“Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please.”
“The Hunt for Red October” is a worthwhile quarantine watch and I’m going to use it today to give you customer service advice.
It was a different time when the film came out in 1990. Heck, the movie came out shortly after the Berlin Wall fell and pretty much at the tail end of the Cold War. Alec Baldwin played CIA analyst Jack Ryan and Sean Connery played Captain Marko Ramius, a Russian nuclear submarine captain, who may or may not be defecting.
The Red October has all kinds of stealth technology and is nearly impossible to find. In one important scene, Ramius must show himself. He does so by commanding his submarine to send out an audible “ping” that U.S. sonar can detect.
It’s a very tense scene. It’s a terrible way to run a business, and yet, most of your customer service efforts feel like Captain Ramius running silent under the cold, cold sea.
Customer Service During and After a Crisis
Lately, I’ve praised the food delivery service DoorDash as the best in class for delivering lots of pings.
Here’s how a transaction goes when you order from them:
- We received your order
- The restaurant has your order
- They’re cooking your food
- Your food is ready for pickup
- The driver is picking up your food
- The driver is a few minutes out
- The driver is here
If I order a cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys, I get a far more communicative customer experience than I do when I order a replacement server array for my data center. And if I schedule an appointment with a professional like a lawyer and give them my material to work on, I won’t hear about anything usually until I send a few (never one) messages to ask about how everything is going.
The Future of Customer Service is High Touch, High Label
High touch - lots of messaging. Lots of interactions. Not an annoying amount (and that’s a very subjective thing to say) but more than most businesses do right now.
High label - instruction. If you’ve ever stayed in an amazing Airbnb property, you know what I mean. “Here’s how you get on wifi.” “Here’s the jacuzzi instructions.” “How to use the magic sinking fireplace.”
High touch, high label is the way to go with customer service.
- “I’m doing this thing right now.” (Touch)
- “What comes next is you can expect a response in two days with the finished product.” (Label)
- “I’ll text you a photo of your exact product on our manufacturing line.” (Touch)
- “If you have questions or need anything, message me here.” (Label)
People who couldn’t get through my drawn-on analogy of The Hunt for Red October will never know the list above this sentence is the GOLD for this article. (Label)
Personable Customer Experience
I wrote another post about how business has to get back to being more human. The analogy used there was about my son Vince and how online schooling has somehow humanized all the students in ways that face to face didn’t accomplish. This mixes nicely with how customer service must change.
It’s vital that we treat customers like important people and that we empower our customer service teams to operate like actual humans with personalities and feelings. Sure, there are rules. There might even be some level of a script. And there must be some guidelines about what not to say and how not to act.
But this humanizing effort will change customer service for the better in ways you can barely imagine.
I’ll give you a strange personal example. I’m late on a bill. It’s a significant bill and I’m just like everyone else who lost a significant amount of incoming revenue during the pandemic. But my experience with this particular bill collector ensures two things:
- I appreciate how ridiculously human this collector has been in dealing with what is a basic financial transaction.
2. I like this company more than I did before I owed them money, and they have earned even more business from me in the future.
Can you imagine that? I’m happy about my customer service experience with a bill collector.
Aim for that with your business and you’ll see what I mean.
While “one ping only” was good advice for Captain Ramius, it’s not for your business. Lots of pings. Personable pings. And share your great customer experience gospel with everyone who interacts with your business.
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