An Interview with Ted Stone
Who is Ted Stone?
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Ted has worked in a number of senior management roles in the US and UK and spent a lot of time working in Las Vegas. He came to the UK 14 years ago at the request of a banking company looking for help with improving their customer service.
Ted explains that he struggled to get the people he was working with to accept advice from an American, so he decided to find an official standard from within the UK that he could apply in his workshops. He chose Customer First because of its sustainability.
Who is Customer First?
Customer First is the owner of a standard called “the putting the customer first standard”, which came out of a government initiative to establish a mandatory service level.
Originally, it was only available to those who were eligible for grants and funding, but as it became more established, companies who didn’t qualify for financial support began to request access to the standard.
The government decided to sell off the standard, which is now available to businesses looking to build the foundational principles of customer service. It’s designed to be specific enough to focus on each company’s needs, but also allow comparisons between organisations from multiple sectors.
Why Customer Service Should Matter to IT Companies
Ted believes that customer services are how IT companies can differentiate themselves from each other. Their potential clients are not experts in IT so they will choose their supplier based on the way they’ve built a relationship. IT companies need to show that they’re reliable and easy to interact with.
Many people feel that IT support is service-driven, so they need the company to give them a clear answer about what the problem is. Customers need to feel reassured that the IT company can help them deal quickly and effectively with any problems with their technology.
How to Give Customers a ‘Plus One’ Experience
Ted explains that a ‘plus one’ experience is something that the customer wasn’t expecting that makes their interaction with your business better. A good example is an upgrade on a flight to first or business class, which any passenger will appreciate.
To give your own customers a plus one experience, Ted says you should never give somebody just one. Instead, you should offer them several options for what they would consider a plus one: “You’ve got to have the customer involved in the active decision-making of what they find to be important.”
Know what you can comfortably offer them and what you can then deliver against. If you have packages at different levels, find something in the package above the one your client is on, and offer them something from it as a plus one. It will make them feel special and may prompt them to move to a higher package.
How to Deal with Customer Complaints
Ted has the following advice for effectively dealing with the customer complaints every MSP will inevitably deal with:
- Don’t get defensive. Everybody’s going to make mistakes or feel like a mistake has been made at some point. It’s entirely possible for you to get a complaint and you haven’t actually screwed up any part of the customer experience. There’s an interpretation on the customer side that you’ve got something wrong.
- Talk half as much as you listen and pay attention to what they’re saying. confirm back with the client exactly what they’re telling you they think is wrong and then start from there. If possible, let them tell you from the beginning what fix they would like to see. You may not be able to do it, but you will have a good understanding of their expectations.
- Once you get the initial complaint sorted and have a resolution on how you’re going to move forward and the client has accepted it, you need to later sit down with an open mind and consider the root cause of that complaint and make sure that it gets addressed to prevent more of the same complaint.
- Consider if this is something that’s going to keep rearing its head. Deal with this, and if possible, communicate back with that customer to tell them you’ve realised you could do things better. Explain how you’ll change things in future and ask for their feedback.