TagSupport

Trying harder is my customer support secret

Today I have tried to live up to my own ideal of trying harder and caring about other people’s problems.

I received a call from someone working for the local state government. He was frustrated because he had been trying to access a database hosted at the Food and Drug Administration. He’s been unable to access it for over two weeks.

I had no idea what this database was or know anything about it. But I was determined to help him where others had passed him off. So I asked him for his email address and his ticket number.

While he was on the line, I searched for the site in question on the FDA’s Intranet and found it. But it had no contact information for support.

I told him I would contact the technician assigned to his ticket and find out who he could call for support.

He was very appreciative and we hung up.

Now the real work began. I could have ignored him and gone about my day. After all, it’s not my job to support everything the FDA does. But I was determined to help. So I did as I said.

I emailed the technician assigned to his ticket and asked for a better contact number since the site in question had no support information.

The tech got back to me quickly with the proper phone number and call tree options to press to get support directly.

I thanked him and sent the information back to the guy working in the state government. I hope he gets what he needs. The rest is out of my hands, but I did my best to give him an avenue for support. Now it’s up to the technicians on the other side to fulfill his request.

As an experiment, I recorded today’s post using Anchor. It’s slightly different from the written text but the message remains the same.
It’s embedded below. Or you can listen to the file directly.

Infrastructure

I’ve thought a lot about the follow your passion mantra. Building your life as you wish you had it and doing meaningful work. And that’s great for people who are able to do it.

It’s great to have the entrepreneurial spirit and have the skills to make a go at working for yourself. I applaud you. My wife works for herself. My brother works for himself. My family either is self-employed or was before.


I’ve always worked for someone. Most recently for a string of government agencies for a longer list of government contractors. It’s not where my passion lies. And it’s not meaningful work to anyone outside of myself and my customers. But it pays the bills and provides financial stability so my wife could quit her job and work for herself.

I am the infrastructure that makes it all possible. I think about this a lot because I wonder who else is the rock behind the scenes supporting a loves one’s business while they get going.

Who else is the rock bringing in the steady money working the unimpressive job?


Do I wish I could work from home and make my schedule? Sort of. I’m not a great person to work for. I’m highly motivated and go above and beyond. But I also have my days where I can’t do anything and want to lay in bed or waste the day.

Would I be a good employee? Maybe. Would I enjoy the freedom and flexibility? Absolutely. Do I have any idea what I’d do for myself? No.

I don’t know what I’d do for myself. I don’t know where I have the skills to make a living for myself. So I trade my time for money. I go to work. I answer phones and support others. I come home and turn my brain back on and enjoy life.


It reminds me of an article I read awhile back. “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from

Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga midday. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.

The author is able to write and live the life she wants while her husband works a job that support their lifestyle.

While his job sounds better than mine, I do the same thing for my wife. I sponsor her while she gets her business up and running. I make sure we can pay our bills, go on vacation and put some money into savings. I have been as lucky as I’ve been smart with my career moves and negotiation.

I don’t have catered lunches or a gym membership, but I have doubled my salary in the past 5 years. I didn’t attend Master’s program nor did I pay for expensive certifications or training classes. I worked hard and I learned a lot on the job. But I also fell into a lucky niche that was interesting, easy and paid well.

Live Chat

Chase over at Support Ops wrote about live chat making customers happier. The post makes a good point about customers being happier when they can talk to someone directly on the site they’re visiting. He ends the post with a call for other experiences and I wrote a comment that could have been a post, so now it is.

I don’t usually go for live chat functions. When I walk into a store, virtual or physical I don’t want to overeager sales reps to descend upon me. However, I have to compliment Dell and Crutchfield for both offering stellar a Live Chat experience.

Dell has a wonderful live chat. For the last few times I’ve needed to contact them, I have gone straight to the chat option. It’s so much easier when conveying serial numbers, machine types and technical information such as error messages to be able to type it out. That way, the support rep can copy and paste the error codes and other information without the E as in Egg, P as in Plum song and dance over the phone.

Dell Chat

Dell Support Chat offers technician and advanced troubleshooting options.

They also have an option when entering the chat to check a box that you are a technical support rep contacting them. They’ve even gone further and added a box for advanced troubleshooting steps.

This is such an important change and a much appreciated option. It can cut down on the time having to explain the steps taken to resolve an issue and yes, I did try turning it off and on and I did unplug the unit and try it again a few minutes later.

When I need a hardware replacement, they have been ready to take the shipping address and to verify my contact information when the Dell Tech enters the chat. It saves me a huge amount of time out of my day and can really shine light on the sub-par experience other manufacturers offer for those seeking help.

Crutchfield

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to compliment Crutchfield as well. They offer a stellar chat for shopping assistance. Recently, I was looking for a way to add iPhone input to my Nissan Murano who has a non-standard stock stereo so it wasn’t as easy as replacing the unit.

I got on the chat with Taylor and within minutes, we had decided on a course of action. They sold a part I could attach to the back of the stock stereo and would give me a headphone jack I could then use to input any audio I wanted into.

Crutchfield Chat

It was a perfect solution and it was very fast and throughout we were able to browse their web site together through sending links back and forth and I could get immediate answers and clarification to what I was looking at because Taylor was right there with me.

At the end of the chat, the transcript is emailed to me. Both Dell and Crutchfield do this and it’s very helpful when going back days, weeks or even months later. I can refer to that chat and have the information I need without needing to contact them again.

Why I care about what I do

I have a deep technical background and the soul of a tinkerer. I need to understand not just that things work but how and why they work. I want to know even more why they aren’t working and what I can do to make them work again.

