3 Ways Helpdesk Indifference Will Kill Your Small Business

You've been dreaming big and working hard to grow your small business, and it's starting to pay off. Your marketing campaigns are bringing in new customers, you've hired more staff, and the new product you're launching has you excited to rush to work in the morning. Everything seems to be on track when you notice a new and disturbing trend: some customers have started to complain about your helpdesk support on Twitter and Facebook. They're disappointed or angry that you "don't seem to care" and worse, some have vowed never to do business with you again. Just what is going on?!

When you first set up your customer support team, you had done your research thoroughly. You had chosen to use a helpdesk software because Dimension Data's 2013/14 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report says Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y customers prefer to receive their support electronically. Despite your best efforts to delight your customers, however, your helpdesk may be killing your small business through indifference.

Research published by the Technical Assistance Research Programs (TARP) shows that 68 percent of customer defections had occurred because customers perceived indifference from the owner, a manager, or an employee of the company. If that percentage sounds staggering, there's good news: if indifference is the primary reason customers defect, then small business owners can take steps to prevent a large percentage of these customer defections! Since many customer interactions happen through your helpdesk, you must make a concerted effort to eliminate signs of indifference from your helpdesk support process.

To that end, here are three signals of indifference that your customers should never experience with your helpdesk team.

1. Silence

Imagine sending an email to a customer support helpdesk and checking your inbox anxiously for a response. Then imagine waiting one, two, or three business days with nothing but silence from the company.

Whether or not it was their intent, that company has sent you the implicit message: "We don't care about you enough to even acknowledge that your issue exists." Truly, nothing says indifference quite like the lack of a response.

The solution: At the minimum, your helpdesk software should send an auto-response email that includes an issue or ticket number that the customer can reference in their next interaction with you. The auto-response can be as simple as "We've received your message and will be reviewing it shortly. Please reply to this email if you have additional information that you believe will help us serve you better." A more sophisticated auto-response can include links to help pages that will allow the customer to resolve common issues on their own.

While an auto-response assures the customer that their issue has been logged, it is no substitute for a solution to their problem. Thus, the auto-response should be followed by an actual reply within a reasonable timeframe.

If your helpdesk is temporarily swamped by support tickets (say, due to a new product launch or an unexpected service interruption), consider adding a short, apologetic note to the end of the auto-response email to say that response times will be slower during this high-volume period. Setting expectations this way can help prevent the customer's frustration from increasing further.

2. Responses that Don't Apply

While the lack of response to emails can be frustrating, an obviously canned or template response that misses the mark can be far worse. This sad mismatch between issue and response happens often enough that a quick search on Twitter returns tweets from customers who stridently ask, "Did you even read my ticket?!"

Canned or template responses can dramatically improve the productivity of your helpdesk agents because customers often encounter the same issue and need the same solution. When used inappropriately, however, canned responses degrade the quality of your customer service in just as dramatic a fashion. Once again, the implicit message that the customer receives is that of indifference: "We don't care about you enough to understand your issue."

Minimize these problems by requiring your team to collect and report data about your customers' satisfaction ( CSAT) with the handling of their helpdesk tickets. A simple question, such as "How would you rate the support you received? (Good/Bad)," will let you produce CSAT reports that identify problem agents and highlight areas that require further investigation.

3. Poor Customer Records or History

If you've ever had to explain an issue to more than one customer service agent before getting your issue resolved, you're not alone in wanting a better experience.

In fact, 50 percent of survey participants in Accenture's 2012 Global Consumer Pulse Research say it is extremely important for companies to have customer service people who know their history based on information they have previously provided. No one wants to repeat themselves each time they interact with someone new.

When the helpdesk agent asks questions that they should already know the answer to, the implicit message is clear: "We don't care about you enough to remember who you are, what you've bought, or what you've told us. "

At the minimum, your helpdesk solution should have the full history of the customer's email exchanges with your business. The agents should know to check for other open tickets to get a full picture of the customer's current issues. A subset of your agents may also need access to more sensitive customer information such as purchase and billing data to resolve disputes in these areas.

In Closing

If these challenges sound disheartening, take heart! Research findings from the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer show that small businesses enjoy an advantage over their larger competitors. Up to 80 percent of consumers surveyed say small businesses provide more personal service and understand both their business and customers better than large companies. In other words, customers find small businesses to be the exact opposite of indifferent!

Eliminate all signs of indifference from your help desk interactions and you'll have taken a giant step toward retaining and delighting your customers, and creating a customer service process that enables the growth your small business.

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer of Bunny Inc. Learn more about Jun at his blog or by following him on Twitter. This article was co-written by ArticleBunny.