The 3 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make with Customer Support Over Chat

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My website was down for 37 hours this week. Not only was the website down, but we couldn’t send or receive emails. The outage happened because something went wrong in a scheduled site upgrade on Sunday night. My hosting company was to perform a simple process that I thought would take a few minutes.

I reached out to my hosting company more than a dozen times during the 2-day outage, desperately trying to get the issue resolved and to check the status of the problem. In my multiple interactions with the company, they made three critical mistakes in the customer support experience. These are the same three mistakes you can’t afford to make with your customer support experience.

1. Not Managing Expectations Up Front

Managing expectations at the onset will get customers and the company on the same page and will minimize frustration later on in the process. If you know your business is experiencing a backlog, let your customers know. This is what I mean by managing expectations.

Had my hosting company said before we started things, “We’re looking at 3-4 days to complete this process,” I would have aborted the process and come up with a Plan B. But they let me believe things would be completed in minutes. My panic and frustration led to a half dozen support chats (they don’t take phone calls) each of the two days of the outage.

Managing expectations helps you minimize customer frustration and reduces unnecessary callbacks. So, always be honest and transparent with clients up front.

2. Giving Indefinite Time Targets

Each of the dozen times I opened a new chat to check the status of my website project, They gave me vague, almost laughable responses. Here are a few of the chats I got from the agents when I tried to check the status of my website:

“I can’t promise you a time.”

“All I can tell you is it’s in process.”

“You can open a new chat anytime to check the status, but all I can say is it’s in process.”

“Can you please give us three more days?”

And then this one:

Hosting company: “We’ll email you when it’s done.”

Me: “I don’t have access to email because of the problem we’re discussing right now, remember?”

Hosting company: “Do you have another email account, like a GMAIL?”

Me: Thinking, Good God!

I’d look at the response on my screen and think, this is a joke. How can the company believe this is customer support? Always shoot to give your customers specific and realistic time targets. Even if the time goals are lengthy, being explicit and honest will help your clients.

3. Using Delay Tactics

All of my chats with my hosting company were lengthy, one going more than an hour. The conversations were long because the agents frequently said things like, “Let me check with my colleagues,” and then they’d be gone for 11-23 minutes at a time. I’m not kidding. I felt they were just having me sit there while they did other tasks and I suspect they hoped I’d just exit the chat.

Don’t use delay tactics over the phone, chat or in person. Just assertively say to the customer what needs to be said. I’d prefer directness and honesty like, “You’re not going to like this, but here’s the deal. We have a backlog right now, and we don’t expect to have your site up until four days from now.”

Managing expectations up front make things easier for both the customer and you. Always be definite in time targets. Even if customers don’t like how long things may take, they will appreciate your efforts at giving them complete information. And never use delay tactics. Customers recognize these tactics, and this only makes things worse for you.

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