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Meet our Support team: A chat with Zach Calhoon, our Client Services Support Guru

At Intermedia, we strive to provide the very best customer service experience to our customers. And every year, we reward the support and onboarding technicians who receive the highest customer satisfaction scores. Zach Calhoon has recently been named a Client Services Annual Support Guru for Level 1 technical support.

I sat down with Zach to find out what makes him so trusted by our customers.

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Q. What’s your support philosophy and what’s a recent example of how you put it into action?

A. I am a problem-solver, so when people call in, I make it my mission to help. Recently a customer called in with a problem he didn’t think could be solved. I told him, “Let me try to solve it.” I ended up resolving the issue, and he added new services all on the same call. And he said “I only want to work with you going forward.”

So I worked it out with management that he comes to me first and then goes to other support guys when I’m not available. So now he’s happy. I think the situation was a success because I listened and put in the extra effort to figure the problem out, solve it and test it all while he was on the phone.

Just being the person that somebody can go to and know that it’s going to get solved is a big deal. I’ve even had managers come and say, “I’m giving you this because I know you can solve it” – even problems that would normally be sent to Level 2 support techs.

Q. What do you find are your most challenging support interactions?

A. The most difficult situations are when we have a problem where part or all of the solution requires a third party that isn’t always interested in helping solve the issue. You’ve got a frustrated customer who has to talk to this third party that doesn’t really care.

So I see my role as trying to mediate between the two. Being patient is the key – trying to keep both parties calm while working through the problem.

I attended a workshop on customer satisfaction and an example the instructor gave was this: you go home and your milk is sour, so you take it back to the store. There are a few ways the grocer could handle the situation: 1. They could smell it and say it’s not sour, 2. They could apologize and replace it, or 3. They could apologize, give you a new milk and say “please, take some ice cream, too, as our way of making it up to you.”

#1 can really cost the grocer because you tell your friends, and you and they never go back. With scenario #2, you’re happy, but you probably won’t talk about it to any one else. So for the grocer, there’s no loss beyond that one carton of milk, but no gain in terms of new customers. With #3, you’re going to tell your friends about the free ice cream, and now the grocer gains new business because your friends go check them out. That grocer is going to make more money with minimal loss (the cost of that carton of milk and the ice cream). Long term, it’s a benefit to the business to handle the situation that way.

People don’t realize that bad customer service harms more and costs your company more than if you take the time to listen, understand, relate and solve the problem.

Q. What’s your motto for great customer service?

A. “Never give up, never surrender!” from the movie Galaxy Quest. Don’t give up on the problem, don’t let a quick glance be the end. The problem is solved with it’s fixed and the customer is happy.

It’s not about how long it takes; it’s about having a happy customer. Even when the call takes a while, it’s better to solve it and make the customer happy. I worked with a customer today with a bunch of MX records, and I saw that some of them were set wrong. I could have just solved the issue the customer called in about and left it at that, but I didn’t. I pointed it out to him and helped him resolve it.

Solving the issue for someone and making their day makes my day. That’s why I do this.

Q. Any advice for a new customer support tech?

A. Listen and make sure you understand what’s going on. My most successful calls have been when I’ve listened to the customer, told them what I could do to solve the issue, and did it. I want customers to believe in me and believe that I will follow through with what I say. That establishes trust, and that is huge.

I have asked customers, “What is your favorite customer service interaction?” A lot of people say Amazon. Personally, I’ve called in to Amazon with a problem and they say “I’m sorry I will give it to you for for free.” WE can do that in support. We might not be able to give away service, but we can give away ourselves – our time and our effort to make them happy.

Don’t over promise, don’t under deliver. You better be sure you can do what you say and do it. If you do those two things, and if it’s the truth, customers are happy, even if it’s not what they want to hear.

Q. What’s a surprising thing about you that coworkers and customers might not know?

A. I was a professional photographer for a time. Now I go out and take photos for fun. I like animals and candid stuff. I’ve done wedding shoots, and the best ones are the candid shots. When you capture a moment in time, you find that there’s so much more happening in that exact moment that you would normally miss – things in the background that you wouldn’t have seen in real-time. It helps you realized that in any given moment there’s an eternity that you don’t see it because we’re usually so focused on the subject in the foreground.

It may be a picture of a person, but the background may be so rich with interesting things. It really helps you look for positive things when you take that deeper look. It’s sometimes hard to see those happy things because their not in focus, and photography is a great to see that.

I might be waiting for this one shot and something else is happening in that photo that I didn’t expect. That’s why I like Dali’s art. There’s so many things happening other than the blatantly obvious things. It’s amazing. You can see these little tiny details – there’s an eternity in that moment. By the time you start looking at it, you can get lost it. You have to pick your eternity.

I think it relates, in a way, to how I view support. You need to make sure you see the full picture of the situation because details are important. By really listening to the customer, you can get to those details.

About Kirsten Barta

Kirsten Barta is Sr Marketing Communications Manager at Intermedia