As part of my reapplication process, I am reading through a couple books recommended to me in my final email from Automattic. I plan on writing a few posts for each of these books (and the couple other books I am reading through) as a record to myself, too, of what I have gleaned from them. Many of the points listed in these books would apply to everyday people relations, too, not just the support business. I hope you can learn something from these posts, regardless of what field you work or live in.
As part of my preparations, I also decided to create a new page on my site titled “My Support Philosophy“. This will be a static page, which I plan on revising and refining over the next few weeks before I reapply. I am hoping this will help me be able to speak more knowledgeably and thoughtfully about my philosophy in my next interview.
Well, enough with the intro. Let’s dive into my first book…
Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit
The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization
by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon
The Big Picture
… what builds strategic value for a business, is loyalty: customer loyalty, employee loyalty.
This is one of the opening lines to the book. The author is convinced (and, I believe, for good reason) that customer loyalty is what any business in any field should be striving for. In the long run, even a smaller group of truly loyal customers are going to grow the business more than a larger group of average customers. Loyal customers will not only visit that business again, but they will promote the business to their social groups and even voluntarily give feedback to the business to improve their service better. They will not easily move to another business even if there is a seemingly better option on the market, as an average customer may. And a loyal customer is going to be more forgiving and understanding when there is a problem in the service they receive. Every business should strive to draw their customers closer in loyalty.
Another point the authors will mention on-and-off through the book is employee loyalty, too.
Do [companies] empower their employees to use judgement in any real sense? If not, the employees will leave when they sense a dead end.
Having lived in Japanese work environments for a while, I believe this may be the biggest disappointment I have found the most. Japanese companies focus on company culture and tradition so much, they tend to erase individuality in their employees and would rather have people who all fit the same mold. Innovation and creativity are not required in most typical workplaces, leading to dissatisfied employees who dream of someday doing more… (Or, maybe it was just me ? )
That is where the book takes off. In the rest of the chapters, it describes how to provide the exceptional service that will generate loyal customers and lead to exceptional profit, not just financially, but in all aspects of the company and its environment.
Function VS Purpose
The function of an employee is expressed through his title, such as “engineer”, “customer support representative”, “accountant”, etc. However, the purpose of employees in a company should all be the same, regardless of their title – providing memorable service to customers (to ultimately gain their loyalty.)
Automattic has been creative in their job titles. For example, they don’t call their customer reps “customer reps”, they call them “Happiness Engineers”. This is a function of the role, but it is actually similar to the purpose of the role, too. When I become a Happiness Engineer, my responsibility in the company is no going to be “answer so many number of enquiries”, but rather “create happiness in/for the customers we serve.”
Customers are satisfied whenever they consistently receive:
1. A perfect product
2. delivered by a caring, friendly person
3. In a timely fashion
4. With the support of an effective problem resolution process
As a HE, my practical job would be to be that caring, friendly person, delivering superb resolutions to problems in a timely manner. But, as the authors mention elsewhere, the quality of my service is not evaluated by myself or by my ticket-count. It is ultimately the customers themselves who will decide what is a caring and friendly person, what it means to be “timely” and what resolution they are in need of.
A small piece of code may “fix” their problem, but does that “resolve” the problem? Does the customer feel like they have been heard and understood? They were expecting a perfect product when they made their order. If all I have done is restore their product to what they thought it should be, then they may be left with a sense of injustice, as they have had to spend extra time and resources to reach out and ask for help. By fixing their problem and going an extra mile to show we truly care for them and the inconvenience we caused them do we really “solve” their problem.
Effective cannot be measured by whether you have restored the situation to the pre-problem status quo. Effective is measured by whether you have restored customer satisfaction.
Language in Support
The language used in service can change the whole customer impression of the experience, even if the technical aspect of the service are the same. This doesn’t mean to use extravagant words to impress the customer. Language should be consistent in the company, creating a consistent brand image, but also welcoming and honouring to the customer, keeping their culture in mind, too.
The first and last contact with customers are the most crucial moments in connecting with them. Recently, when responding to enquiries on the forums, I always try and start off by stating the enquier’s name (username) and finishing on a welcoming note to come back for more help if it is needed. Some people post the “fix” to the problem being asked of, which technically has the same effect. But, it does seem cold and lifeless. A warm “Hello”, compassionate assistance and a welcoming “Goodbye” are essential to creating loyal customers.