When a customer contacts your business, she has a need or want; she is not contacting you because she is bored or because she wants to know the weather in your part of the world.  She reaches out to you because she assumes you can either help her or point her to someone who can.  And you can further assume that her need is time-bound; she needs an answer in an actual number of minutes, hours, or days.  Your challenge is to completely and effortlessly meet her expectations.When a customer contacts your business, she has a need or want; she is not contacting you because she is bored or because she wants to know the weather in your part of the world.  She reaches out to you because she assumes you can either help her or point her to someone who can.  And you can further assume that her need is time-bound; she needs an answer in an actual number of minutes, hours, or days.  Your challenge is to completely and effortlessly meet her expectations.

As you plan your support strategy, it is important to recognize that your customer will be mentally juggling four different times:

  1. When she actually requires closure of her issue
  2. When she expects closure based on her past history with your company
  3. When you tell her she will get closure for this particular call
  4. When she is actually satisfied with the closure

This is what it looks like:

Notice that the expectations and promises are mental; the only things that are actual are performance based.  Until the problem or need is resolved (closed), your customer will be under stress. This stress is something that your business should be working very hard to eliminate!

How Do You Minimize Customer Stress?

Step 1 – Listen carefully to your customer and repeat what you heard about her needs.  Say something like “You need to complete testing 5 more samples in the next 2 hours because the doctor has scheduled patient calls to discuss the test results – right?”  This step is critical because it removes the stress of ambiguity – “Did he understand what I need?”

Step 2 – If the customer expresses any trepidation about your organization’s ability to satisfy her needs, you should address them with something truthful like “I just spoke to our engineer and he is 10 minutes away from your office and has a full set of spare parts”

Step 3 – Set the expectation.  Having set the stage, you should tell the customer when the engineer will arrive (worst case) and how long it will take him to confirm the problem, identify and implement a fix, and run a test sample to confirm the fix is actually performing as expected. Summarize the time with something like “So, unless something really strange is going on, the instrument should be OK for patient testing in less than 2 hours from now.  And Joe will stay with you while you run one or two samples just to make sure all goes as you expect.”

Step 4 – Tell the engineer exactly what you promised and have him call you when the first actual sample has been successfully tested.  Then ask to speak with the customer and make sure she is satisfied with the process.  This will set the expectation for her next call.

Since expectations drive stress, it is important to make this 4-step customer communication process part of all your business’ communications because this type of consistency will drive peace of mind and, hence, retention and repeat business.  It will also make all your employees feel better as they see that customers reach out to your company prepared for a positive outcome and not an argument.

Sounds so simple but how come so many customer calls end up in very dis-satisfied customers?