Customer support: saving humanity in the digital age

As technology advances, our world changes, whether we like it or not. Now we live with designer genes, cars that drive themselves, and online apps that make accomplishing everything from ordering pizza to filling prescriptions easier than ever before.

But what accompanies this progress? Each added layer of complexity creates more potential for error, which can be frustrating and alienating for technology users who can’t keep up.

The everyday heroes in this digital age are the outstanding customer support folks who nurse the human connection at the core of each product. I’m one of them. Like ER docs, we jump to assess new cases, tend to the most pressing issues, and stabilize problems if we need to call in a specialist.

Our Cozy support team alleviates the stress of understanding new technology in the same way that doctors gently share their scientific knowledge when consulting with a patient. Just as doctors nurture their patients, we help rid Cozy customers of the complications of “disease” and teach people how to keep their accounts in shape.

Cozy “patients” come to us in all different states of current and past health. When someone emails us, we gather as much information as we can about their current situation by reading through the symptoms they describe.

Because Cozy customers come from different backgrounds, their ability to pinpoint or explain their ailments can vary. Much of our diagnostic process involves figuring out the root of their concern.

In medicine and customer support, a set of symptoms can indicate a variety of conditions. Nausea and an upset stomach are indicators of the flu, but for a large percentage of the world’s population, they could also be signs of pregnancy. Cozy’s support inquiries aren’t quite that monumental in nature, but there a number of different ways that a Cozy customer could go astray that would cause their accounts to present with similar “symptoms.”

Let’s say a landlord uses Cozy to keep track of five college roommates with two sub-letters during the spring semester. If his balance has been $42 overpaid since October, it’s our job to sift through the ledger history to find whether it’s because his tenants accidentally overpaid, or if he simply forgot to add a $42 charge to his ledger for a utility bill.

In these cases it’s important to narrow all of the potential possibilities down before moving forward. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong at all!

As we collect information on a Cozy case, we begin to form an initial hypothesis about what is most likely going wrong. This analysis can best be described as pattern recognition. While this term sounds robotic, it’s actually a process driven by human intuition and reading between the lines. Just like in the medical field, the more a support specialist understands or works with a certain type of Cozy malady, the easier it is to recognize it in the future.

Once we begin to identify potential causes, the support team uses a number of tools to dig a little deeper.

Detecting and attacking bugs

“Bugs,” or foreign diseases, wreak havoc on a perfectly functioning human body. (That’s why five days after sitting next to a sniffling stranger on an airplane, you come down with the flu.)

Technological bugs are similar moments, when our customers have done everything correctly, but something beyond their control goes wrong. These bugs can ruin customers’ experiences and destroy trust if they’re not addressed promptly. Just like a body’s immune system, our support team needs to anticipate and react.

Long before a person goes to the doctor, and even before they start to feel sick, certain parts of the immune system can detect the first signs of disease. White blood cells are on the front lines combating disease; they find and attack potential pathogens. In addition to fending off these foreign invaders, these immune cells are equipped to help initiate and coordinate widespread defense responses.

Part of the reason immune cells succeed is because they’re equipped with antibodies; tiny detectors that are so effective at diagnosing diseases in the body that doctors often use them to run laboratory blood tests. In the body, when an antibody detects a threat, it sounds an alarm that calls all available defense mechanisms to come to that immune cell’s aid.

Our customer support team attacks coding bugs and account errors much like white blood cells descend on anything that looks out of the ordinary. We work in tandem with the engineering team, functioning like antibodies locating bugs.

Cozy’s engineering team has built and integrated specific tests that monitor unusual or unwanted bugs in Cozy’s system to help those of us on the support team quickly recognize bugs and call in additional help. They’ve also created systems that our support team use on a daily basis to review account history, check the current status of payments, figure out exactly when and where a user got off track, and identify bugs in the application that the tests may have missed.

The support and engineering teams work hand in hand as the engineers develop a fix. Then the support team works with customers to test the solution. Translating the engineering jargon behind the diagnosis into a clear and intelligible prescription for the customer can be challenging, but it’s an important step in helping Cozy customers feel comfortable using our services.

Misunderstanding creates fear, so we aim to be clear and transparent when we communicate with customers. We want to empower them to solve their own problems when possible, and for them to feel confident coming to us when there is a potential bug in the system.

DNA: the first coding language

Contained in our DNA is the code that defines the function of every cell in our bodies, and our collection of genes affect our innate physical traits. But there are so many ways to express the information stored in our DNA — both good and bad — and that’s what makes us human.

As multiple teams at Cozy collaborate to make design and engineering developments to Cozy’s code, we create a more robust system that’s less susceptible to bugs and easier to use.

Re-writing Cozy’s code bit by bit is an important way we keep growing and improving our services, and everyone at Cozy strives to be aware of the way our DNA is expressed.

I’m not talking about fancy layouts (although our interface is pretty snazzy), but rather, focusing on how to add value to our customers’ lives. Our support team doesn’t just answer questions, we listen and learn from each customer to help guide Cozy’s future.

I worked in medical research before joining Cozy, so I’ve seen how the human body is influenced by the world around it. Technology, like any other tool, can be empowering, but it can also be a burden, especially when you don’t know quite how to use it yet.

I’m only one member of Team Cozy, but I know the whole team works hard to relieve customers’ stress so everyone can have more time to focus on what really matters…being human.

Written by Kayla Warfield, who studied molecular biology at Colorado College and worked in medical research labs at the University of Oregon and Oregon Health & Sciences University before joining Cozy’s Customer Support team in February 2016.


Originally published at cozy.co.