Jeff Robinson, Kepner-Tregoe
When customers engage with your company - whether it is in the sales process, requesting services, receiving a delivery, seeking support or a billing issue, the experience they have engaging with your staff will have a lasting impact on their perception and desire to do business with your company in the future. In most cases, customers are engaging with you because they have an issue, question or underlying need they believe your staff can address. Your customer facing staff is the first point of contact on a customer’s issue and should be prepared to manage it effectively.
This is where troubleshooting skills come in. Most customer engagement situations will have some level of ambiguity, be missing some critical information, require analysis and lead to decision-making – requiring your staff to fill in the blanks to understand the true need and formulate an effective response. Here are some examples where troubleshooting skills can help improve your customer’s satisfaction.
- Empathetic listening for customer observations – while this might not seem like a troubleshooting skill, empathetic listening is critical both for harvesting essential insights from the customer and establishing baseline credibility for any action or recommendation that will follow.
- Interpreting symptom indicators from a product or process – Most customer engagements relate to some sort of product or business process that your company already knows something about. Most products and processes produce some sort of data and contextual indicators that can help your staff understand what is going on in the environment that could be impacting the customer. Understanding what indicators are available and how to use them is essential to providing an informed response.
- Correctly identifying the issue – often customers stated ‘ask’ will be very different from their underlying ‘need’. The first step in effective troubleshooting is identifying the real issue that needs addressing. Root cause analysis techniques are a helpful tool in distinguishing the causes vs. symptoms of an issue.
- Assessing impact and urgency of the issue – In the eyes of the customer, their situation is the most urgent and important issue facing your company. Your staff needs to be able to acknowledge this customer perspective while at the same time apply a structured approach to assessing the urgency and impact of the issue to the company – enabling them to initiate an appropriate level of response.
- Knowing what questions to ask to gather the information that is needed. Troubleshooting isn’t about having the right answers, it’s about asking the right questions and knowing where to go to find information. This includes having access to known issues, FAQs and troubleshooting resources and understanding how to use them effectively.
- Taking action to provide solutions and recommendations or to connect the customer with experts if needed. Customer support is a process and one of the worst things your staff can do is end the conversation without ensuring the issue is either closed or handed-off to someone else within your company to address. Troubleshooting skills include the evaluation of alternative courses of action and selecting the most appropriate one for the situation.
It isn’t always necessary for your staff to solve the customer’s problem but they do need to ensure that the problem was addressed. They do this by accepting their role as the face of the company to the customer, listening empathetically to the customers concerns, capturing relevant information, doing what they can to resolve the problem, engaging others when necessary and ensuring the issue is followed-up to resolution. Companies often invest in training to advance technical and subject matter expertise, but for customer facing staff, developing a core set of troubleshooting skills can enable them to have a big impact customer experience and satisfaction. You can learn more here.