TagWhat Did I Learn About Customer Service This Week?

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.

Service Smiles – Smile in Service

Have a little fun. Support is not always serious troubleshooting. Technical jargon and nonsense-sounding language fills the day.

There are places to sneak in bits of fun among the monotony. This week alone, I’ve said the following to customers:

  • WebEx gets grumpy if you set too many alternate hosts so…
  • There’s an unholy alliance between Outlook and WebEx…
  • Internet Explorer and Java are fighting so…
  • Firefox is friendly with WebEx and…

When people call support they’ve expecting help and they’re expecting rote memorization and reciting of steps. Each moment of fun is unexpected. And it makes my customers laugh.

A little laughter feels great in customer support where it’s so often empty of any joy. So looking for small ways to add joy to your interactions will make your customer happier and make you happier.

Service Smiles: Beauty among the garbage

Service Smiles is an answer to the question What did I learn about Customer Service this week?


The Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services has an email list. They give updates to trash and recycling pickups.

Their notifications are clear and concise. It keeps me informed to any variations in the pickup schedule due to weather or other issues.

This is the most mundane of updates. There’s nothing sexy or exciting about trash and recycling pickups. Each new notice comes with a poem.


Alone, walking purposely uphill toward the bus stop,
Heavy grocery bags pulling your arms straight down.

So cold. Six degrees. They call it the Siberian Express.

I see you, and I gesture for you to climb into my back seat; I’ve replaced two regulators now, trying to roll down a frozen window.

“Where to?” “The bus stop.” “Where to, after that?” “The county road,” you say.

I make quick calculations of miles, of time, of traffic, of the dreaded round-about, And, against my cautious self, say I will take you home.

We travel together to get you there, and you tell me

You’re an unemployed social worker,
Your car is no longer useful,
You have health problems,
And you have grown children.

Now, in your 70’s, you live alone.
And they are doing well, so far away.

“No jobs around here, if you want to get ahead.”

Of me, you know nothing, except that I, too, am alone, With children doing well, so far away.

It seems enough.

—Patricia Simoni, “Timeshare”, recommended by subscriber DM


It’s nothing exciting. It’s not big and flashy and it won’t change minds or win hearts. But it made me smile.

The first few times I didn’t even read the email down far enough to see the poem. I saw it in the last one and went back and checked and there’s a poem in each message.

This mailing list is great customer service work. It fulfills its mission quickly. It says here is the current waste pickup schedule. And it adds some fun, ending with a poem.

This is great work and I salute whomever started this trend and hope they keep it up.

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