Rule #1: The Customer is Always Right
By: Tyler Feirtag
Technical Customer Service Representative
When I was growing up, there was a magnet on my fridge with the picture of a hen and two rules listed under it. Rule number 1 was “Your mother is always right.” The second rule was “If your mother is wrong, refer to rule number 1.” Being the obstinate kid that I was, I took that magnet as a challenge to prove my mother wrong, almost daily.
“Mom, did you know that carrots don't actually improve your sight? The British used it as propaganda by putting up posters saying that carrots improve your night vision so the Germans wouldn’t know they had radar. Ever since, everyone assumed that carrots improve sight, but they don’t; therefore, I’m not eating mine.”
As you can imagine, that did not go over well at the dinner table. My father, being the quick-witted individual that he was, quickly referred me back to the magnet.
So what does supporting a client have anything to do with that magnet? I’ve heard another rule many times: the customer is always right. But surely the customer can’t always be right, can they?
When supporting a client with their IT needs, there is a lot of give and take. Mostly we see it with how one party or the other describes what is wrong with a system. I like to think of it as a similar problem that mechanics face. “My car is making a bumpity boom sound when I turn” is not much information to go on, yet mechanics are expected to fix your vehicle.
IT support personnel deal with the bumpity booms of their clients’ systems and have the same requirements as mechanics in resolving the issue.
There are so many technological terms, and some of them can be so unbelievably specific, that even an IT professional can’t be expected to know them all. Most of these terms don’t make it into everyday speech. It’s the IT professional’s job to take the words of the client and systematically determine a problem’s true cause. It’s like translating one language to another in many cases.
Clients often describe things simply as being broken. “My laptop is broken” is a cringeworthy ticket that all support members dread. There are only 1,000 different avenues of approach in resolving this issue (roughly). It can be frustrating to have so much grey area. Especially when you find out that the resolution was as simple as a dead battery needing a charge.
Regardless of the client’s language, the response can’t be one of frustration and sarcasm. Saying, “Well, you better buy a new one,” is not going to help the client solve the problem, and it won’t help you keep your clients. Was the laptop broken? No, it really wasn’t. Did the internet die? No, it didn’t, they just weren’t able to connect to it. But they were right in that something wasn’t working the way it should. In the client’s eyes, that means the same as broken.
Describing what is happening in the world around you is something that you cannot be wrong at. It is an interpretation. Even if the customer’s terms are completely wrong and what is actually a monitor is being described as a server, it is the support member’s task to be patient, ask the right questions, and resolve the issues that arise.
The ability to figure out what’s really going on, to wade through the imprecise terms and explanations, and to explain the solution to the customer in a way they can understand is the difference between a great support team that clients want to work with and a team that falls flat. Fixing the issue is only part of the battle, reassuring the customer that they were, in fact, right is the deciding factor in the war of support.