Lately, the trend in many companies’ product support and customer service departments is to focus on “proper communication” with customers, instead of focusing in the first place on how to effectively fix the issues the customers are encountering.
Many companies invest hours and hours in training on what to say or not to say to a customer, or how to react towards a customer’s inquiry. Unfortunately, only a few companies invest enough in technical training regarding dealing with the actual problems and operating as a professional!
Think about a problem with your car. Having a pleasant conversation with the technician repairing your vehicle is good, but isn’t your primary target to have the car fixed?
I do not want to minimize the importance of “proper” communication with customers, but I want to emphasize that it is not the main object.
Below are a few points I consider the most important to achieve good results as a professional service provider and to always reflect a professional image.
Trust the product.
If you are servicing your own product, or have been appointed as a service provider for a specific product, you need to trust the product. This is essential for the success of your service.
If you do not feel comfortable rendering the needed service because you think the product is not well-designed and that competitors offer a better product, it's time to leave! With such a mentality you will never succeed in delivering an excellent service to the customer, and it will only create stressful situations for yourself and your customers.
Customers are defined in such a way because they’ve bought your product!
It means that they trusted the product!
Remember, the sales team sells the first system or product, but the next purchases are because of good service!
Being polite does not only mean talking appropriately. Being polite as a service provider is much more.
If you perform an on-site service call, remember that you are going to someone else’s "home." Even in the case of the industry sector, the facility where you will work is someone else’s property.
Announce yourself at the main entrance and never look for shortcuts by entering from side gates or doors close to your working area. Always follow the facility’s rules and regulations.
If it's the first time at the customer, introduce yourself to the owner, manager, or the head of the specific department, explaining how you foresee attending to and fixing their issues.
Before leaving, update the customer on what you’ve achieved the day and what you plan for the next day if it is necessary to come back.
Analyze the cause of the problem- don't only fix the issue.
On-site servicing always takes the "cause-and-effect" principle into consideration. When your service call is related to a damaged part that can be fixed by replacing it, the damage is only the effect, not the cause. To fix the problem and avoid it from happening again, you should identify the cause of the damage (effect).
Sometimes, finding the cause might not be easy. It might be related to a user fault, process fault, or the user’s lack of machine knowledge.
An effective analysis of the cause of a problem might require shadowing the customer’s operator of the machine when using it.
Don't replace parts to diagnose a problem.
Except in very rare cases, you should order a spare part only after a diagnosis that proves that you have a faulty part.
Sometimes it is not easy to identify the component causing the fault, especially with complex electronic equipment. But a professional diagnosis helps you to know deeper the system, reduces customer operating costs and keep the parts available for other co-workers who may need them for an actual fault.
Analyze the Impact of a Problem from the Customer's Point of View
What you can consider a small entity problem might be, instead, a significant cause of loss for your customer. In the metal industry, for instance, you can detect a minimal burr on a laser-cut piece. When you take the piece in your hand you may notice that the slight burr can be removed with your nail, and you wonder why you have been called out for such a small problem.
But if you look at it from the customer’s point of view, the 1,000 pieces they cut per day change the slight burr into a big production issue. The cause of the "small entity problem" needs to be found and fixed!
Don't be focused only on the problem the customer called for.
Always remember the service tech's ultimate target is to reduce the system's downtime, and not only to fix current problems.
Thus, if you notice something wrong during your visit, like a part that might fail soon, or the incorrect use of the system, inform the customer. If you see anything that the customer can do to optimize the system, let the customer know about it. But remember to always be polite and constructive and never arrogant.
Represent your company and your team, not just yourself.
Customers don't need heroes, but a structured and efficient team that is always ready to help. Never take the merit of a "success call" for yourself only.
As mentioned, you are not delivering service only by yourself. You represent a company and have other people and departments as part of your team. Don’t think about your team only as your immediate co-workers.
Your “team” is the whole structure. Customer service, sales, R&D, parts, etc., are all gears that need to work together to achieve a great result.
For example, if a customer is interested in a new product, or talking about an investment in a product your company has, give the lead to the sales department. If you realize that the product that you’ve serviced can be improved somehow, get in touch with the R&D department.
When you order a part, help the parts department by giving the correct part number of the spare part you need. If the part number is not available, provide as much information as possible.
If you can't complete your service call, and you’ll have to go back the next day, or need a co-worker to help, call the co-worker or your supervisor to let them know about the progress you’ve made and what is still left to be completed.
Work safely! This is good for yourself and the customer. From both the human and business point of view, it's never good to have an injury, as it always leads to significant problems.
Never use shortcuts, use the appropriate PPE, follow procedures, and never underestimate the potentially dangerous environment around you.
And, remember, the most serious accidents happen to experienced workers that underestimate "simple" repetitive tasks.
If you follow the tips given in this article you will be delivering excellent on-site servicing and will not only be sorting out issues and repairing broken parts but will become the link between satisfied customers and the company.