We are not a perfect MSP. Sometimes we screw up… big time. In recent years, we've started tracking client dissatisfaction events. We call them "losses," and we share them openly amongst our team in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding and prevent further mistakes. What we've found has surprised us:
Our "losses" almost never occur because of incorrect actions. Over 75% can be traced back to an incorrect understanding of the problem.In my first blog post, Why Does Bad Customer Service Still Exist?, I discussed how the main reason for lost business is bad customer service, outlining the three requirements for complete service. In the following post, I'll discuss the first criterion, connection, and how to achieve it in-depth.
Making the Connection
This means that approximately 8 out of 10 situations in which clients get angry, escalate their frustration to a manager, or (worst case) fire us are not caused by technical deficiency, inadequate response time, or poor process. They are entirely avoidable if we understand one critical principle: personal connection is the key to understanding which problem to solve and how to solve it.
I overheard a frustrated team member venting about a client in the office yesterday. "He's so mad, but if he would have told me he needed it by today I would have been able to take care of it. How was I supposed to know?" Such is the plight of the IT service professional.
Each service request would include a clear explanation of the client's problem, the business impact of the problem, the urgency of the problem, how and when to contact them, their current stress level, how much sleep they got last night, what they had for breakfast, their current mood, their future mood, and any other relevant circumstances including whether or not they got in a fight with their spouse on their way to work.
This is not reality.
We have two choices: Either we ignore information that is not readily available to us and resign ourselves to providing mediocre service, or we start digging.
Here are a few obvious facts from your Sophomore year Sociology class:
- People like other people who are genuinely interested in them
- People are more open with people they like
- People trust others who identify with their challenges, struggles, and needs
- People are more honest with those they trust
Honest, talkative, and trusting customers are primed to spill all of the secrets that we need to know in order to make them happy. We just have to keep asking.
Keys for Digging Deep, Creating Genuine Connection, and Finding Context:
Ask questions. Lots of them.
Questions diffuse stress. They show an earnest interest in helping. They instill confidence so that when you say "I've got this," they know you really do
Listen to the answers. Listen between the words.
Customers reveal so much in the way they answer our questions, but the juiciest nuggets of information often lie deeper. Read between the lines. Listen between the words.
State your understanding of the problem to the customer out loud. In many cases, the customer will realize they didn't fully explain.
Then, ask more questions.
Ask questions like a five year old. When you risk annoying your client, keep asking questions in your head. Keep asking "why" and you will eventually find the root problem, the one the client will call you a "hero" for solving because it's the problem they didn't know they had.
Have You Built a Culture of Connection?
Connection is the key mechanism for making sure we are solving the right problem, but it doesn’t stop there. Connection goes both ways and when we screw up, because we all do, the level of understanding and respect that connection brings helps clients forgive us much easier. This two-way personal investment also applies in workplace satisfaction. Connection is a core human need. Without it, we easily succumb to frustration, resentment and burn-out - all of which run rampant in employees who work in IT services.
Finding personal and even sometimes vulnerable connections with clients is not always natural, but if we commit to taking these steps we'll have a better chance at solving the right problems, surviving mistakes, and enjoying the work we do. It's worth a try, no?
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Gretchen Hoffman