When your Help Process is Harmful

In Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Process Improvement, Uncategorized by mistyrussell0 Comments

A few weeks ago, I was researching various SAAS solutions for a friend who needed something simple and inexpensive.  This wasn’t part of their core business and certainly wasn’t something I had a tremendous amount of experience in either.  Through the miracle of Google and some very (very very) rough requirements, I was able to put together a short list of vendors to at least begin doing some baseline comparisons of features and costs.  So in a nutshell, we had a very short timeline, small budget, and a pretty uneducated business consumer (that would be me) who knew what they needed to accomplish, but not how that translated into technical features.  I’m guessing this is not an extremely rare profile when it comes to your customers.

Every website I visited had the standard SAAS membership model – a free offering with very limited functionality and a series of escalating packages with more features and a greater numbers of users, locations, etc. for a recurring monthly fee.  The only problem for a customer who isn’t an expert in the specific technology they have to purchase is that they not only don’t know what package they need, they don’t even necessarily know what the different features enable.  And while each company offered a 15 or 30 day free trial, no one wants to trial 20 different services simultaneously.  Luckily, each website also had a proactive chat function on their home page asking me if I needed help…which I did, so I reached out to the company I felt like was a strong contender…and that’s when it went downhill.

I gave the agent the basic situation, and he began asking me a series of operational questions.  While there were a few lags in his questions and answers, I assumed it was because he was trying to determine the best fit package to recommend.  He finally came back with only “Please start a Free Trial”.  At this point, I’m confused…why did you ask me all these questions only to come back with a proposed action that I could have taken from the beginning, and which required none of the information I gave you?  I proceed to ask several more questions for which I get no response for 10 minutes.  Ten minutes of staring at the screen getting more and more frustrated.  Ten minutes that I only waited out of morbid curiosity to see how long this vendor would actually make someone wait for an answer on chat…before leaving and coming back to the screen later to see they had finally responded.

I left that site and eliminated them from the list of potential vendors.  Was it the agent’s fault? Probably not.  Were they a good vendor?  Very possibly.  How many potential customers have they lost this way? Hard to say, but likely more  than one…because it sent a message, fair or not, about how they would serve me once I bought.  On a positive note, all are fixable and opportunities for companies to gain and retain customers.

  • Provide information that makes it simple for customers to understand their best fit package – Do you need to be able to do X? Then you’ll need Feature Y that is part of our Gold Package.  Your potential customers aren’t experts in your industry – this is your chance to be seen as a trusted partner.  And if they purchase something that isn’t a fit for what they need, they will not be your customer for long.
  • Make sure you have robust decision trees, process flows, and scripts for your agents  that are actually helpful – if agents are given the proper tools to assist, it gives the impression that your product and processes are solid and sets the tone for a positive relationship.
  • If you are going to provide a particular service channel, make sure it is configured and resourced properly.  You don’t want your customers to feel ignored or as though their time is not valued simply because your settings, policies, or chat metrics aren’t optimized.  The options you provide should be those that can consistently demonstrate your responsiveness.

Positioning yourself as a trusted partner and having reliable, helpful service processes can be a powerful weapon both for sales and customer retention.

What service features have tilted a purchase decision one way or the other for you?

Share your thoughts!