Reducing the bandaid fixes — How I stay motivated in Customer Support

I am a fixer. A people pleaser. A problem solver.

Fixing people’s problems so they can get on with their day makes me feel happy and satisfied.

This love for fixing other people’s problems has manifest itself throughout my life and career — in time as a medic, a ski patroller, an instructor, and, most recently, working in Customer Support.

Solving problems gets me out of bed — but what makes it exciting?

It’s the problems that are complex.

It is the bugs that just won’t rest, the workflow that needs some extra TLC, or a confused user who needs some extra education.

Playing detective, testing out different scenarios, and getting to the root of these tough problems makes me excited to do my job.

But they aren’t all puzzles — what about those “tasks” that you have to do over and over?

Everyone who works in support has these. It’s the weird workaround that requires just a tad more intervention from Support than it should. It isn’t exactly broken, but it doesn’t really work, either.

These “tasks” (as we label them in our ticketing system), cause the customer to have to pause, write to you, and get help. They take concentration away from real bugs and education gaps, to manage where the corners of the tape are peeling off of a small tear in the system.

We label these tickets as “tasks” because they aren’t bugs or education gaps in the product, but merely a point where Support had to intervene to do something the customer couldn’t do on their own.

The truth is — it becomes really easy to not even notice these tickets. They’re easy, you power through them, and move on to the next one. It may even feel good to clear them from the queue because it feels like you did a lot of work in just a few minutes.

Are these “tasks” helping anyone, though? Is it making the customer more productive to stop their day and write to you? Is it helping your team to power through and continuously put tape on these little tears?

Maybe you need a product fix

If it is a simple issue that is coming up over and over — perhaps it should be changed in your product.

For example, we used to get a few tickets every week with users asking us to help them change their email address. This took about 45 seconds on the backend for us to complete, but it begged the question — why isn’t this user-facing?

How do you convince your team?

If this is a “tear” that has been in your product for a long time, it make be difficult to convince any one else that it needs fixing. What you’re doing is working, right?

  • Always start with the numbers. How many tickets are you getting about this topic? How much of your time does it take for you to bandaid the tear, write back to the customer, and close the ticket? Giving a literal number to these tasks (i.e. Changing emails on our users behalf took 3 hours of my team’s time last month) helps them feel more real.
  • Ask if the tape is really helping. It is also healthy to always be asking — would your users be happier and more successful if they could complete it on their own, without having to wait for you to write back? The answer is usually yes.

Reducing “task” tickets as much as possible frees up the team to answer more complicated questions, and lets the customer go on with their day more friction-free.

For those of use who love good detective work, getting rid of tasks in favor of more time for debugging also makes us smile.

It’s hard to see these when you are heads down every day

What bandaids are you putting on? What tasks are you powering through each day? The truth is — I often overlook these myself.

Take 10 minutes this week to review your “tasks”:

  • How could you make your users workflow smoother, and your team’s time used better, by reducing these tickets?
  • Would you feel more motivated if you had more detective tickets, and less tape-peeling-tasks?

I have the extreme pleasure to share the ups and downs of this journey with some wonderful folks over at Support Driven — an online community for Customer Support Professionals. Right now we are focusing on writing for us, and have put together a fun writing challenge. Feel free to join us — we’d love to have you!