Troubleshooting in Customer Service – Why and How?

“We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right – one after the other, no slip-ups, no goofs, everyone pitching in.” – Atul Gawande, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

Having a well-rounded approach to Customer Service will yield better results both in terms of profitability and customer loyalty. The major portion of Customer Service is problem resolution and that is why troubleshooting is important in customer service. This is not technical jargon but simply means taking a broader issue related to system, service, product – and breaking it down to one main portion or part. Using a methodical route, the main focus of troubleshooting is to understand the cause of the lapse and to provide a detailed explanation for the resolution of the problem. Troubleshooting does not afford the luxury of time since when a customer connects they are already expecting the team to have the answers. Unless the customer service representatives are skilled at using troubleshooting methods, it is unlikely that they would be able to provide the perceived high standards of service. Imagine a scenario where the customer service help-desk member is fumbling on a solution for a product that is supposedly your main selling point.

Related Article: How decision tree driven interactive guides help provide training on Troubleshooting in Customer Service?

Troubleshooting guides must be in document format and also all such interactions must be recorded accurately by the team. This will save time and allow anyone in the team to understand any such problems in the future. This documented format of troubleshooting would serve as a fallback and base document even for new recruits to understand the processes on their own. It will get them up to speed in a shorter period of time, raising the overall efficiency of the team. You as a company would be able to divert attention to testing better methods thereby raising the quality of how problem resolution.

In conjunction with skills in troubleshooting, customer service representatives must be taught the essence of patience especially under pressure. Every customer that calls with a problem will be frustrated and irritated. Even the slightest hint of impatience or smugness on the part of the team, could fuel these emotions in to a full-blown angry and vengeful feeling. Constantly monitor and coach the team to remain calm even though it might seem like a Herculean demand. Customers are not calling to target you but are bound to vent on the first person from the ‘erring company’ they get connected to. In any case, dealing with a calm and rational person is way easier than dealing with an emotionally charged one.

There could be times that even after using the most systematic approach and following all the steps of the troubleshooting guides, the resolution seems like a mirage. A customer service representative that has a broad outlook and can find creative solutions will be the one to satisfy the customer. Thinking creatively, therefore, is another key characteristic for effective troubleshooting in customer service since it makes it easier to see beyond the given set of solutions. Creativity will allow the representative to think of a solution that would be customized to the problem at hand.

There won’t be much use of patient and creative thinking if the customer service representative is unable to convey the understanding of the problem and the possible solutions that would help to resolve the problem. It is imperative, therefore, that the customer service representatives must have good communication skills both written and spoken to be able to convey the troubleshooting steps and the outcomes for resolution clearly to the customer. The customer’s irritation and impatience will considerably ebb when they feel the confidence of the person attending to them.

Related Article: How call center agents use interactive guides instead of call scripts to provide training on Troubleshooting in Customer Service?

Let us understand now, the way in which troubleshooting works. The main step is to focus on, understand and then provide a step by step description of the problem. The description of each step will lead to an in-depth understanding of the problem which will point you in the direction of the accurate resolution.

– Understand the key indicators of the problem. These would include knowing who reported the particular problem and what kinds of errors did the reporter encounter. The possible reasons for the errors would need to be listed and an assessment made on the kind of ramification this problem would have on the business of both the customer and company.

– A clear understanding of where – in the service, system, product working – does the problem occur. The problem being reported at one particular stage does not necessarily mean that the problem exists only at that stage or even at that stage. It could be a trickle effect or could be an indicator that the stages later are not working well. A complete check of all the stages in the working would help identify and isolate the actual cause and is the ideal way to troubleshoot and arrive at an effective solution.

– Knowing when the problem occurs is also vital. A clear path traced backwards from the time the problem has occurred will provide the list of actions undertaken just before the time of the problem. Identifying how often this problem surfaces and if it is specific to any time of the day or night will narrow down the frame of reference and make the isolation of the problem easier.

– Understanding under what circumstances does the problem surface will make it easier to know if there are other reasons contributing to the problem or just the apparent single one. There could also be more than one problem. These could be occurring at the same time and so knowing the reason for each problem would be more helpful than assuming that the cause of all the problems is the same. The problems may not necessarily be aligned to each other.

– It may sound odd and confusing, but a problem that the technical staff is able to reproduce is the most ideal one from a troubleshooting perspective. Since they would know how the problem came about they would be able to use the tool and processes at their disposal to provide a quick resolution. However, problems that would have a high impact on business processes and can be re-created must not be reproduced in the working scenario. They must be re-created and run in a testing environment so as to have more leeway and flexibility to control the outcome and test a better way of running the system. These are tough decisions while troubleshooting and the customer service representative that is properly trained, coached and has regular practice, would make these decisions in a more controlled and effective manner.

The most effective troubleshooting guides from a company are the ones that will help the customer resolve the problem faced, on their own. Despite that if the customer chooses to contact the help-desk, they would be better equipped to answer the pointed questions that the customer help-desk representatives asks them. This speeds up the troubleshooting process and provides a solution quicker providing relief to both the customer and the customer service personnel. Some companies also have the capability to have the system send information of a problem to the main help-desk and to remotely connect with the customer’s system – after due authorization from the customer – making the resolution of the problem even quicker with least trouble to the customer.

With the ever increasing number of companies and their brands, customers are not making buying decisions based on popularity. They will also not think twice about deflecting from a company that they may have been loyal to, if there is a perceivable drop in customer service levels. Customer service is now the most critical determinant in choosing a company and the amount of trust they place in the company. Service representatives who are multi-skilled and able to use basic troubleshooting techniques to resolve problems are now becoming increasingly sought after. After all, it’s what the customer wants and expects!

“Forget ‘branding’ and ‘positioning.’ Once you understand customer behaviour, everything else falls into place.” – Thomas G. Stemberg

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree