crazy to think about. I remember applying in August of 2013. I sent off an email that I thought would land in a blackhole never to be read or answered. I remember joking in the email that I had the perfect PJs for working at home. I remember doing my final chat with Matt and receiving the offer letter.

If you would have asked me throughout college or grad school if I ever thought I would be working remotely for a tech company, I would’ve given you an emphatic “No.”

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