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Bad Customer Support Is Not a Software Problem

Written By: Jamal Rahal
Published On: February 29 2012

A couple of days ago, my laptop decided (all on its own) to jump off my desk.

Lucky for me, it survived almost completely undamaged except for a broken latch, which seemed easy enough to fix.

So I decided to order the replacement part and fix it myself.

Since I didn’t know exactly what part I needed to order, I started by calling the vendor’s Technical Service number. I described the problem and asked if the rep could tell me what part I needed, whether it was available, and how much it cost.

He couldn’t.

Instead, he said, I should call a separate Parts and Services number.

Fair enough. I called Parts and Services and asked the rep if she could give me the information I needed.

She couldn’t.

Not without a part number anyway. And for that, she said, I’d need to talk to the Technical Service people.

So I called the Technical Service department again and asked if they could find the right part number.

They couldn’t.

My laptop was no longer under warranty, you see, so they weren’t allowed to look up the number for me. But Parts and Services might be able to help.

Argh.

I took a deep breath, called Parts and Services again, and asked if there was anyone on earth who could give me the ID number for the part I needed so that I could actually buy the part.

From the vendor.

For money.

The rep had no idea, but recommended that I call a local reseller.

I put down the phone and retreated to my happy place for a while.

Later, after a few wrong numbers, I got in touch with a local reseller, and things turned around almost instantly.

The company’s delightful rep told me that although they don’t sell replacement parts, she’d see what she could do. She asked me a few questions, consulted a technician, identified the part I needed, and gave me the part number.

So to recap:

Vendor:

  • 4 calls

  • 1 hour

  • Offered no help and missed an opportunity to make a sale.


Reseller:

  • 1 call

  • 5 minutes

  • Resolved the issue despite there being no possibility of making a sale.


There’s a lesson here for companies that are looking to upgrade their customer support systems. The difference between customer support that makes you smile and customer support that just makes you grit your teeth has almost nothing to do with software and almost everything to do with attitude.

Systems that help you open, escalate, and resolve issues quickly; track customer interactions; and measure satisfaction only really pay off if you’re serious about helping your customers in the first place.

The vendor in this story is a well-known multinational, and almost certainly has extensive and sophisticated systems for handling customer support issues.

Sadly those systems are supporting policies and processes that put the company’s interests first, not the customer’s. Which is why they wouldn’t look up a part number, or even tell me where to find one—unless I had a machine under warranty!

Compare that to the reseller—a much smaller national company with six or so regional offices. I doubt their systems are anywhere near as sophisticated as the vendor’s. I doubt that a record of my phone call even exists. But the person who answered the phone went out of her way to help me even though I am not a customer and there was nothing in it for the company.

Who would you rather do business with?
 
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