Supporting Customers – What is the real impact of the situation?

October 30th, 2012 |

I wrote a blog post on ensuring you actually understand the problem the customer is having as you try to solve a problem.  I am going to continue with a series of posts which will hopefully inspire you to delivering better customer service.   (My posts will tend to lean towards customer support/service in the software industry but typically will apply across the board)

“Rich, what should I do in this situation?”

If you’re a customer service manager, this is something you likely hear every now and again.

If you’re asking this question be prepared to have some answers of your own.  Typically, these are going to be the key questions you’re going to be asked (this will vary between industries):


1. What is the problem?

  • Most of the time a 1 minute overview of the problem will suffice
  • Do you really know what the problem is?

2. What is the real impact of the situation?

  • How many of our customers are affected?
  • What is the impact to those customers?
  • And in a more traditional residential type of space, what does this really mean to the consumer?

3. Is there a workaround?

  • Is there something we can do to solve the problem in the short term?


#2 above is one of the most important answers you need to have as a customer service professional.  You solve problems yourself every day, all day.  Each time you do that you have identified the impact to your customer – whether you realize it or not.

Impact is going to vary between customers.

In the traditional ISP situation “I can’t get online!!”

Well the impact likely varies.

For a residential customer – maybe they can’t get online to chat with their family – or can’t get online to check the football scores.   If they’re contacting you – the impact is likely very large to them.  You might find it trivial in the grand scheme of things – but you MUST understand what the impact is to them – and of course weigh that vs other activities you are working on.  All the while you must convey to the customer that their problem is the most important thing in the world to you to solve.

For a business customer – maybe their entire phone system won’t work now or they can’t get their e-mail to run their business.  Certainly these are very large impacts and of course checking football scores pales in comparison to these types of issues.  In both cases you need to ensure you convey to the customer that you understand the impact to them, let them know you feel their pain and you understand the impact.

Remember – you understanding the impact of the situation is very important for multiple reasons.

  • It helps the customer know that you understand what this situation means to them
  • It ensures your manager is informed and understands what the problem actually means
  • It lets you put yourself in the customer shoes
  • It helps you determine what the priority of the issue is in relation to other activities

When trying to determine impact one question you need to ask yourself is “are there any more like this?”
If there is one customer having a problem, there’s likely more.

  • How can you identify those customers?
  • Can you fix the problem before they know they have it?
  • How can you get ahead of them contacting you?
  • How can you get ahead of them experiencing pain that you now know they may encounter?

You cannot deliver excellent customer service without being able to identify the impact of the situation your customer is having.  And always remember, if there’s one, there’s likely more than one.

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