Customers think that your products are buggy – Now what?
The value of tracking support metrics is well known. For some, sophisticated systems provide insightful and useful analysis of the customer service experience. Even the most rudimentary support tracking systems organize support requests into categories such as installation, documentation, how-to, enhancement, etc. One commonly used category is “defect” to identify situations where products do not perform as designed.
Customer Perception is Reality
Vendors classify approximately 5% of support requests as defects. This is in sharp contrast with customers that indicate that nearly a third of support requests are due to product defects. The true number of support issues caused by defects may be 5% or less but customer perception is a reality you need to understand and manage.
Reasons for the Disconnect
There are multiple reasons why users perceive such high defect rates. Here are a few worth considering:
What is a defect? To a vendor, a defect is when a product performs in a manner that it is different from its specifications. If a customer expects a product should do something but it does not, then to the customer that is a defect. These are fundamental differences that can result in serious customer satisfaction issues.
Why would customer expectations differ from product specifications? Collateral and product descriptions may be accurate but incomplete. Verbal promises made in the heat of the sale may be misleading. Documentation and training could be incorrect or incomplete.
Customers have an expectation that products will act in a reasonable manner even in scenarios that were never discussed or previously contemplated. In other words, customers expect a rational extension of features and functionality beyond those explicitly described. This may not seem reasonable to a vendor but to a customer it is consistent with general real-world application of technology.
Close the Perceptions Gap
The best method to manage this perceptions gap is to prevent it in the first place. Clear comprehensive product descriptions, sales presentations and collateral are all needed to properly set expectations about what a product can and cannot do. Review documentation and training material to ensure that they are all clear and consistent in their use of terms. Vague and incomplete information presented during the sales process will set the stage for a continued defect perception gap.
Support Staff Training
Provide Support staff with the skills necessary to manage customer expectations about support case classification. Define clear policies and procedures for handling situations where customers claim that issues are due to defects. Problems that are perceived by customers to be defects but are not must be handled in a way to minimize or eliminate negative impressions. If a customer perceives that a product is defect ridden it can and will have a negative impact on their future buying or renewal intentions.
Periodically ask your customers at the start and end of a support request what their classification of a support request is. Be sure to correct any misperceptions and carefully explain your definitions and classifications. You can turn a customer’s negative impression into a positive experience by demonstrating your commitment to support them and your desire for a long-term relationship.
Set Realistic Expectations at time of Sale
Review all pre-sales and customer related information. Assure that the value proposition and functionality presented is realistic. Make sure that training, documentation and online resources are accurate, complete and unambiguous. Provide necessary review and oversight to assure that opportunities are properly qualified and are a reasonable match with the proposed solution. Instill in your culture the skill and commitment to properly set and manage customer expectations throughout the customer relationship.
When it comes to product quality, customer perceptions are reality. You must make sure you are asking the right customer satisfaction questions to truly gauge your performance. Be aware of any differences between your findings and customer perceptions. Just relying on your own classifications and typical survey results can yield a large gap between what you and your customers perceive to be the root cause of support issues.
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