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Customer excellence - Our industry needs fewer promises and more action!

What makes customer excellence and why we let our clients do the talking

Ryan O'Connell Chief Operating Officer

Customer excellence - Our industry needs fewer promises and more action!

Donald Trump (yes, it’s a bold move starting an article with those two words) used to employ a trick in press conferences: he used to tell a lie and then say “everyone knows it”. He did this so often that there’s even a video cataloguing 50 things everyone knows according to Donald Trump

I thought of this when I read an article recently that stated “everyone knows that support in the learning system space… is below average”. I’ve been in this industry for some time now and I didn't know this, and I’ve been unable to verify this statement, nor really do I agree with it.

There’s a range of different industry analysts and review platforms out there, Fosway’s 9-grid released earlier this year already got us thinking but more recently I’ve seen a Customer Excellence Pledge floating around that many learning platform vendors are buying into it... Quite literally.

The idea is laudable and when a lot of respected vendors are signing it, it’s tempting to follow suit, but here’s why we won’t be jumping on the bandwagon.

There are better ways for prospective customers to evaluate how excellent a vendor’s customer support and service is.

People considering a learning platform would benefit more from looking at what their customers actually say, rather than reading a bunch of hollow promises. The best way is through reference calls, case studies and speaking to actual customers to ask them of their experience.

If you’re worried about a vendor cherry picking the happiest customers with the best experiences, there are two additional ways to dig further into the real story:

  1. Read reviews on a dedicated review site such as Capterra, G2 or Venndorly. Customers will not mention customer support unless it’s truly excellent.
  2. You could reach out to known customers directly (you can often find out who in your network uses the same platform) to ask if they could spare some time to let you know their experiences.

We think our customer service and support is excellent, but we’ve no way of knowing if it is the best. So we encourage prospective customers to speak to our customers and do the same for any other platforms they are reviewing, so they can find the vendor that best aligns to what they are looking for.

Fewer promises. More action. 

The pledge contains a mixture of generic statements and unrealistic promises, let’s take a look at a few:

Provide exceptional customer support and service

No vendor in our industry is striving for anything other than that, right? Yes, some vendors fall way short, while others exceed this, but we’re all going to do our best to provide this and most will believe they are, even if the customer reality is different. 

Maintain high ethical standards in sales, service, and business

Again, we’re all striving for this. At THRIVE, we’re often praised for our refreshing transparency - I’ve sat on sales calls before where our salesperson has actually ended up recommending a competitor’s product because it was a better fit for their requirements. So an ethical approach is very important, but it’s not about saying it, you have to be able to walk the walk. 

Take care of customer’s needs and assistance in a timely fashion – this includes response times (no more than 90 minutes, during vendor’s business hours, daily follow-ups if applicable, providing the customer on how their queue works (in other words, what is considered low, medium and high). 

Why 90 minutes? Each vendor will have their own SLAs agreed. For example at THRIVE critical incidents have an SLA response time of 30 minutes, and high priority issues are targeted at 1 hour, but medium and low priority tickets have response targets of 4 and 8 hours respectively. This is totally reasonable, proportionate and more importantly realistic. 

99% of our tickets are responded to (and contained) within our SLA times. If we promised 90 minute response times, we’d have to provide generic, canned responses just to meet our promise. This is not what customer excellence looks like. Customer excellence is owning the response, understanding the query and getting to the heart of the matter. That’s what’s important.

Dig beyond the marketing stories to speak to real customers and find out the truth.

Rather than your potential provider cherry picking their top 5 most happy customers, ask to speak to  existing customers most relevant to you to explain how they’ve found working with their provider. That’s the way it should be. 

Yes, having a nice shiny badge on your website is nice. But actually delivering customer excellence is even better, so we encourage you to listen to current customers and do a bit more digging to find the perfect vendor that delivers the world class experience you deserve. 

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