My support guy’s laptop broke after I released the latest version of my CMS about 3 weeks ago which means I have to answer customer emails. As a developer I’m not really a people person so this is a real challenge for me. The workload is not huge, it is about 50 emails / day and about 75% of them are pre-sales questions which are generally easy to answer. The problem is the remaining 25%. The script itself is not meant for newbies, but this doesn’t stop newbies to buy it and they require a special kind of customer care. During this short time of providing support I gained some knowledge on how the mind of this strange animal’s, the customer’s mind works. I realized that there are some easy steps to follow to keep them happy even when you can’t solve their problems immediately:
- Call them by their name
Yeah, I know this supposed to be the basic etiquette, but in some cases its difficult. I’m dealing with customers who can barely speak English, or they just started using the internet so they don’t sign their Emails. In those cases I figured looking up their email in our DB for their name or even a quick facebook search (creepy?) helps a lot to set the tone to be a bit more personal. For some reason even the angriest customer becomes bit calmer when you call them by their first name
- The illusion of a big company
By using the word “we” instead of “I” gives the customer the feeling that he is dealing with an organization rather than an individual developer and people tend to be more polite and understanding with a corporate then to a guy in his bedroom. Also I’m signing my mails as “Account manager”. You get the idea
- Don’t know the answer? Reply immediately
Sometimes the customers are reporting bugs which I don’t have an immediate answer for. In those cases I get back to them as soon as possible with some bullshit like “Thank you for reporting this problem. I’ve escalated this issue to the highest priority and our developer is working on the resolution”. This will give you enough time to actually solve the problem without being bombarded with emails by the customer
- Know the answer? Hold back
When I know the exact solution I usually wait at least 2 hours to reply? Why? Because otherwise the customer will think this is a real time conversation and you will end up with an endless thread of questions. A two hours delay won’t make him loose faith in your company but it is enough time to let him realize that you have other customers to take care of.
- Is he an idiot?
As a developer it is easy to tell if a customer is… well “impaired technologically”. In those cases I rather go the extra mile, ask for his ftp / cpanel details and fix his problem by myself. I could give him the instructions to get it fixed by him but that would result in way more emails, pointless conversation and general lose of faith in humanity.
I know these techniques are basic but they helped me to get through the past 3 weeks. And while I have you attention let me grab the moment to praise the nameless heroes known as “tech support” who deal with morons as a profession: your patience guys is extraordinary, no idea how you do it