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Being Heard | Customers, Etc

Being Heard | Customers, Etc
By Ben McCormack • Issue #35 • View online
Programming note: I’ll be taking a break from the newsletter for two weeks, back in your inbox on January 7. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
Also, FullStory is hiring a Senior Support Engineer. Please pass along if you know someone who might be interested.

I’m in the process of refinancing my home. “Smart move, interest rates are at an all-time low”, you’re probably thinking. Yes, interest rates are low, but I’ve been wanting to refinance for months. You might recall back in May how I shared the horror story of what it was like trying to connect with my current mortgage servicer and feeling totally alone and in the dark. I wanted so bad to “take my business elsewhere”, but that’s not really something you can do with a home loan, not without paying thousands of dollars in closing costs to refinance. So when interest rates fell, I decided it was time to look again.
Do you think I began my search my calling up my current mortgage servicer and asking for a lower rate? Hahahaha, absolutely not. I literally went to Google and typed top rated mortgage servicer. The key word there is servicer—not lender!—what I care about most is the quality of service after the loan closes. It turns out that one of the top rated servicers also has a super easy online application process with incredibly helpful chat support. I can’t tell you how irrationally excited I am to begin logging into a new website to pay my mortgage in about a month.
Is this crazy? You know, it can’t be any crazier than a company leaving you feeling completely in the dark when there’s nobody who can hear you out and feel your pain. When people aren’t heard, they’ll do crazy things, like refinance their home so they don’t have to deal with you ever again.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
In the dark
Being heard is so powerful. A few month’s back, I ordered a metal carport online¹. The site I used had this really cool online tool that made configuration super easy and everything was more or less self-service. Perfect.
Installation was a different story. The installers didn’t show up at their appointed time and nobody bothered to call me. When I finally connected with a human, they said the installers were running behind and would be at my house shortly. Several hours later, at the very end of the day, the installers showed up. No, I was not going to let them start installation after the sun went down. And that was only the first failed installation attempt.
By the third failed installation attempt, I felt completely in the dark. Each time I tried calling the scheduler—when I could get through to them—it felt like I was going crazy trying to get somebody to hear me out and come up with some sort of commitment to make it right. Nobody had the power to do anything.
Finally, I decided to leave a negative online review. I really don’t like leaving negative reviews. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I just feel kinda yucky. But I didn’t know what else to do and it felt like the only option left.
To my surprise, I received a phone call soon after from Alan, the owner of the company where I had ordered the carport. He probably spent 20 minutes hearing me out, listening to my concerns, and offering details about what had been happening behind the scenes². While I was very thankful for the partial refund he offered, what mattered most was that I felt heard. I was no longer alone.
Being heard in B2B
And lest we think that “being heard” only matters in retail, here’s an example from FullStory, a B2B software-as-a-service business. Over the summer, I wrote about an effort to improve the way we were escalating issues to the product team and how we would write to customers if we weren’t able to fix their issue right away:
We have an OKR [Objectives and Key Results] this quarter on the support engineering team to improve our escalations to the product team. As part of this work, we want to get better at our communication with customers about issues that are painful (for them) but really hard to fix (for us).
Around that time, one of our customers was getting really frustrated because of a missing feature in our new mobile apps product. Not having features is nothing new, but the problem here was that before the sale, a product manager had given assurance that this particular feature was available. So when the customer purchased and finally got around to implementing FullStory, they were justifiably disappointed that this feature was missing.
Even though we handled the situation as best as we could—we tried communicating clearly that we didn’t have the resources to prioritize adding this feature—it just wasn’t getting through, to the point where the customer reached out to the original salesperson asking if there was anything that could be done.
Finally (and way too late), I got on a call. This was mostly an opportunity for the customer to share their disappointment and for me to listen. I also shared a bit more about what was going on behind the scenes and my commitment to provide a clear timeline moving forward.
To be honest, the timeline wasn’t even something I would get all that excited about, but my periodic updates to set expectations must have worked. This was the customer satisfaction survey we received:
Ben is one of the best customer support advocates I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my 20+ years of software experience.
I’m not sharing this to toot my own horn. This is all basic Customer Service 101 stuff, but when you have a customer that feels like they’re in the dark and nobody is listening to them, just being heard can completely turn the situation around.
  1. In the off chance you’re in the market for a carport and are considering ordering online, feel free to reach out. I know far more about this space than I ever imagined I’d know.
  2. I go into more detail in my updated review, but the TL;DR is that Alan’s outsources manufacturing and fulfillment to a third party, and the manufacturer’s operations were, uh, “not optimized for retail”, to put it kindly.
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Ben McCormack

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