A quick fix to timing your temporary solutions right.

Makeshift, stop-gap, salvage, life hack, workaround—call it what you will, but every day, you need to come up with temporary fixes for some problems to carry on. It’s a bit more rampant than you think when it comes to customer service. But is that a bad thing?

What makes customer service more innovative? Among many other reasons, it’s often the customer’s impatience. The need to provide solutions immediately creates a certain kind of innovation. The kind that makes reps think outside the box to offer the customer a way to meet their needs.

Agents often find themselves in situations where they need to introduce a temporary solution for the customer’s instant gratification while their team finds a permanent answer. These scenarios can be broadly classified into a few basic kinds:

Already working on a fix:

When a customer comes to you with a problem that’s likely to take a bit of time to solve, a temporary solution really helps take the frustration out of waiting for a solution. For instance, when you hand in your iPhone to be serviced, Apple sometimes offers you a temporary phone while they fix yours. The point is to get the customer through the service process with as little inconvenience as possible.

When there’s no permanent solution at hand:

There are some problems for which there are no solutions available in the foreseeable future, but it is a problem that is possible to solve. In such cases, offering quick fixes while you work out the permanent solution buys time and reduces the pressure. 

In November 2016, as part of a demonetization effort, the Indian government made its 500- and 1000-rupee bills invalid. This created a sudden cash crunch, with long queues and little or no cash available in ATMs. At that point, when many people were in dire need of a way to access their money, several banking corporations stepped up to offer a temporary fix. They worked with a number of companies to distribute a fixed amount of cash to each company’s employees in an organized fashion. By offering another way for people to access their money, the banks’ temporary solution eased the short-term pressure while the government worked on a permanent solution to the cash crunch.

No solution possible:

There are some customer problems that you simply can’t solve. Maybe the solution isn’t in line with your product or company identity, or maybe it isn’t feasible at all. For example, if you’re an online clothing store, it may not be in your interest or plans to open a physical store. Customers might suggest it frequently, but it’s not something that you want to do. In such cases, agents can make note of the request for future consideration, and suggest somewhere else for the customer to try in the meantime. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for at your store, direct them to a place where it’s available, even if it’s your rival brand. If the customer can see that you put their interests before your own, you’ll never really lose their business.  

Being prepared with temporary solutions reduces the stress on agents so that they can work towards a lasting solution in a less harried fashion. It also works to reassure the customer that their problem can be fixed without hassle. Stopgaps buy time for implementing fixes or rolling out new features. Workarounds show the customer that the company understands the need for a solution. And even when agents can’t actually fix the problem, they can still earn customers’ appreciation by helping them find what they’re looking for elsewhere. In the meantime, though, don’t forget to work towards the permanent answers that will keep the customers happy in the long run! 

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