This past Saturday evening, my cell phone rang around 5pm. We had just spent the day with my over-energetic niece and nephew, so I was relaxing for a few quiet minutes poking around online. When my phone rang, I didn’t recognize the number — so I assumed it might be a user calling for customer support. With slight hesitation, I answered the call.
On the phone was a woman named Ruby. Although she started the phone call with pleasantries, it was clear within a minute or so that she was not happy at all. Ruby was hosting a big event in the upcoming week, and MyPunchbowl was giving her troubles.
As soon as Ruby began to explain her problem, I knew it was related to some changes we had made to the website on Thursday and Friday. You see, Ruby’s guest list was almost 600 people and she was describing problems with speed and performance of the site. I quickly knew that I wasn’t going to be able to help her right away, and that I would need to get one or more of our programmers involved. Keep in mind that it was 5pm on Saturday. Not the best time to bug your employees who have been putting in more than their share of hours during the week.
I tried to explain to Ruby that I didn’t have a solution for her — and that it was going to take some time. Understandably, she was not satisfied. She got short with me pretty quickly (Edit: Ruby says “obnoxious” not “short”), and I frankly wasn’t in the mood to take it. I tried to explain to her what I was going to do to fix her problem, but she kept interrupting me… and my patience was wearing thin. From her perspective, she thought that by calling customer service that she would get a instant solution to her problem. The reality was that the issue was going to take some time to fix. I put Ruby on hold, composed myself, and told her that I would do whatever it takes to fix the problem.
I took all of her contact info, got off of the phone, and immediately called Blake, one of our programmers. Blake was more than willing to dive in and fix the problem. A few hours later, he had a fix to the problem. I emailed Ruby with the information she needed, and provided her with relavent details. At the end of my note, I told her that my new goal was to make her one of the most ardent supporters of MyPunchbowl.com. I had no idea what to expect — was she lost as a customer forever?
On Monday, I received a response from Ruby: “hi matt, thanks so much! i couldn’t have asked for better customer service!”
Yesterday, I received this unsolicited follow-up from her: “just want to tell you that the excel spreadsheet is an awesome perk of using your site. We have someone coordinating the party for us on wed and she wanted the names of people coming so she could make a spreadsheet, but I told her that we already had one!”
So what’s the moral of the story:
1) Don’t answer the phone on Saturday at 5pm unless you are prepared to handle any type of customer service call. I thought it would be an easy call, and I would help a customer with a simple problem. It turned into a 3 hour affair that involved one of our engineers and our web hosting provider.
2) Try to be as empathetic with your customers as possible. Ruby was frustrated and wanted a solution fast. Even though I couldn’t provide a quick solution, the faster I became empathetic to her needs, the more I was able to see eye to eye with her.
3) Don’t act like a customer service robot when you answer the phone. I like customers to realize that I’m a person too — by being more personal, Ruby was less likely to stay angry with me. I tried to take the tone of “we’re having a beer together” rather than some idiot reading a script (note to self: this deserves a blog post in itself).
4) No reasonable customer is ever lost. The most angry, annoyed, fed-up customer can be turned around if you listen to what they need and do your best to respond (note: this does not mean that you should put up with abuse or people who try to take advantage of you).
Ruby contacted me again last night. She’s more than happy — “Matt, I’m definitely a punchbowl client for good!”
To Ruby: I’m really glad that we were able to help you. In a small way, I hope that we enabled your celebration. We’re building this software for people just like you. I’m glad to call you a customer.
Oh, and check the mail. We sent you a little something to say thanks for putting up with the website problem 🙂