Bend the rules or follow them?

by Giuseppe Lanzi on 07/25/2012

Tech support is a crucial strategic service for any company that develops software. You can’t go without it, and it cannot function poorly.

In an effort to manage the Pro Gamma support department as well as possible, I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration to compare with our approach and our mind set. I have to say that from this point of view the most intriguing input is American, because Americans enjoy researching and implementing processes.

I found a Forbes article that I recommend you read: What Customers Want: Companies That Bend the Rules. Companies that bend the rules? Precisely in a cultural context like America’s – so enamored with procedures and regulations – there is talk of bending the rules? I’m sure you’ll all agree with me when I say that procedures are crucial to avoid falling into disorganization and inefficiency, especially when providing services to your customers.

The author contrasts two types of user experience. On the one side, the frustration of feeling that you’re not being listened to, even if the support procedure is followed to the letter; any of us who has ever had to deal with a large telephone company about line problems knows exactly what I’m talking about. On the other side, the satisfaction you get when someone relates to you, without breaking the rules, identifying with your problem and honestly trying to find a solution, even if it involves putting a bit of push-back on the procedures.

This comparison makes it clear that it’s wise to encourage this approach to relating to customers, and to give technical support a certain level of freedom in its interactions with them. A happy customer is more important than following procedure, and companies who are able to provide this kind of support have an extra gear to use – a clear advantage.

A few years ago the Pro Gamma team may have been even a bit too permissive, and in fact we’ve corrected our aim. But maintaining a certain flexibility has borne many fruits in the relationship with our customers. For us, flexibility and rules are two inseparable sides of the same coin.

What do you think? It is more important to be flexible or to follow the rules?

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