Published in Government

Customer Service #wetried

You may or may not have noticed the #facebookdown problems two weeks ago. But did you try calling 9-1-1 when Facebook wouldn’t load?

Apparently, some people in Houston did.


Did Facebook do something wrong to cause these calls? Well, obviously we would prefer that Facebook never have any bugs. Maybe the company could have provided more channels for customer service, and made them easier to find. But I’d rather focus on the customer service lessons that this tweet from the Houston Police Officer’s Union can teach us:

1. Everyone in the organization owns customer experience
Just like the police are not responsible for fixing Facebook, you may not be responsible for a customer’s transactional experience with the company. But every employee in a customer-centric company needs to be focusing his or her efforts around pleasing the customer. As Jan Carlzen says, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”

That means that if you’re in the front line, you’ll learn about the products you’re selling and help customers in whatever way you can. If you’re in product management, you’ll learn customer personas and design your product to meet customer needs. If you’re in the C-suite,  you’ll plan your company strategy to please customers. Wherever you are in the company, you’ll try to create and maintain a company culture of customer centricity.

2. Apologizing never hurts – even when it’s not your fault
It would have been very easy for the Houston Police Officer’s Union to post something like this:

“Folks please do not call the police because #facebookdown we are as upset as you are but we cannot fix facebook. #notanemergency #emailzuckerberg”

…but they didn’t. Instead of those last two sarcastic, annoyed hashtags, we got #sorry #wetried. When companies and their employees are genuinely helpful, they work for the benefit of the customer, not just for the profit of the company. Customers can tell the difference. Companies that try to shuffle responsibility for customer happiness off to someone or something else will never have the same emotional connection with their customers.

3. Make sure that your customers know how to get product support
In today’s omnichannel world, your company may have overextended itself in providing service channels. Should a customer call? Online chat? Send an email? Leave a comment? Tweet? It’s hard for a customer to know which channel to access – especially if your website is down and customers can’t find contact information there. It’s always a good idea to monitor social media in those cases; but having a backup resource is smart too. If customers don’t feel like they’re receiving timely, on-topic support, they will lose trust in your company’s reliability. Be clear in providing customer support channels, and you can turn company failures into service recovery successes.

4. Voice & tone go a long way
Make people smile and your customers will love you for it. This tweet was exceptionally appealing. It was human, funny, and clever (#techpolice). The message (police aren’t responsible for problems with Facebook) was clear, but there was no mockery of the people who had called in about #facebookdown. Offending customers with insensitive comments, aimed at anyone, can paint your company in a bad light and damage potential relationships. But when your company keeps the mood of all its messages, even those that might disappoint customers, positive and uplifting, customers feel a connection with the company, and will be more willing to forgive any problems that may arise.

Companies that care about their customers will take care of them when troubles arise – whether the company caused the problem or not. Just like the Houston Police Officers’ Union supported its constituents with patience and humor, your company and its employees can provide customers with the caring support that they need.