Things I’ve Learned From my Customer Service Failures

My IT career started on an internet help desk, supporting home users with their dial-up modem connections. Call volumes were high and wait times often lengthy. It wasn’t uncommon for customers to be angry from get-go. It’s a high-stress environment and there were times I ended up under the desk in the foetal position, crying into my headset. It was a valuable experience, though, for the memorable lessons I took away from it:

  1. Always ensure the mute button actually works on your telephone before swearing out loud.
  2. Never apply for first-level tech support roles where the end-users are external.
  3. Process reduces pain.

These days, the internet is easier to connect to and users have developed a preference for logging faults and queries online via email and forums. Clearly, I am not a phone person and I’m glad to see the rest of society is catching up with me.

So let’s talk about point 3.

No matter what, there will always be a need for those champions who can survive, and even thrive, giving service over the phone. When it isn’t easy to supply the answers your users need, time is spent chasing the solution, the customer loses patience, the help desk staff get flustered. That constant high stress burns through your staff quicker than you can train them. A clearly defined process removes all that. There will always be some frustration in the support business, but it won’t be constant and ideally, it won’t be because of a lack of documentation.

With a working service management process, there’s more room for a cheerful disposition—your staff will be happy and stay longer, (if you treat them nicely), and your customers will be happy, too. Everybody wins.

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