May Contain Blueberries

the sometimes journal of Jeremy Beker

A tweet of mine from yesterday:

I was this close to doing a blog entry today. About how people could learn a thing or 2 about customer support in our daily interactions.

I received a small amount of grief that I didn’t write the entry so I decided this morning I would try to alleviate that guilt and give something back to the internet that I have been neglecting lately. (Beyond my short form contribution of tweets.)

The topic began in my own head as a result of a work interaction that has occurred over the previous few days. My apologies for the lack of details, but those omitted are not really relevant. I got pulled into a situation which is somewhat outside my specific expertise with regards to a contractual agreement. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? But I do enjoy at a certain level the details of legalities and I had a few questions and concerns that I was worried about how to communicate them to a third party. I did not feel like I had the full details and when it comes down to the possibilities there might be a lawyer involved, I like having things nailed down.

Requesting the background info was my goal. I needed a copy of the original agreement so that I could make sure there were no gotchas contained inside. I shot off an email to the person who has the document (internal person) and waited for what I assumed would be the answer to a simple question.

Not so much. The answer I received was basically “Why do you need that?”

This is where we delve into customer support. I mean the term in a looser sense. While I spent many years doing “Technology Services, this is Jeremy, how can I help you” customer support, I define customer support more broadly. I will define it more broadly as:

Jeremy’s definition of customer: When anyone comes to you with a question, request, or request, they are, for the briefest of moments, your customer. Treat them accordingly.

So what is good customer support?

  1. Answer the damn question! Ooops, that may have been harsh. Yes, I know as the support person you know more than the questioner. You may know, 100%, that they are asking a dumb, irrelevant question and that while they asked X, what they need is the answer to Y. It doesn’t matter! Always, always, always answer the question asked first. When you don’t, it pisses off the person asking the question.
  2. Then (and this is critical too) answer the question the person should have asked. This can involve asking followup questions, offers to help them find the best solution, whatever.

Why is #1 so important? Because if you don’t, the person, your customer, will think you are either rude, didn’t listen to them, don’t care, are condescending, whatever. And all of these things are bad customer support.

So, back to my story, what should this person have done that would have simply made me happy? Simply said “Here is the document. It is huge and complicated. Why do you need it? Maybe I can answer the question for you.”

Be good at customer support in your daily life and people will think better of you and believe you are truly helpful.