This article is a modified version of one I wrote for my team at Campaign Monitor. I'm sharing it here because I think it has broader applicability.
My two sons, with their barely-making-a-venn-diagram sets of food allergies, visit a paediatric allergist regularly. The receptionist there is pretty grumpy at the best of times, and occasionally outride rude.
But we keep going back there, because the doctor we see provides the best care and treatment for my boys. It'd be nice if the receptionist was friendlier, but until there's another doctor with the same skills, we're not switching just to feel happier while we sit in the waiting room.
What is the goal of customer service?
The point of our job as customer service agents is not to make customers happy. It's not to keep them from finding out about the competition. It's not to solve their technical problems, up-sell them on a higher plan or even to get them to refer more clients.
Those can all be good things, and important things, but they should not be the essential goal of a customer service team.
We're here to help them grow their business as our first goal. Or to use Kathy Sierra's phrase, to kick ass. Or arse, depending on where you live.
Helping them kick ass is helping them to reach whatever goal they are trying to achieve. That goal is almost certainly not "get really good at using Campaign Monitor" or even "send really beautiful emails". It's also probably not "be happy". It's more likely to be "sell more of my consulting time at a higher rate" or "double my business growth this year."
And that means we should be thinking about our job differently. We should seek to to understand what they are trying to do, and help them get it done.
Adopting "Help every customer kick ass" as our core goal means:
- We have an obligation not to just answer questions, but to ask questions, and to listen to the answers.
- When we do give answers they should be written in the context of the customer's goals.
- We should be looking for opportunities to build relationships with our customers that help us understand them better.
- We will work at reducing the roadblocks of process and policy for our customers, but not at reducing the communication with them.
Here's one example. If we're focused on helping a customer kick ass, we're more willing to have the tough discussion about their borderline email list gathering practices, because we know that doing it the wrong way will create problems for them, as well as for us.
That conversation probably won't make them "happy", but if we do it right we can make them more successful. And that's the path to customer retention for us.
The key question in every conversation should not be "how can I make this person happy?", it should be "how can I help this person kick more ass". If we can do that, and also make them happy...well that's a double rainbow situation.