Providing Consistent Customer Support

A Great Experience Shouldn’t Depend on the Luck of the Draw as It Does with Dell's Support Processes

May 12, 2011

When support knowledge isn’t consistent from agent to agent, you have to be lucky to get a successful outcome. Dell’s current support processes seem to depend on the luck of the draw! To provide consistent support, businesses need to provide up-to-date and shared access to up-to-date troubleshooting tools and knowledge bases. They also need to capture customers’ contexts so customers don’t have to repeat themselves over and over.


When something breaks, especially if it is something important to daily life, like a car or a laptop, customers want it fixed quickly, accurately, and with a minimum of hassle. They also want the experience to be pleasant and reassuring. Furthermore, they want a good and successful experience consistently, every time they need your help!

The success of a customer support experience—or any customer experience—shouldn’t depend on the support person who happens to be at the other end of the phone, or the chat line, or at the counter. Your organization should provide adequate training, a knowledgebase of problem resolutions, and a culture and policies that emphasize the customers’ relationships with your brand.

Here, we tell a story that, although it had a happy ending, could have had disaster written all over it. But for the luck of the draw…

An Auto Repair Scenario

An Auto Repair Scenario
(Click on image to enlarge.)

© 2011 Patricia Seybold Group

Illustration 1. The things a customer wants in an auto repair situation can be applied to pretty much any product support scenario.


More than Just Fixing the Problem

When something goes wrong with a product, customers look to you as the provider to make it right again. That’s goal number one. Fix my problem—make me productive and happy again.

But beyond just getting things back on track, customers also want a positive experience when working with your organization on the fix. Let me give you an example:

SCENARIO: MY [CAR] IS BROKEN. This break/fix scenario is a really common customer experience pattern. We’ll use the example of a car repair. But, as you’ll see, the same moments of truth are relevant for any break/fix situation. When my car breaks down, I usually don’t know exactly why. Oh, I know the symptoms, and probably the general category of the problem, but mostly I just want to be safely and happily driving again.

Now, I can get my car fixed at hundreds of locations within my local area. But there are other considerations—which can be considered moments of truth in any repair scenario:

* I want the location to be convenient. If I’m leaving my car there, I need to be able to get home and get back to pick it up once it’s working again. I don’t want to have to spend an hour on a bus getting there. Having a loaner to drive is important to me if the car will be out of commission for more than a few hours.

* I want the repair done right the first time. I don’t want to have to come back to re-fix the problem or to have to fix anything that might have been broken during the initial repair.

* I want the repair to be completed as soon as possible, and I want an accurate time estimate. I don’t want to be low priority on your repair schedule.

* I want a reasonable price, and I want to know the estimate upfront. I don’t want to get a lowball estimate and then get a bill that is twice that.

* If there are additional costs or delays, I want to be notified as soon as possible. I don’t want to have to call you to find out what’s happening, and, again, I don’t want to be presented a bill for things I didn’t know needed repair.

* I want the necessary repairs explained to me in language I understand. And I want to know if I caused the problem (actually, I want to be reassured that I didn’t cause the problem, or if I did, that anyone could have made the mistake, and how to avoid it in the future). I don’t want to be spoken down to or be made to feel stupid.

* I want to be recognized and treated as a valued customer. Remember the car I have, its repair history with your shop, and specifics about me as a customer (such as, I’ve been bringing cars here for over 20 years, that I like the shop to arrange a loaner/rental car for me, etc.). I don’t want to have to explain things over and over.

* I want to have this good experience every time I interact with your company and with every person who assists me, from the receptionist to the estimator to every mechanic who touches my car. I don’t want my experience to be based on the individual who happens to be assigned my job!

(For these reasons, I, like most car owners, seek out and then stick with a repair shop that meets my needs—a big shout out to Michael J. Hynes Auto Repair, .)

CONSISTENCY IS VITAL. Let’s look more deeply at that last bullet, which is basically about consistency. How discouraging to call a repair shop that you’ve been going to for years and have someone ask if you’ve every been there before or inform you that you needed to pay with a cashiers check when the shop has accepted your personal check for over 10 years without question? How awful would it be if, when you took your car for a repair, you couldn’t depend on the repair being done right? Garages don’t (or shouldn’t) let inexperienced mechanics fix complex problems without oversight and guidance from someone who has successfully done that type of repair before.

Ensuring consistency requires three primary commitments:

* Training of personnel

* Capturing customer information and “fixes” in an accessible knowledgebase (which might be as simple as the brains of the more experienced guys)

* Company policy to do whatever it takes to provide great and accurate service and support

We’ll talk more about these commitments after I share my story about an inconsistent experience trying to get a vital repair...

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