Customer support is customer retention

How is your customer support? Do you intentionally try to flip customers from annoyed to delighted? Does it happen accidentally? Not at all?

Man, annoyed, on the phone while looking at the laptop screen.

I’m unsure how different companies think about customer support. Some of them seem to think it’s necessary evil because dealing with the plebs is beneath them. Others try to have a helpful approach but are ultimately hamstrung by a bunch of processes and scripts that the customer service agents are forced to use to reach KPIs and other metrics that occasionally come at a cost of being a human and helping the other human with whatever they need.

In most of my day to day life companies that do have a customer retention team, it’s a separate function and usually you only get to talk to them once you told customer support you’re not happy and you’re about to leave. Customer retention will then try to literally bribe you into staying rather than fixing the underlying issue that caused you wanting to leave in the first place.

I had one of those issues. We signed up for SendOwl. It’s a Stripe app that sends some downloadable files to the customers when they bought a specific product. It’s super nice, but something broke, because a customer didn’t receive anything. So we went investigating. I signed into the Stripe account where I’m added as a developer to someone else’s Stripe account, then clicked through the SendOwl integration which loaded my account there that was behind a paywall. The text said “don’t worry, we just need to have an active card check, you will NOT be charged.” So I added my card, and noticed that data is all over. And I got charged. I have access to data I shouldn’t have, the original account holder doesn’t have data that they should have, and it was a mess.

So I sent a long support email. I gathered all the context, pulled up all the IDs that would help, clearly articulated what I expected and what’s happened, and what I would like from them.

About a day later I get back an even longer email. In it they reiterated what I wanted from them to do, what they actioned (processed a refund), and what exactly ended up happening. It is extremely clear that they have good observability and logging and they were able to pull up all of the events that happened between our two SendOwl accounts, and they explained the sequence of events in chronological order and their cause and effect relationships. By the end I knew

  • exactly why SendOwl had my name on the account even though I didn’t expect it, and I knew it was okay, because they explained how the two connect
  • what sequence of events (or lack thereof) from our side led to data missing, emails not being sent out, and how to remedy all of that

SendOwl went from “I’m going to build my own solution to do the same thing because I can’t trust they can do this” to “nope, they know exactly what the hell they’re doing, and I was actually the idiot here.”

They did this while staying deferential, factual, to the point, and most importantly, very clear without assigning blame or judging either side.

My question to you, reading this post: how does your organisation handle customer support? Do you get gnarly emails about issues? When you solve them, do you flip your customers from “never gonna shop here” to “I’m sorry, you’re right, I was dumb?” Do you have folks write blog posts about a single touch of customer support experience? What can you do to enable that to happen*?

Are you in a position to make a change so it becomes more delightful?

* Obviously some people can’t handle the feeling of being wrong, we’re not talking about them.

Photo by sarah b on Unsplash