Bill Benjamin

Customer Service: How Not to Do it!

Our company moved e-mail servers this week. Having a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, I understand the complexity of doing this and that things are likely to go wrong. Well, things did go wrong. On the day of the migraine, I mean migration, I started to get calls from partners and clients telling me their e-mails to me were getting bounced back i.e. getting an “undeliverable” message. When you are migrating e-mail servers, this is the one thing you don’t want to have happen – customer not able to send you e-mails.

As you can imagine, I am feeling very concerned about not only these clients, but also the customers who aren’t calling me and what e-mails might be getting lost. I am a practitioner of Emotional intelligence, so I make sure that I am not feeling panicked or frustrated when I call for help. I called the appropriate technical support person at our vendor and explained the situation. The first thing he said was “your team didn’t do x, y and z and that’s why we are having the problem”. I am not sure that blaming my team members for the problem is making me feel any better. Is that really the best response at that point?

So that’s a little annoying, but again I want to manage my emotional response and focus on solving the problem. Here is the dialogue that followed:

Bill: “are the e-mails that clients have sent being saved on a server somewhere or are they lost?”. This seemed like a reasonable questions to me.

Tech guy: “you wouldn’t lose those e-mails”.

Bill: “what do you mean we wouldn’t lose them?”

Tech guy “your clients got an undeliverable response, so those e-mails were never sent. They can’t be lost if they were never sent”

Ok, now I like to be specific, but is this not splitting hairs? If a client sends an e-mail that gets bounced back, and they either ignore the bounce back notice or it goes into their spam folder and they never see it, can we not call that “lost”. But is that really the point any way? At that point, I am feeling like this support person doesn’t care if I lost a year of e-mails. Is this the kind of support I want from this vendor?

So what do I do? Yell at him was what I really wanted to do, but I can tell the tech support guy is emotionally triggered and defending his position, and there is no point in discussing this any further as he is likely to only get further triggered, making him even less capable of solving the problem. So, I let him know it’s urgent to us that he solve the problem and ask what help he needs from us.

We will definitely be giving feedback to the vendor once everything has settled down. If you want to learn how to give feedback in a skillful way, check out our Three Conversations of Leadership program.

In my next Blog post, I am going to discuss how the technical support person could have responded, and without accepting blame for what happened, left me feeling that he understood how I was being impacted, and confident that he cares about fixing the problem.

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