On Squeaky Wheels

Here’s something to consider: squeaky wheel customers – the ones making themselves standout with frequent calls, emails, and requests for status updates – are usually considered a nuisance, but could in fact become a strong advocate. Customers with many questions and frequent service requests tend to be passionate, and they now have many ways of broadcasting their feelings, especially when they feel their issues have not been resolved.

Transforming squeaky wheels
Take the occasional challenge of working with these customers as an opportunity to transform the conversation–and them. Your exceptional service could turn a squeaky wheel into a praise-offering, evangelizing machine! Here are some tips:

  • Listen to or read questions carefully. Prioritize and itemize responses. When in writing, make sure responses are in a clear, readable format.
  • Empathize. Use mirroring techniques, summarize, and acknowledge problems to make sure customers feel heard and understood.
  • Provide assurance. All questions and issues should be taken seriously, and the customer needs to sense that.
  • Check to see if the customer has other open tickets, activity, or history of contact. Often, “squeaky wheels” are just anxious for answers. They sometimes restate questions to other team members and this can lead to multiple agents working on the same problem and offering different solutions. This affects a customer’s confidence and wastes effort, so do your due diligence. (With Zendesk, the entire contact history is right there!)
  • Coordinate with your team and present a unified front.
  • Utilize others in the organization to shed light on questions whenever necessary.
  • Assign a point-person. This should be the agent the customer seems to enjoy working with best.
  • Update the customer with new information.
  • Set reminders to follow up on outstanding issues.
  • Take notes – details are important and you never know what information you might need later.
  • If delayed, follow up that issues remain important and are not forgotten.
  • Provide a timeline for resolution whenever possible.
  • Ask for a preferred method of communication.
  • Be available for more questions–always.
  • Ask if others should be included.

Make customers feel special, especially squeaky wheels. If they believe they deserve extra attention, offer it. Don’t resist them. Rather, surprise them with an unexpected call about a ticket, or contact an executive about a problem and let them know you’re working hard on their behalf. When they realize they have the attention they need when they need it, they won’t demand it the same way. In fact, they might put their energies toward telling others your customer service is excellent.

In addition, here are some tips for interacting with a customer service department:

  • Submit support requests via support channels: support call numbers, email addresses, etc.
  • Reply or call back for clarification, making sure additional details are stated clearly.
  • Mention other points of contact. Be specific.
  • If satisfied, complete a satisfaction survey or consider emailing a thank-you note.
  • If unsatisfied, reply again asking for more information.
  • After a reasonable amount of time with no/unsatisfactory response, ask to be escalated.
  • If escalation is unsatisfactory, ask to speak with or call an Account Manager.
  • If still unsatisfied, take the issue to another channel, such as social media, blogs, or complaint line.
  • As a final measure, submit request (like #1) stating clearly how issue was not solved and the steps taken.

Final note
Only acknowledge a customer as a “squeaky wheel” if they acknowledge it first. Some customers know they are demanding, and may even joke about their own reputation (or perceived one). Others, however, are uncomfortable needing additional support. Don’t give them a “squeaky wheel” reputation, transform them!

Watch a webinar: Turning Difficult Moments into Positive Customer Experiences

Check out an Infographic:  How to Recover from a Customer Service Fiasco