Things I’ve learned from working in customer service:
1. Customers can deal with almost anything in an intelligent and humane way if you don’t lie about it and they hear the bad news from the person responsible for fixing it – as fast as the bad news became evident. Delay = Bad.
1a. The relief you feel when you get that dreaded call over with will be your friend for the rest of your workday.
2. There will always be customers who, for whatever reason, and this varies from genuine mental illness to inability to pay for the solution proposed to temporary distraction due to current life events, are impossible to please. Although most of the customers I’ve dealt with in the past 10 years have been men, on balance I’d say that there are equal numbers of impossible male and impossible female customers. I’m not talking about people who are temporarily or permanently nuts, just the people who believe that if they raise the volume they’ll get the goodies. Bullies, liars and f*ckwits…. those kinds of people. The person who is scared of his or her spouse, and plays little dog in front of the big dog, is a special case, and can usually be brought to heel by a request to speak to the owner of the product.
3. Customer service is mostly education. If you find a customer who wants to learn, teach. If the customer doesn’t listen or doesn’t comprehend, you’ve got options, among them: Drop down to a lower energy level to defuse, ask them brightly “Is there anything else I can help you with today” which is the international “Get the Hell off the Phone, Bozo” signal, escalate to a manager, or agree to disagree. This last doesn’t work often, but it’s valuable on occasion and it has the advantage of being more respectful than a flat “No.” “That’s wrong.” “You are mistaken.” and the ever popular, sotto voce, “Why don’t you stick your head up your ass and fight for air, if it’s a fight you’re looking for, sir?”
4. If you are female and doing tech support, be prepared to be verbally smooched by female customers who are thrilled to have their experience reflected back to them accurately, and patronised to within an inch of your life by some men. Most men, mostly, are prepared to have women tell them about their tech products; Canadian men are marginally more able to do it comfortably than American men, at least in my experience.
5. The overwhelming majority of customers are honest, and all of them should be treated out of the gate that way. A smaller proportion are mistaken, and should be treated with respect as misunderstandings are easy to come by. Even the customers who lie need to feel listened to. Once I’ve caught a customer in a lie, however, it’s difficult to feel motivated to assist him or her.
6. I love customers who tell the truth. When a North Carolina drawl comes through the phone at me saying, “I blowed it up good,” my heart melts and I am willing to go the extra mile to assist.
7. The worst enemies of customer service are not the agents or the customers. They are the goddamned management. Any for profit company that cares about customer service has senior managers focussing on customer pain points as improvement opportunities. Any for profit company that doesn’t care about customer service has senior managers focussing on accounting pain points, and has the lamentable quarter over quarter results to show for it. May they all find a particularly steamy vat of molten lead to lounge around in, the great boobies.