Customer Service

customer1I don’t exactly work in customer service, but I do work in software support, which does have a large element of customer service with it.  I therefore support customers over the phone.  Sometimes it’s because they need to know how our software does something in particular but most of the time it’s when they’re having a problem with the software.  Funny that.

I’ve done customer support, off and on, for years.  My first IT job was working for an Internet Service Provider on the helpdesk.  It was there that I learned that, despite being irritable and impatient in my day to day life, I was surprisingly unflappable when it came to dealing with idiots on the phone.  And there were a LOT of them in those days.  In a large number of cases the problem was that it was a male calling in who refused to believe that a female could possibly be technically minded enough to help with whatever problem he was having.  I found these the most irritating of all.  The ones I had the least problems with were the self confessed technically incompetent.  I always seemed to be able to translate techie into plain English for them and they were nearly always appreciative.  I think it comes from the fact that I’m not really a techie and had to translate things into plain English before I could properly understand them.  I had one lovely lady who used to call the helpline regularly who used to say “right dear – I have the phone in one hand and the mouse in the other, tell me what I need to click on ” and she would follow the instructions perfectly.  We always got her problems sorted out in double quick time because of her co-operation.  I miss Hazel.

In the job that I do now I really am more technically competent than 95% of the people that I talk to.  That’s not me bragging by the way – it’s just that I understand how the data gets into our systems, how it’s routed through our systems and how it gets to the other end.  Our customers don’t need or want to know that as it’s immaterial to them – they just want to see their information at the end point.  I get that.

There is always an exception though isn’t there?

This week I had the misfortune to speak to one of our Most Difficult Customers.  Anyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows the type: affable on the face of it – words delivered with a thin veil of condescension, then they follow it up with a layer of superciliousness and a final topping of contempt, delivered with a developing smile (when you’ve been working in customer service for a while, you *know* when they’re smiling) as they feel that they’ve “bested” you. I have visions of them, standing there twiddling their proverbial moustache, saying “A-Ha!”.  Even the women.

This is the most difficult type of customer of all – The One Who Cannot be Satisfied[tm].  You cannot possibly sort out their problem quickly or well enough for their own personal standards.  In fact, yesterday would be too late for them.  The only thing a good customer service person can do with this one is smile sweetly, keep calm and realise that the best you can achieve is damage limitation.

So remember next time you have cause to ring into a Customer Service department – remember there is a person on the other end of the phone and not an emotionally devoid robot.  Most of the time it is unlikely that we are personally responsible for the reason for your call and some of us even have a modicum of intelligence.  And a blog.

<smiles sweetly and departs>

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