It’s been just about 3 months since I started working in a customer-facing position at WooThemes, helping customers with their WordPress and WooCommerce problems. In that time, I learnt a few things about people, relationships, happiness and open-source software.
These are just my own personal thoughts. I’m not an expert, but I manage to keep 99.5% of my customers happy. Take everything with a grain of salt.
Any kind of customer service job is hard, there’s no questioning that, but when it comes to supporting open-source software that has to play nicely with 10,000's of other pieces of open-source software — it can be excruciating.
Couple that with updates of your own software, unlimited combinations of hosting set-ups, unavoidable lengthy reply times and you have chaos.
Here are some observations I have made over the past few months, from both a developer and a human point of view.
They understand 10% of what you do
But you can show them the whole picture.
The reality is, you’re dealing with what you support every day, likely for over 30 hours a week, while the customer only has to deal with it for a few hours at most. In most cases, they will only understand and comprehend ~10% of what you do.
While you see the whole picture, they only see a few pixels. That is, until you show them. Don’t just give them the answer but teach them how to find it themselves. Give them a nudge and they’ll get to the finish line alone.
They’re more frustrated than you think
So handle with care.
Customers want to put on a brave face but they’re often more frustrated than you believe. In other cases, their frustration is extremely visible, but I find that it’s better to treat all customers like they’re angry with me.
This is especially true when you consider that a customer may have spent days trying to solve an issue before submitting a ticket, on top of the additional day waiting for a reply.
Think about this when you reply and put yourself in their shoes — their aggravation may not even be justified but it’s there, so be calm, kind & considerate in every response you make.
It doesn’t matter that it’s not your fault
But it will be if you don’t try and help.
I’ve been supporting my own software for almost 3 years now and there have been countless times where someone has told me “it’s broken” and “there’s a bug — fix it”, even though I know there isn’t anything wrong.
It doesn’t matter. More importantly, it doesn’t matter to them. In the eyes of the customer, everything is wrong and it’s your fault. This is not worth worrying about.
Fix the problem for them, explain how you did it and perhaps they’ll realise it wasn’t your fault. Regardless, they’ll be happy.
Be kind just for the sake of being kind
Apologise for no reason. Say “Thank You” for no reason.
I‘m not saying to be ‘fake’ — make this natural. Be kind however you can, more than you need to be — being nice never hurt anyone.
Need more information about something? Try this:
Sorry, but could I please get a little bit more information about the problem? Thank you!
You’re human, so let the customer see that side of you. Be sympathetic. If you can, be empathetic. They’re angry, desperate and need help — you’re the solution, so be the best solution you can be.
A smile goes a long way
☺ ☺ ☺
I probably average 2 smiles per interaction I have with a customer. This may be too much but I’m yet to have a customer reply saying “Could you please stop smiling so much?” or ask me to stop.
Did they just give you the login details you asked for? Smile.
Did they answer your question? Smile.
Did they reply quickly to your last response? Smile.
It’s just two characters. : & ).
But those two characters make all the difference in the world.
Oh when you smilin’, when you smilin’
The whole world smiles with you