I Need Help Now!

Providing Customer Support When and Where They Need It

July 15, 2010

In a crisis situation, customers need service fast, regardless of the details of their service level agreements. This article provides some do’s and don’ts that will help your company cement relationships with your customers by helping them when they need you the most.


When customers face an emergency, they rely on their providers to help fix the situation—fast! You need to make sure that customers can get immediate support easily, regardless of day, hour, or service-level agreements. Here are some do’s and don’ts on how to respond to urgent service requests that make it easy for customers to:

  • Identify themselves
  • Complete requests in one step on one touchpoint
  • Upgrade service levels on the spot
  • Find someone to talk to in times of crisis


Picture the following scene on the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation : it’s midnight; the CSI team has only hours before a killer strikes again; DNA technician Wendy Simms is about to do the final test on the tiny number of cells found at the crime scene, and the DNA Microarray equipment isn’t working! She needs a fix or replacement NOW! When she calls her provider, she gets a recording asking her to enter her service agreement contract number—but she can’t remember it! She tries desperately to get a person on the phone, but she is stuck in the labyrinth of hell that is IVR and gets more and more frustrated. Ultimately, she turns on lab mate David Hodges, and strangles him for not remembering the service number (and for just being kind of annoying).

Of course, you’ll never see that scene on TV. The equipment always works at the last minute, or they come up with some sort of genius on-the-spot invention that can replace the broken machine. But, in real life, customers sometimes need immediate support and count on your company to provide it whenever it is necessary.


Technical Software Provider Puts the Onus on Customers

When I think of difficulties that customers experience trying to get emergency service, I think back to a customer co-design session that we ran several years ago for a provider of high-end, business-critical technical software for engineers. In order to request service, the customer needed to provide the service contract number. But most customers had multiple products with the associated multiple service contracts. Trying to figure out which contract number was the one needed was painful. And, when the customer was in an emergency situation, this added to the burden and the frustration the customer felt.

The company required the contract number to validate that there was an active service contract in place and to determine the level of service. The customers understand that, in theory, but, in practice, they just wanted help! They weren’t trying to defraud the vendor; they had the service contracts. But, at time of greatest need, they couldn’t easily and quickly get that service.

So here are some quick do’s and don’ts for identifying customers’ support contracts:

  • Do allow your customer to identify himself by name (company name for B2B).
  • Don’t require contract or customer numbers for identification.
  • Do let customers rename their support access information to something meaningful. And allow them to change the name when they want to (e.g., a new person is in charge and wants an account name that he can easily remember).
  • Don’t force customers to remember ...

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