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Reducing Stress, Drama and Frustration When Things Go Wrong – A Troubleshooting Outline

By Rachael Needham, VP of Strategy & Operations

For most people and companies, business-as-usual dramatically shifted in the last year and a half, which can add stress and anxiety to already busy lives and work environments. Our ability to communicate and problem solve has become more important than ever. Good communication can help reduce stress and frustration while improving efficiency and productivity.

Whether in the workplace or our personal lives, making a conscious effort to improve our communication and problem-solving skills will only benefit us. Being negatively stressed or stressed out adds a level of difficultly none of us need, so finding ways to deal with stress that work for you is important. I shared some simple solutions for handling stress in a previous post – check those out here.

In this post, I’m sharing a model to assist you and your team when things go wrong, pressure is high, and solutions are needed ASAP. When we are equipped with the skills to communicate well with each other, and put those skills into action, we can reap the benefits of lower stress.

In the spirit of Customer Service Week, let’s take a closer look at some troubleshooting steps for customer-related issues in the B2B space. Some of this may seem pretty obvious, but when things go wrong, and it’s not immediately clear what needs to happen, following some basic practices can greatly reduce the stress and frustration levels for team members.

Step 1: Identify the issue – It’s key to identify the problem or impact of a situation. Not accurately identifying, understanding, or explaining an issue leads to unnecessary stress and frustration. Clearly understanding the issue equips the team to provide relevant input or feedback.

  • Ask: Is the issue critical, impacting production or customers in real time?
    • If yes, getting all necessary team members on a call to discuss can be the fastest way to be sure everyone is aligned and aware of what’s happening. When facing issues with production impact, gather your tech, content, client relationship, and any other relevant teams on a group call as fast as possible. Move to Step 2.
    • If no, the normal troubleshooting and bug fixing process can be followed.

Step 2: Troubleshoot with the right people – As you troubleshoot a high priority, production impacting issue, be sure to have the relevant team members present to share and collaborate. In addition to the Technical team members, having the Customer Success and Delivery Management account leads are key as they will be relaying the information to the client and will most likely be the ones who have assessed the client’s anxiety or concern level, which should be considered along with any tech risk.

Client concern should be weighed alongside the tech risk because those relationships are important and can tip the importance level on an issue in one direction or another. For instance, if there is an issue, but the client has some other key deliverables with a higher importance level to them, the issue may be considered less severe. Likewise, it could go in the other direction, where something the Technical team views as low risk is seen as high risk by the client. This is often related to the client’s individual business rules and objectives.

  • Ask: Is the issue already clearly identified?
    • If yes, move to the root cause.
    • If no, work together to define and clarify the issue as precisely as possible. This may mean getting on the phone with the client or whomever identified the issue.
  • Ask: Is the root cause for the issue known?
    • If yes, do we know how to fix it?
    • If no, how much time can we take to identify it? What has been communicated to the client thus far about timing?

Step 3: Avoid common pitfalls – Getting to a real and viable solution can be extremely difficult when the issue isn’t understood. Not accurately identifying or understanding the problem can easily create more stress and frustration on top of an already frustrating situation and take more of the teams’ time.

When there isn’t clear communication about a situation, lots of time can be wasted trying to get to the bottom of the issue. Productivity and efficiency are greatly reduced, and the added pressure can cause unnecessary and unhelpful tension.

For high priority/ production impacting issues, I highly recommend having a team phone call, as it’s one of the easiest ways to ensure everyone is on the same page and fully aware of the status. While group texting channels (Slack, Teams, etc.) are great for day to day, it can be too easy for people to miss things as the channel is flooded with comments.

If you aren’t already, start paying attention to how you are communicating and engaging with those around you. Improving those skills is an ongoing process and worthwhile endeavor; acknowledge mistakes you’ve made and use them to make positive changes in future communications.

 

Developing the skills to communicate well is a key part of emotional intelligence. Good communication and problem solving takes practice and can be particularly challenging in times of high stress and anxiety. However, the benefits of clear and open communication in high stress situations pay off as you and your team bring solutions to the table with speed and efficiency.

When it comes to B2B customer service and handling critical support issues, speed and efficiency are essential. With a conscious effort to improve your communication skills, use the help of this outline to reduce stress, drama, and frustration when things go wrong. Happy troubleshooting, solution finding, and communicating!

Alexa, Please Play Music

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Do you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you’re talking to a digital assistant like Alexa or Siri? Is it rude if you don’t? Does it really matter?

When I came across an article back in December exploring this topic, it gave me pause. The author, Chaim Gartenberg, argues that even though it doesn’t really matter to digital assistants if you’re being polite – they are just machines after all – that being polite to them helps reinforce positive behaviour. We speak to our devices the same way we speak to real people, in natural language, and so he comes to the conclusion that we should be polite to these digital assistants for our own benefit.

I had never really thought about this before. As I considered how I interact with voice-activated assistants, my niece popped into my head. When I first got my Amazon Dot, she was very interested in how I spoke to Alexa but was hesitant to try herself. She would regularly ask me to ask Alexa for the weather forecast or to play us music while we made dinner or tackled a craft project. Then one day she finally felt comfortable enough to ask herself and said, ‘Alexa. . .please play music.’ At the time, the fact that she said ‘please’ had made me smile to myself because she sounded so polite even though she was just talking to voice recognition software. She was illustrating the author’s point perfectly, speaking to Alexa the same way she would an actual person.

This past weekend that article came to mind once again. I wasn’t paying much attention to how my niece was asking Alexa to play music – ‘Alexa, play music’ – until she turned to me and said very matter-of-factly, ‘You don’t really have to say please.’ She was right of course. Alexa is not a person, and I had never specified that my house rule about using manners extended to electronic devices!

So often when I’m writing about customer engagement I talk about how technology is altering our communication preferences and the nature of our conversations. There are millions of articles about Millennials and how they’d rather text or get information online than make a phone call, and how organisations can take advantage of that to improve customer service. In some ways it all seems very over-hyped.

Yet, the truth is that technology has, and continues to, rapidly change how we interact and our expectations around communications. When I was young, the idea of talking to some kind of device to check the status of a bus or train, play a song list or even simply set a timer was the thing of fantasy and cartoons. Today my niece, at the ripe old age of five-and-a-half, lives in a reality that’s very different. Her world is texting, FaceTiming, Googling and not really having to say please when she asks Amazon’s Alexa to play her some music. She will never know a world without smartphones and talking to digital assistants will always be a normal part of everyday life.

I think it’s an important point Chaim raises in his article about ‘rudeness’ to digital assistants bleeding into our normal speech patterns. If we are constantly interacting with voice-activated assistants and chatbots in a blunt, please-and-thank-you-less way, will we start to interact with the real people around us in the same fashion? My inner anthropologist is intrigued with how this may impact our cultural norms and the ways my niece’s generation will communicate as they get older.

For now, I’m left with a dilemma. Do I extend my rule about using manners to include Alexa? Or will that cause me to lose some points in the family competition to be the ‘cool’ auntie? If only Alexa could please tell me what to do. . .