Just as I am dedicated to technical excellence, I remember to put people first. I am here to serve the people, my customers. The machines are my tools. The people are my customers. I care about the customers. I am here to support them.

Caring

I work in the technical support industry. The problem with the name is it sounds like we’re here to support the computers and other technology. Instead, we should be focused on supporting the people using that technology. I care about the people using that the technology and their experiences and relationship with that technology.

Why do I care?

I care because I love technology. I have seen how it can be a magnificent tool to accomplish things that simply weren’t possible when I was a kid. I see the impact of technology and the marvels it can bring into our lives.

I care because I want everyone else to have access to, and understand how technology can help them. I want those same tools to be available to everyone and the knowledge to use those tools.

I want to share what I know and I want to help. I want to share the joy I feel in harnessing the awesome power of the Digital Age. I remember a time before computers, before the Internet and cellular telephones.

I bridge the divide between those who knew a world without these marvels and those who will never live without them. I want to be an ally in the fight to use technology, not be victimized by it.

Resources

There are plenty of resources out there focused on how to fix technical problems. How-To Geek and Technibble are two excellent starting points.

However, there are far fewer resources for customer service and talking about how we interact with people and how we are meant to serve the people and not the machines.

Technical Support is Customer Service.

Read that again and think about it. Technical Support Is Customer Service.

I am here to serve my customers. I am here to make their lives with computers and technology easier. I am here to keep them working and to get them back to work when something stands in their way.

My Role

It is my job to serve them. I am here to make their work as smooth and painless as possible. I get their computer up and running as quickly as possible.

It is my job to bring the same joy I find in technology as an enabler to them. It is my job to get them working again and get the technology out of their way.

I have spent a large part of my life learning, understanding and sharing what I know about technology. Not everyone has that luxury. Everyone has a different job to do and it’s important to remember people who are not technically savvy have other skills those of us with technical prowess lack.

Throughout my career, I have worked with amazing writers, thinkers and designers. I have worked alongside scientists fighting to cure cancer. I have served blue-collar workers in a manufacturing plant. I worked briefly in the financial industry and supported a high volume call center.

I have worked in city, state and national government environments. I have worked in multi-national companies employing hundreds of thousand of people and I have worked where I was one of eight employees.

I have worked with amazing people in all facets of industry and life. Their technical skills ran the gamut from writing software on punch cards in the 1960s to interns fresh out of high school and knew nearly nothing about computers.

It didn’t matter how technical they were, everyone has their own skills. Every single one of them brought something special to the table. Everyone has their own expertise, interests and skills.

In this wealth of diversity, I’ve started to get an understanding of how people use technology and how I can help them use it better.

Role of Technology

Technology is a tool. Computers, tablets, phones, copiers, printers, scanners and every other box of plastic and metal is a tool. Technology is a tool. It is there to enable people to create great things.

They are not meant to be in the way. They’re not meant to be a hindrance. They’re not meant to stand in the way of fulfilling dreams and desires.

Computers are there to do as we ask them to do.

But just as people get sick, computers break.

Computer and the human body have a lot in common. They are both complex systems which require everything to work in harmony for the system to work as well as it possibly can.

Having a headache, upset stomach or a sore back hinders your work, storage space, memory and heat can hamper a computer from running at optimal efficiency.

This where I come in and why I do what I do.

Finding Motivation

In thankless jobs like IT Support, it helps my motivation if I have something to strive for. I want a goal to look back on and feel I’ve accomplished something.

The problem with my chosen career is when I do a great job, there is nothing to show for it. When I work hard, solve problems and delight customers, I have nothing to show for it. ((Save a pile of Thank You emails.))

I have no product at the end of the day I’ve produced with my own hands. I have no sales figure I’ve hit and I’ve not made the company any money. ((In fact, IT Support is considered as a necessary evil because we don’t generate any money for the company.))

I’ve said for years my ideal day is when I come to work and sit at my desk and do nothing for 8 hours then go home. That means all the systems are working perfectly and all of our customers have completely working computers.

In the seven years I’ve done this, it hasn’t happened yet.

Because of this, it helps to have something to strive towards so I can look back at the end of a long day where I feel I accomplished nothing and say at least I did ____.

In this case, it’s the number of tickets closed.

Each morning every technician in the company receives a report of closed tickets across the company. We receive a daily closed ticket breakdown over the past two weeks. This is interesting and helps me realize why I’m so tired some days ((18 tickets! No wonder I was so sleepy by 5:30.))

But the real genius in the report comes on the following page. This page provides a leaderboard of technicians across the entire company sorted by average tickets closed per day.

This is where I draw my motivation.

Everyday, I strive to stay in the top 10 of the company. I’ve been as high as number 4 with the CSA ((Help Desk)) technicians way ahead of my with double-digit closes per day.

As it stands, I usually come in at between 6 and 7 tickets per day. This is where I draw my motivation from. I want to be at the top of that list every single morning when it comes out. I want to rank higher than every technician in my building. I want to outrank every technician in the field.

I want to be at the top of that list.

This list motivates me to get up and try to complete one more ticket per day. It causes me to work harder when all I want to do is sit at my desk.

The list pushes me forwards and provides some context for my day. This is the most important thing for me, as a technician with no clear measurement of what I spend my days doing.

This list brings meaning and a sense of accomplishment to my 45 hour work week.

In this age of knowledge workers, we no longer make products in a factory, nor do we sell a thousand products. What pushes you to work harder in your job? Have you found your own leader board to keep you working harder?