Take Your Time

By Ron Rosenberg

Some things seem pretty simple. For example, to read this article, you follow a link in an e-mail or select a link on a web page, and, voila, here you are.

But sometimes things are more complicated than they seem.

For example, the link you follow from the e-mail does a lot more than just open this page.

It contains a special code that automatically logs you in as a member on the site so you can see this article which is actually content that is protected from view to the casual visitor.

We accomplish this small feat of magic with a special plugin called iMember 360 that acts as an interface between WordPress and our CRM system.

When you click the link, iMember 360 extracts your membership credentials from the URL, passes them through an API (application programming interface) to Infusionsoft, which then confirms that you are a valid member, checks your membership level, and then either displays the content for you, or notifies you that you don't have the appropriate privilege to view it.

Of course, all of this goes on in the background - and in a fraction of a second - so you don't see any of this happening - you just see the content.

The tools we use in our business allow us to offer great content to our members, but, like any form of technology, they are subject to periodic "glitches," such as the incident below.

Hey - You're Getting Stuff for Free!

We were setting up a special access mechanism so we could share one of our members-only webinars with a prospective client. We thought we were just granting access to that one webinar, but it turns out, they were actually getting full access to everything on the site!

This was further complicated by the fact that the system told them that it was content for members only...and then proceeded to let them access it anyway.

I created a ticket on the support site for the plugin and had several interchanges with the support team in an attempt to communicate and clarify exactly what was happening, using video screen recordings to demonstrate the flow of events.

Despite this, there were some communication errors, so the support person e-mailed me that he wanted to schedule a time when we could use some screen-sharing software to look at the problem together.

We spent a little over an hour going over the situation, and, at the end of that time, he had successfully identified what the issue was, and recommended a solution that would actually give us greater control over how the content was used.

But That's Not Our Process!

What was special about this interaction is that the company that makes this particular plugin does not offer phone support - everything is handled through their online support desk.

Normally, this isn't an issue, since they respond extremely quickly, and most questions can be answered successfully in this way. This is their "process" and it generally works very well.

There are times, however, when the process simply doesn't address an issue effectively, and our support case was just such a situation.

Instead of sticking to their guns, and increasing the frustration levels on both sides, they took the logical and appropriate step of going out of process and setting up a call to review and resolve the issue.

Now, this might not seem like such a big deal, but it does illustrate three important customer-service concepts you must understand.

  1. Processes are Your Friends! - In fact, processes are good - they allow us to deliver a consistent level of service; they allow us to deploy improvements across an entire organization; and they give us the ability to identify and implement not only corrective but also preventive actions to common problems.
  2. Processes Must Be Flexible - Despite your best efforts, it's impossible to imagine every possible scenario when creating your processes. That's why you have to recognize the dynamic nature of your business environment and be willing to let your processes evolve as new information becomes available.
  3. Processes Are Not Perfect - It's important to have processes...but you have to have a brain as well! There are times when a process will prevent you from doing what's right for the customer in a particular situation. In these cases, you have to be willing to go "out of process" by making special exceptions or allowances to solve the problem quickly and definitively.

Unexpected issues are going to arise - there's simply no way around it - but how you deal with these situations can make the difference between losing business and keeping customers for life.