Abuse it and Lose it – Is the customer ever wrong?

While call centres, screen pop ups and automated phone messaging may drive us insane, there is still nothing better than a good old fashioned head-butt with a colleague or customer. Both are clearly wrong, but unlike your friends, you cant choose your colleagues or customers.

When staring at a Microsoft Screen Windows 10 upgrade screen which says “This won’t take long” you know from experience that A) this is not true and B) there is nothing you can do about it. Its just the way modern automated “We think we know what you want” technology works, so you get a coffee, open Facebook and waste some time while the system takes its course.

When dealing with people, especially by the notoriously argument starting method of e-mail, you expect people to be better. The reality is by and large, they don’t. The trouble is, there is still technology at play. The colleague / customer doesn’t know you, or care to know you. Neither do you know them. There is no exchange of body language, allowances made for current mood or situation. No hello, how are you? Just straight for the jugular engagement.

Strangely, while the Doctors “House Call” vanished decades ago, when we end up in a serious argument, it either all goes pear shaped forever, or sanity prevails, and somebody gets both parties to a face to face meeting. All the technology applied has failed, and finally we have to see if we can really say face to face, what we were implying or saying vicariously via other methods. Its like getting the finger from a woman driver. Does she really want to find herself parking next to you at an underground garage where she has to abandon her refuge of safety?

Colleagues aside, where nearly always a “Misunderstood” is at play, customers often push the boundary’s of civility, a little like the lady in the car. It seems safe behind the customer logo. This becomes clearly apparent when it comes to Service & Support.

During the selling process, both seller and buyer go to great lengths to establish that there is a holding hand after the sale has been done. Things can be fixed, configured, revived etc. This is a priority need, especially for skill scarce remote regions where it costs a fortune to get something done with complicated equipment. hardly any sale goes buy without this part of the deal being thoroughly interrogated.

Then comes payment and terms. To avoid any misunderstandings, I always ask my finance people to talk to their finance people, as the seller and the user both rarely have any say or influence with either. We have lost sales in the past at this stage by ether one party being stubborn or refusing stubbornness. Usually this gets resolved although delays are common.

The real clashes come however over Service & Support.

Customers, after agreeing that these skills are absolutely necessary and non-negotiable, become extremely angry and two things: 1) The time it may take and 2) the cost.
This is particularly true of corporate’s when dealing with small company’s.

So having gone to great lengths and expense to provide top class services, there is often a running battle with customers to both get agreement rather than resentment, and worse still paid rather than promised. These same customers have already told you that they abandoned there previous supplier due to lack of service, only to expect all post sales activities to be fast and free. Where does this fantasy come from?

The customer service Fonolo blog list customers top 5 WANTS: (Which they expect)

We therefore have to be very careful during all phases of our communications to not over promise and then under deliver. Best policy is to clearly explain the ugly things up front, but critically, TO THE RIGHT PERSON.

Users ASSUME what their bosses will think or do. Sales persons ASSUME they will never have to go back and explain a huge repair bill. These are however all obvious points.

When dealing with larger institutions, its possible that a senior executive is selling to an average user, and both fail to communicate at any level. In this regard, we prefer to communicate, in addition to all the digital stuff, at different human levels as well. Corporate expectations are clearer at the top, and user needs clearer at the bottom, so the right fit is critical. Even those cynical bully’s that refuse to pay on time can be managed, if the right level addresses the right level.

So, communicate a lot, clearly, comprehensively and honestly up front. Then, usually the customer is very right.