Customer Support – PR headline, Ambition or Reality?

Feb 11, 2022

We all say we believe strongly in providing good customer support, but it’s something that all customers expect by default anyway, so why mention it?

The real customer experience varies quite wildly in practice.

It shouldn’t matter whether the contract is transactional through the sale of itemisable goods and services, or relational by provision of something bespoke, when something goes wrong, good customer support is essential.

Any good business would be keen for a customer to buy from them again, and few have the arrogance to rely on a monopoly to ensure that a customer has no choice; retaining existing customers is less effort than finding new ones.

However, when it comes to customer support or service, this is where the intent and reality often deviate!

As a real-world example, I requested an upgrade to a mobile phone. This was promised by company V for within 3 days, but due to the timings, I was notified that it may take a further few days.

Things like this can happen, so no point getting worked up a slight delay, even if it was within the supplier’s control.

However, customer support stayed mute from that point; the only way of obtaining any information was to contact them and ask direct questions. The “support team” appeared to fail on both words; by providing varying, conflicting and frankly incorrect information to me, they demonstrated that they neither supported, nor were they a “team”.

After 6 weeks of patience, I felt that it required an escalation to help this (large) organisation to find the holes in their system, and I sent this to their directors.

To be fair, they were onto this quickly, and while my actual complaint was that their support team was incoherent, they jumped onto the missing delivery, only to find that there was a problem within their own system. Maybe they knew about this flaw, or maybe circumstances and a customer prepared to be patient with feedback was the first highlight, but in response, they decided to cancel the order manually and re-issue so it would work within their system.

Problem: the cancellation would not work. So as part of their “support”, the customer was expected to be patient while they waited for their system to function as expected. When would that be? When the original order is marked as cancelled.

In my world, when you get a result that you didn’t expect, repeating it is likely to result in the same outcome, so doing it yet again is unlikely to make any difference!

So, 10 weeks after the original transaction, 3 weeks after initiating the “expedited response”, customer support is still none the wiser and the customer is feeling a little less charitable.

Maybe “Customer Support” refers to the support provided by the customer, not received.

Larger organisations need to remember that their customers are still people, and their customer support is made up of people.