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The "new normal" of tech support

Many in the finance world refer to the “new normal” after the financial crisis in 2008, how there was no going back to the old way of thinking. Is there a “new normal” for customer service as well?

On a trip to Mexico, I was taken aback at how hard the Hilton worked to please its guests. We’re talking WAY more than clean towels and mints on the pillows.Sure it was nice to have the bellman greet us to get our bags. But when he sprinted away to return with age-appropriate drinks for my wife and kids, that was my first eyebrow-raising moment. It wasn’t the last one.At the pool, I counted no less than 10 other “wow” moments by the hotel staff, including:

- offering to inflate our pool toys the first day we arrived at the pool

- bringing a book cart around for people to choose magazines or books to read

- stopping by to mist people’s faces with Evian water if they felt hot

- bringing mini-popsicles around during warm time in the afternoon

- making free balloon figures for kids by the pool

- bringing by cold, wet towels for people to refresh themselves

- bringing complimentary bottled water around to guests

- passing a tray of cold grapes on toothpicks for a sweet snack

- offering to clean guests’ sunglasses

- setting up a small table for free short massages at the pool

- towels folded into the shapes of animals in the room by the cleaning people

The thing that all of these gestures had in common was that I didn’t expect any of them. Sure, I’ve seen many of these kinds of gestures in the past from hospitality companies. But all of them together created a “wow” that left me feeling that this Hilton was doing absolutely everything it could to ensure we were going to have the best possible time. I couldn’t believe how sincere and continual the effort was, it was inspiring and left me feeling unusually positive about the experience with their brand.What about IT work? It’s also a commodity, just like a hotel. Lots of choices, all provide fundamentally the same thing. How do you differentiate?

- Setting a customer’s desktop picture using a picture of their kids instead of the default picture that comes with the operating system.

- Creating a smart playlist in iTunes to get them started learning about how to use them

- Configuring an RSS or email alert for a topic that is of interest to them

- Remind the customer when they’re running low on toner, offer to refill it automatically (by the time they realize they’re out of toner, they’re usually in the middle of wanting to print something)

- Set up a utility sync bookmarks between their browser(s) and smartphones

- Shortcuts for their commonly used apps in their dock or start menu

- Set up suggested twitter followers for them if they don’t know Twitter, based on their interests

- Name their printer something intuitive like “kitchen color printer” instead of the name set by the manufacturer

What about administrative staff? You’re not immune from the need-to-wow. You could…

- Know certain times that customers prefer for their appointments (e.g. Mary likes Friday afternoons)

- Offer to meet a customer at their car rather than have them park to drop something off to the office

- Send get-well, congrats, and bereavement cards when you hear of customer news

- Offer someone an earlier appointment if one frees up unexpectedly

- Send a birthday card

- Email when an application they purchased has been upgraded by the publisher

- Preemptively offer to assist with any hardware recall or warranty issues

- Provide local free Wi-Fi info if you know they’re traveling to a foreign location

- Register extended warranty coverage on their behalf

The “new normal” of service means that wowing a customer is required, not just a “would be nice” item. Doing the job and sending the bill isn’t going to cut it any longer. Value, surprise, effort, free, meaningful gestures are what they’ll remember and tweet, blog and email about.

It's said you’re 9 times more likely to say something negative about a brand than you would about a positive interaction, but perhaps if a company REALLY tries, they can get the same level of buzz about a positive customer interaction.Customers don’t remember what they purchased, they remember the other stuff. How can you surprise the next customer with whom you interact? 


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