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May 19, 2010

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Truly Lovely Customer Service, or Why Are the Brits So Cheerful?

There's an old joke that goes like this:

Q: What is the difference between American and British manners?

A: The British have them...the Americans don't.

Joking aside, the "British politeness factor" seems to be borne out in market research: in a receEven the British street signs are politent poll carried out by international marketing company GMI, more than 25,000 people from 35 countries rated UK citizens to be "the most polite and best educated"

Consider our recent experience here at Glance:

A customer of ours, Bill Boardman, was using Glance's screen sharing tool to collaborate with a colleague, sharing CAD  drawings.  Bill was using Glance to view his guest’s screen, and called to report a problem viewing some of his colleague’s images.  Debby, one of our fabulous engineers, got on the phone with Bill. Debby got Bill’s guest on the phone, changed a setting, and voila, all fixed.

In Debby's words, "There was nothing new there – most support issues we deal with are minor and readily fixed with a few minutes on the phone.
"The remarkable thing was that from the start, Bill was amazingly cheerful and seemed to genuinely enjoy the process of picking up the phone and talking to a human being.  We had a great conversation and while Bill came away with a solution to his problem, I came away with a glimpse into his design work, a recommendation for a new car (Subaru diesel), and a big smile on my face.

"As soon as I got off the phone our CEO, Rich Baker, who had overheard my half of the phone call, asked: 'Brit?'"

How could he tell?  We’ve noticed around here that our transatlantic customers just seem to always be having a blast and it’s a lot of fun to take their calls. In fact, Bill's first words when we answered the phone were, "Is this the wonderful Glance Networks of Boston, Massachusetts?!"

Wow. Can we learn something here?

My guess is that Bill started off his tech support call assuming he had a decent chance of getting his question answered; and his cheerful tone and words reflected that presumption. Consequently, we responded with stepped-up enthusiasm (and here at Glance, we're pretty enthusiastic to start with!), determined to fulfill Bill's request, no matter what. See how that works?

What we learned from that interaction with Bill was this:

1) For consumers requiring support: Throw out the baggage you've acquired from previous unsatisfactory customer service experiences and be optimistic about your next call. Let your words and tone to the service rep who answers your call, reflect that. See if the service rep responds similarly.

2) For businesses giving support: Answer calls with human beings (and cheerful ones at that) instead of letting it go into the queue - if we're asking consumers to go out on a limb and be cheerful, than you've got to do your part by making their customer service experience positive.

Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

So, what does your business do to ensure cheerfulness on both ends of the call?

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks

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