The REAL friendly skies - 3 tips for customer service interactions

Customer service is all about when things go wrong. But it's so much more than lip service. It's not even just about solving the problem (obviously, that's step 1), but about how the customer feels when it's all over. If you're doing it right, customer service interactions don't happen very often. So when they do happen, they are major decision moments. Each customer service interaction is either a reason to love the company or a reason to never give the company another cent and worse, complain on social media.

This is even more critical for startups. Not only can we not afford to lose a customer, we definitely don't need the bad PR. I've been thinking a lot about what good customer service means for our business and how we can use it as yet another opportunity to engender loyalty.

Based on my experiences as a product manager and a consumer, there are three things that are critical to creating a great customer service experience.

1. Make good input easy and fast

Too often, customer service forms look like this:

Invariably, this means that I have to spend my time gathering information, and half the time, it's too much work to bother so I don't even do it. This may help your customer service metrics because there are fewer complaints to deal with but in the long run, you want to know when things went wrong and why.

Great customer service inputs make it easy for people to classify the problem, add pictures and videos, and identify if there are specific transactions that it relates to. And it might sound counterintuitive, but if you can create the right form, more clicks actually make it easier because each click represents one or more sentences that I no longer need to type in.

My favourite example of this is the Uber trip feedback/problem form. Now, when you have an issue (e.g. cancellation, poor driver, fare review), you can select the trip, add the details and submit. And the great thing about this is that because the information is provided in a structured format, the data can be automatically processed. If we can use data to respond to the request, no one has to touch it and most importantly, it gets solved even faster for the customer.

Create structured input that is easy for the customer and you can create a data-driven method for customer service that can eliminate the need for multiple touches and solve the problem faster.

2. Always respond in context

We use Intercom for our customer support. One of the great things about it is that when you respond, you can see the person's profile while you respond. Intercom collects a great set of default customer information, but what's more powerful is that we can integrate our own custom attributes and events into the profile.

This allows for great personalization, so responses feel unique and special. This is not to say that some customers should be treated better than others, but simply that a great personalize customer service interaction can make the relationship stronger.

I experienced this in real life recently while flying on Qantas. I'm vegetarian and for whatever reason, my vegetarian request hadn't been processed. The staff was phenomenal and went out of their way to create a vegetarian lunch for me and make sure I was happy. That itself went a long way. But what was even more phenomenal was that on my next Qantas flight to/from completely different locations a few days later, those staff members checked to make sure that I had my vegetarian meal, and gave me a bottle of wine and apologized for the issues I'd had on my last flight!

mind blown.

mind blown.

There's a big cost difference in Australian carriers. But even though it costs more, I'll pick Qantas every time. That level of personal consideration creates incredible loyalty. And I'll also note that my frequent flyer status is actually with American, so this experience with Qantas was even more remarkable.

So in all of your service interactions and follow up interactions, find the context and use it.


3. Make it easy to share

Finally, this is something that I don't see many people do. I often see NPS surveys or a way to provide internal feedback but not an easy way for me to post my great customer experience to Facebook or Twitter.

In a way, this is like app ratings. There are lots of great insights on how to get good ratings and not be obtrusive. Similarly, I think there must be good ways to share great customer service experiences that don't feel intrusive or pushy.

Sharing great moments is something that people are used to doing in all kinds of forms on social media. Having a simple approach to making that easy for them can result in virality and genuine social media love.