Delivering Decisive Customer Support

I recently read one of the best business books that I have thus far encountered – Decisive by Dan and Chip Heath. It has several key elements that contribute to its level of excellence:

  1. It’s based on behavioral economics principles – that means that the underlying behaviors and reactions under scrutiny are both true to life and yet unexpected.
  2. It is highly focused on practical application – rather than explain a concept and then just give case studies and expect you to know what you need to do or not do, it goes deeply into “how” to avoid those decision errors.
  3. It’s memorable and therefore implementable – I’ve learned a lot of great concepts in business books in the past, but there is a tendency to have them fade from my memory and never turn into any actual changed behavior and results. Something here about the way the problems and solutions are told and what they are called keeps them at top of mind.

Of course, one of the key areas that I think about applying any new concepts is customer support.  Continue reading

Lessons in #custexp learned from in-app purchase games

Like many people, I use some simple games on my phone to relax, fill time, and have a funIMG_2956 challenge. Several of the games that I’ve enjoyed are actually ones that survive based on in-app purchases. The game itself is free and you can play it with certain limitations without spending a dime. But if you want to overcome those limitations or move faster, you need to pay for time, coins, loot, powers etc.

I have a stubborn streak in some ways with games of this type and refuse to pay for playing.  My own choice would be to actually pay up front and have a full game. But as I play these games, I can’t help but draw the lines between the ways they try to encourage, motivate, drive revenue and the way many companies and support teams should and should not drive their own clients’ experiences.

Should Do:

Continue reading

Innovations in Customer Service – Brilliant or aggravating?

I was thinking about the application of innovation in customer service processes this morning from two extremes. One where the new idea is crazy, different, and awesome. And on the other end of the spectrum, where the application of a new idea actually makes things worse for the client. The two applications that demonstrated this for me are Southwest Airlines’ damaged luggage process and Capital One’s credit card fraud process.

The application of innovation in customer service by Southwest in handling damaged luggage is described nicely here so I won’t repeat all those details. The bottom line – when you think of the traveler and the company experience and the results from that process, you can see a clear set of victories on all accounts. Brilliant!

On the flip side, I had a personal roller coaster ride with Capital One regarding possible fraud on my credit card. Continue reading

Three quick Apple watch learnings applied to support #custserv

One of my hobbies is playing with and learning about new technologies. I do that quite a bit in the support arena, but I also do it in the personal technology space. I’m not one of those bleeding edge, wait in lines over night, type of folks. However, I do like exploring new devices early. That’s mostly in the context of what’s really useful versus what is great technology or just cool.

In that light, I do have an Apple watch that I’ve been living with for several weeks now. Here are three quick learning snippets and an application to support for each: Continue reading

I am turning into a jerk – #soliciteddaily

I love networking and making business connections. I like to be open to new contacts and new people.

But I am now having real second thoughts about the degree I do that. Why? Because the the world of sophisticated marketing and big data list gathering has become the biggest source of unsolicited emails and phone calls in my world. They are hawking all sorts of services and opportunities . And these are not caught by Spam filters, because they are “legitimate” emails, sent to me personally with a real pitch / proposal and a personalized touch – “Can we meet at such and such a time to talk about this?” But make no mistake, these are mass solicitations. I frankly don’t know the true source – how they got my name/contact info. But I do know that they are not well targeted – I am a support manager and 80% of the contacts are IT / Development related.

I am getting so many a day that I just stopped trying to even respond or unsubscribe. I just delete. That makes me feel like a jerk, since the outreach seems so specific and personal. They are written to make me feel like there is a real person behind them with a real interest in my success. But I have a job to do and fielding offers to improve my Agile programming process / Project management / Recruiting process is not a part of that.

So I am going to be a jerk and not apologize for it. But I don’t like that they are making me feel that way.

Canned responses do no good for #custservice

Have you ever gotten a canned response from a support organization and feel that it actually was helpful? Has it ever made you a happy customer? _damoiselle_recycling-mix

My guess is that your response 80% of the time is: “I already knew that.” or “Did you even read what I wrote?”

On the customer support delivery side, the problems can be worse.

  1. You get a false sense that you are resolving issues because you think you were able to share helpful information and deflect a call. In actuality you just either drove another contact on the same issues, or hurt the customer experience or both.
  2. You lose whatever information that contact might have yielded about your products and services.
  3. It’s the old joke – if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For your support team – if you have a canned response, lots of client contacts look like ones that a canned response will solve.

Here’s a real life example:

This is me reporting via a valid support channel an issue that I think my Online Bank would want to know about:

—–Original Message—–
As I am trying to switch my Bill pay over from another bank, I am getting an error message for every single payee mailing address I enter. The form keeps saying that you cannot validate the address with the US Postal Service. Something must be technically wrong with your site as all of these addresses are completely correct and valid and check out on the USPS web site and were validated by my previous bank. You appear to have a problem with whatever code is trying to validate addressed on the USPS API.

Notice, I didn’t say I had an immediate issue. Anyone who knows how their Bill Pay set up works would know that you can continue with an address that is not validated, they just warn you on that and make you go through an extra click or two. I was just alerting them to a problem and I used language that should have indicated that I was not just some unsophisticated user who couldn’t type in an address correctly.

So this should have been valuable information that you’d think they would want to know and would forward to their support or technical teams to at least check out…But no a few keywords match, so let’s send a canned response (edited to remove some Bank specific information):


Thank you for taking the time to contact Ally Bank for Bill Payee setup assistance. We apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail and appreciate your patience and understanding.

As our Bill Pay Team is out of the office until Monday morning at 9 AM EST, please give us a call between 9AM and 5PM EST so that we may contact the Bill Pay Team directly for a quick resolution to your Bill Payee issue.
For immediate assistance with any of your banking requirements, please give our Contact Center a call and a Bank representative will be happy to assist you. For your convenience, we are here for you 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and you can contact us via our toll free number 1-800… , Secure E-Mail which you can set up through your online profile or you can always chat with us online at, whichever method applies.

It has been our pleasure to assist you. Have a wonderful weekend surrounded by family and friends!


Bank Customer Service

That’s a very nice reply in many aspects. Great tone, lot’s of good information on support channels, etc. But …”Did you even read what I wrote?”

What I might have expected –

“Thank you for reporting this problem. We’ll have our Bill Pay team look into the area you mentioned. If you are having any issues getting Bill Pay set up, we can assist you with that…”

I would have felt a lot better that they actually read and understood my note. I realize that there is a lot of noise in a big support operation like this one, but There really is a technical problem in their system and they now will not get the chance to fix it for a while longer, because a canned response was ready to deploy…

P.S. It is OK to have canned templates to cover common language and contact information and even general support wording, but the minute you move from templates that requires support agent thought and writing to customize for the situation, to fully canned, you’ve crossed from helpful and efficient to creating a wayward hammer.