Is there anything else I can help you with?

by Christopher Meyer on 08/24/2012

While in the process of writing several more substantive pieces, my disk drive crashed. This started a whirlwind of customer service calls.  As I get back to the other pieces, I couldn’t resist a short piece that summarizes an all-too-familiar customer experience.

empathy.jpgHow many times have you called customer service, didn’t get the problem solved (or even came close!) only to have the call conclude with the agent asking “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Come again?

To be fair, the agent may be asking this inane question because “this call may be monitored for quality assurance” and if they don’t ask, they potentially get dinged.  In that case, we’re dealing with companies that treat their people as mechanical objects and have more interest in maintaining internal discipline than really listening to their customers.

It’s a rare day when customer support answers by asking the simple and most obvious question “how can I help you?”

Of course they’re sitting in front of a computer loaded with a CRM system that must be fed but should that drive the conversation?  As soon as the questions about name, address, model, serial numbers, purchase date, etc. start, the roles flip.  The agent is now the listener served by the customer.  Not only does this perversion happen in a nano second, we’ve come to expect it and go along.

To put this in perspective, imagine your child called customer service after careening off their skateboard onto the sidewalk:

Good afternoon – Shaun White skateboards.   Could I please have your name and phone number just in case we get cut off.

I’m sorry I can’t hear you with all that crying.  You’ll just have to stop crying.  If you keep crying, I’ll have to hang up sir.

Sally?  Excuse me.  Thank you Sally.  Could you please give me your phone number?  Sally, please stop sniveling.  Thank you Sally.

Could you please give me the serial number of your skateboard.  Where is it located?  It depends on what model skateboard you have.  Can you turn it over and find a model number anywhere?

No matter how brilliantly designed, there’s no database that provides empathy.  Empathy is a uniquely human relationship that sets a foundation which can be advanced by knowledge and expertise.  Without empathy, the connection fails like a dropped cell call.  Can you hear me know?

Calling customer service is not something one does voluntary to brighten a dreary day. For customers, problems are interruptions that unexpectedly arise and divert them from their pursuits.  They’re an annoyance or worse.  Only for customer service are problems a potential “opportunity”.

So please start with a simple, “How can I help you?” help me feel heard and then dive into the background that’s essential for the situation.

As they say in New Jersey, do you got a problem with that?   If so, please listen closely as our menu options have changed.

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