Few things are more frustrating to a customer as an email help request that’s marked “Solved” when it isn’t. Too many help desks and contact centres do not understand the great emotional pain the Solved status can cause their customers. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that the “Solved” status is an emotional trigger for a customer and it should only be used after the customer agrees to it.

Customer have emotional attachments to help requests.

It might help to role-play for a minute; you be the customer. You emailed a help request in a few hours ago and you’re anxiously waiting for an answer. You took the extra time to make sure you sent in everything you knew about the problem, and you included some screenshots so the support rep will have what they need. You know it can take some time for problems to be fixed, and you’re starting to get a little anxious and worried that your problem might be misunderstood, and not solved today (and your boss is breathing down your neck).

It’s now 4pm and you leave the office at 5pm. Time is short… wait, what’s this? The issue is solved! It says so right in the subject line of your email! Woot! Awesome… the day has been saved!

[pullquote position=”right”]It can be gut-wrenching to your customer when they’re told their problem has been solved and it is not.[/pullquote]Only it’s not. Your stomach sinks. The support rep fixed one thing you asked for, but totally missed the other (more important) part. You feel sad. Probably a little angry. And frustrated. The support rep clearly didn’t read the entire email you sent. What now? How do I re-open this request? Can it be looked at again? Will I go back in the queue?

There’s an easy solution to the “Premature Solve”

Sometimes, solutions in a help centre can be complicated to design and implement; this one is not.

You can make a change today (ok, maybe a bit later for larger centres) that will eliminate the emotional roller coaster you’ve been forcing your customers to ride. In a short while after implementation, you’ll see the results in your Net Promoter scores and customer satisfaction surveys.

Starting today, ask your reps to stop marking help requests as Solved. Instead, ask them to set the status to “Pending” and always ask the customer this question in a public comment: “I think I’ve resolved the problem you were experiencing, could you check and let me know, just to make sure?”

Checking with the customer is an extremely powerful thing.  As a customer, you feel like the rep you’ve asked for help is human, not some wizard atop a mountain who decrees problems solved. You’re saying there’s a chance you could be wrong, or have missed something and you’re giving the customer the final say on whether they agree you’ve solved their problem.

Now, go back a few paragraphs to our role play; if the status were Pending and the rep ask you to confirm their work, how does this change your feeling as a customer? My guess is you were less anxious, more forgiving and felt a stronger sense of partnership between yourself and the help agent. All because we didn’t presume a solved status.

…For the skeptics

What about all the Pending requests… who’s going to close/solve them in the end? You will have customers not reply, especially when their requests are in fact Solved. I typically put help desk rules/triggers in place that follow-up again with the customer, and then auto-close the help request a short time after that. I also suggest hiding help requests with Pending status from your standard support work queues (no point  cluttering your views with requests you’re waiting on from the customer).

This approach also has some challenges for those of you who report on certain things such as time to solve (TTS). If that’s the first concern that came to your mind, I’ll tell you there are still ways of teasing our TTS and first call resolution; I’d also suggest you might be managing your staff against the wrong metrics (a conversation for another day).