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Customer Service for Engineers

Customer service often gets a bad rep in the press. Unfortunately, it’s often due to insanely poor service from corporations, companies that win Consumerist’s Golden Poo Award. It could be in part because these large businesses outsource the role to call centers that get paid by volume of handled cases rather than the value provided to the customer.

But that isn’t the service I want to talk about today. Instead, I want to help engineers understand what the importance of good customer service and how people in the role promote your company’s brand.

Customer Service is on the Front line

On the Front Line

A dedicated team may hold the role of customer service or shared by other roles within the business. Customer requests may come in through emails, support tickets from a web form, calls, or even passionate customers showing up at the front desk.

Whoever is filling the role, they are the front line of your company with its customers. Consumers have become to expect a high level of product quality and when something doesn’t work right out of the box, passion flares and angry emails to the company are sent.

I’ve never been in war, but I can imagine it to be a very scary place, full of emotion and false steps leading to a quick end. And perhaps putting customer service out on this front line is a bit superfluous, but when they are getting angry emails and angry calls, I’m sure they fell as they are on the front.

And one wrong move from them (as seen so often in the media) can create torrents of bad PR for the company. On the other hand, a skilled customer service professional can turn the tide and even create new fans of your company – all with a few well-placed responses.

Triage Issues and Escalate

Functionally, the customer service triages issues and attempts to provide answers to customers. Sometimes this is classed into ‘tiers’ where each layer responds the best it can and escalates what it can’t.

  1. Call Centers, FAQ
  2. Support specialists
  3. Developers

Call centers, FAQ pages, and automated responses provide tier 1 support and could solve the majority of problems customers face. Companies that care about their customers will then provide an easy way to connect the customer support team through the phone or email.

This team is providing tier 2 support, helping customers diagnose problems, dive into support dashboards, and use their experience to provide help. A well-equipped support team could offer guidance and solve the majority of issues faced by customers.

But sometimes funny shit happens like a new build went out without adequate testing. Products that typically work great, suddenly stop. Customer support is at a loss. At this point, the problem is escalated to tier 3 which often involves developers or, at least, their managers.  This level can dive into the code and see where bugs popped up or provide technical reasons why something is failing.

The balance that companies face is the balance between triaging as much as possible to minimize developer distraction, and providing enough transparency that developers see what customers are dealing with. An excellent customer service team can provide customers with answers and be their advocate to the engineering team.

Provide a Voice of the Company

People in sales or marketing may get a bit upset about this statement as being ‘the voice’ is part of their job description. But while sales and marketing bring new customers in, it is customer service that makes or breaks their long term commitment.

Advertisements and other marketing channels bombard customers all the time with messages to buy this product or use that service. But these don’t provide any human relatability or engender the trust that fans require. Put them on the phone with a good customer service rep, on the other hand, and the get to hear the company.

Give them a High Five

So next time you see someone from your customer service team in the hallway, give them a high five for representing your company. And when they come to you for technical assistance, provide the best help that you can, because you are helping them win a customer over – a customer who could be an influential enough person to increase drastically sales.