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Is the Service Desk Laughing at You or with You?

01/23/2012 by: The SunView Team

I was eating lunch with a group of workmates the other day, and the subject of great customer experiences versus simply ridiculous ones came up. Not to trumpet our own style of piano playing, but we are a very service-focused organization. All having spent years working in customer service, we can quickly spot a Customer Service Fail. On this particular occasion, we were talking about fast food, and some experiences that were anything but stellar. The standout story was one that was simple, but relevant - and doesn't stray too far from what can happen at any Service Desk.

On a recent road trip, they did what any good group of "car-cationers" would do - they stopped at a well known "Italian" restaurant. Wanting a slightly healthier fare than the standard offering, they asked for wheat pasta. Sure, wheat pasta may be a bit of stretch, but it was certainly a reasonable question and it can never hurt to ask, accept for this time; it hurt, even if just a little bit.
The response was general laughter, and to seal the deal, never even bothering to officially answer. While the laughter obviously answered the question, this was a complete and utter customer service fail. Though, stuck with no immediate options, they continued to order.
Now, as I understand it, this happened several months ago, but you can see it left a bad taste in their mouth, and not that of wheat pasta (awful in its own way). Their still thinking about it, and while it was likely just this particular location, they will now associate universally to any other similar location. Even worse, it isn't that uncommon, and I've seen and heard this occur far from the speediness of drive-through windows and meat-like sandwiches. It tends to happen right at the Service Desk.
That shouldn't shock anyone, sadden maybe, but not shock. For years Saturday Night Live drew laughs with the character of Nick Burns, the IT Guy. Pushing stereotypes with traditional "nerd garb," Nick carried the torch for laughing in the face of incredibly less tech-savvy individuals that tend to ask completely obvious or, to him utterly ridiculous tech questions.
Fortunately, for as realistic as characters like Nick might be, back then lack of great customer service was permissible, and individuals could hide behind the walled fortress of IT. However, this has changed and is still changing. In fact, as the roles of IT and Business Service blend more and more, great customer service skills are a required standard and the rule. Simply holding laughter back at question you may view as absent minded will be an easy task. The real challenge comes when you learn to resolve a customer's question, something that is far beyond simply answering it.
Taking the philosophy of resolving questions versus answering them, and then applying it to our dining dilemma above, we can see that even answering "no" wouldn't have been a big enough step. As service professionals we need to guide the experience by finding out why they are looking for something that may seem out of the ordinary, and then offer any possible alternatives. This pays dividends down the road, and creates a more pleasurable dining IT experience.
Want to take it a step further? Check out our video on Incident Management with even more tips of improving processes and guidance on fixing the user vs. the technology.
Image: Flickr | rachaelvoorhees