How was your weekend? Good, I hope. I had a pretty good one too, until a snag in my operating system left me unable to play any of my purchased videos. Since a weekend without Star Wars is unacceptable, I turned to the internet for help.
The ultimate nightmare scenario unfolded: a question with no answer online aside from “contact our customer support line. It took 3 representatives a total of four hours to tell me that my problem was unsolvable and to give me a second number to call for a refund. As yet, I’ve not had the mental fortitude to try it.
The real problem here isn’t the error, or that it couldn’t be fixed. It’s that I was out of control for the entire experience. I couldn’t choose when to engage, and had to sit on the line while the poor rep tried desperately to figure out what the problem could be.
This reached the point of parody when they were forced to remotely operate my computer to try and discover the problem. There’s nothing like seeing your mouse move of its own accord to reinforce the lack of control you have as a customer.
Modern customers expect to be in control of their own problems, and to have the resources to fix them. One-to-one support can be great for some customers, but companies with an over reliance on it are eliminating that control. If the problem had been fixed it would have been better, but even then the solution blows away in the wind.
It can’t help anyone else, and customer support reps who encounter the problem in the future won’t know how to solve it. At best, it’ll be added to a little read internal wiki for someone to stumble upon.
Online knowledge bases are a good start to solving these problems, but they don’t solve them entirely. Every product has a FAQ or knowledge base somewhere, but in my experience the problem is never quite the same as what’s written down.
Where does the customer go then?
The answer is inevitably “Try our support line”. In my case, the staff were clearly reading the same FAQ that I was.
Customer support communities, thankfully, are becoming more and more common. Unfortunately, many companies don’t see the full potential of the medium and don’t truly understand how they work. A customer support forum shouldn’t be just another thrown-out part of your omni-channel support. It should be a focal point for your efforts, where customers receive great answers either from your support staff or other users.
They should be a living knowledge base that save countless customers experiencing the same issues and allow them to fix their own problems. If your customer experience is lagging behind, don’t try and fix it by adding more reps to the phones. Invest in a better knowledge base for your customers by improving your support community.