There is a trap that everyone who works in customer service/support falls into at least a few times in their career (if not more often). The sad truth is that some customer service “professionals” live in this trap, in perpetuity, leading to poor customer experiences as well as their own burnout.
The attitude that customers are idiots is a slow killing poison and given enough time will dismantle from within even some of the best companies, products, or services. All too often when users come to us for help, their needs are painfully simple. It’s tempting to ask “Did you even read the documentation?” or “What do you think the giant button labelled (insert feature here) is for!?” These requests can be common and mind numbing for those who answer them day after day. It’s easy to forget how foreign these products or services were when we first started using them.
For this reason, I’ve chosen to approach every support ticket with this thought in mind: “Whatever this user is coming to me for help with, it’s our/my fault.”
That single thought has the potential to revolutionize the level of support you provide to your users, but it’s also incredibly difficult to adopt on a regular basis. It’s difficult to learn to point the blame inward instead of outward. It goes against our very nature as human beings.
That really obvious, easy to use feature that that’s confusing them? SOMETHING in that feature is not as obvious or easy to use as you think. Respond as if experience with the product has blinded you to this reality, and after providing assistance to the user go ahead and ask what, if anything, would have helped them in the product without them needing to contact you.
Users who don’t understand your product because they’ve not read documentation? Where is your documentation? Do you link to it from within your product in the places where it might be most relevant (this is a project we’re working on for Ninja Forms right now). How clearly written is your documentation? Is it just a list of features in your product or what they do, or is it written as a clear, guided solution to whatever your users most common problem is?
In the end, users are contacting you because there is a problem you have the power to correct:
- The product UI/UX isn’t as friendly as it could be
- Documentation is hard to find or unclear
- Marketing copy for the product is unclear or accidentally misleading
- A bug or appearance of a bug in your product
If we aren’t willing to concede that there is ALWAYS something we can do better in our products or in our documentation, our ability to innovate is vastly undermined.
The good news here is that your support interactions are an absolutely treasure trove of data on who your users are, how they’re using your products, and what their needs are! As a product or service owner, these are the most valuable data points you can have to grow your product or business. To do so, however, requires a great deal of humility and self-awareness.
Here’s my challenge for you this week…answer every support interaction from this position of humility. Recognize that for this user to come and ask for your help that you’ve let them down in some way before this point, and make a list through your day of the ways you could have stopped that user from ever needing to contact you. You’ll likely learn a few not-so-surprising things about your product or service…but I’d be willing to bet you’ll learn a great deal that wasn’t already on your list as well.