When it comes to customer support, you’ll probably have to apologise at some stage. However, Rob Addy from the Gartner Blog Network is spot on when he says that Predictive and Pre-emptive support can reduce the number of times you end up on the back-foot. There are many ways you can inform your customers of a service outage, or other incident, prior to the actual event.
Reactive support is… always having to say you’re sorry. Saying you’re sorry is one thing. Being sorry and basing your future actions upon a desire to ensure that your partner doesn’t suffer the same fate again and again is something completely different. If a support provider allows its customers to find the same issue time and time and again can it really claim to “love” them? But worse than that; Knowing that a specific customer segment is likely to be impacted by an issue and doing nothing is surely tantamount to emotional neglect? Sure, some providers alleviate their guilt by buying chocolates, sending flowers and posting an entry within their knowledge base. But this token of their affection may or may not be found and acted upon by their customers. And whilst it allows the provider to satisfy their conscious, it can be argued that it doesn’t really come close to fulfilling the duty of care (or love) that they have towards their customers.
As Tina Turner might say “What’s love got to do with it?” But given the date today I thought I might explore the concept of Love and Support. Both require the parties involved to bear their souls, to be open, honest and frank with one another if the relationship is to be a success. Both require give and take and a common understanding of shared goals. Both require the parties to keep the faith and work at it through the good times and the bad. And in both cases our partners sometimes do things that infuriate and irritate for reasons best known to themselves… Yes, love and support are really not all that different after all.
So how do the various tiers on the Gartner Product Support Maturity Scale relate to the art of love?
- Reactive Support is… always having to say you’re sorry.
- Proactive Support is… sometimes having to say you’re sorry but making darn sure that known problems don’t cause them pain in the future.
- Predictive Support is… rarely having to say you’re sorry because you’re constantly keeping an eye out to protect their interests.
- Pre-emptive Support is… instinctively knowing what’s best for relationship and making it happen.
Although the maturity scale was not originally intended to be a road map for customer love, progressing along the support continuum it defines will undoubtedly help reinforce and strengthen the relationships you have with your customers. By focusing on the customer’s needs and eliminating the pains that they face on a day to day basis even the most dysfunctional of relationships can be turned around.
But love (and support) is about much more than protecting ones partner from the dangers of the world. It’s about providing an environment for them to flourish… It’s about encouraging their efforts… It’s about helping them to be the best that they can be…
But what if your love is unreciprocated? After all, according to Charlie Brown, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” Is it worth loving them all the same? Yes. Yes. Yes. It’s not about being liked, loved or adored in return – it’s about doing what’s right and hopefully having your efforts recognized and valued. Customers will show their growing ‘love’ for you in many different ways. Perhaps they will escalate issues less frequently. Perhaps they will let your occasional mistakes pass without comment or accusation. Perhaps yours won’t be the first name that springs to mind when they are looking to attribute blame. Perhaps they will begin to listen to, and perhaps even act upon, your guidance and recommendations. Perhaps they will pay their renewal invoice promptly without question. But rest assured that they WILL notice. It will take time, but it WILL happen. Acts of love are never wasted.
Support is a many splendored thing… Or at least it should be! I urge you to go out there and let your customers feel the love…