Monday, July 7, 2008

Customer service

I had a pretty complex professional career way. And while I'm still at the beginning of it, I already took a lot of steps to get here. So it means that I've started my career from the very grounds and I saw it all. :)

One of my first steps in IT career was a position of Support Engineer on the phone in NOC (Network Operation Center) of one of the first ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in my city, Alkar Teleport. It was about 10 years ago and Alkar was a pretty "luxurious" employer those days for every IT person in our city. It was an established company with a pretty solid team and great people relations inside. It was kind of a community for those who worked there.

I wanted to get there so much, however, there were no job openings for my job position those days (System and Network Administrator). The most technical job was Support Engineer in the NOC. It was very little about solving technical problems and finding greal solutions, but more about routine DIYs or HOWTOs that everybody hates. But I took it with mostly no hesitations, as I wanted to get in, whatever it takes. I was very sure that I can get promoted to System Administrator position shortly, and I didn't want to waste any single minute.

Support Engineer position was a 24x7 job and had two shifts: the day and night one (yeah, that were cruel days ;). There were days when I was taking both shifts. Most of the time that happen because my colleagues were getting drunk on the parties and had no chances to say even "Hi". Well, I did that (drink and getting drunk), too, so we're pretty even. :)

It was a great school for me, 18 years old, ambitious, with pretty decent technical skills (I started early), but pretty modest personal and communication abilities (lets call it that way). However, the biggest lesson that I took from there was not how to communicate, but what is it all about. I mastered how to communicate pretty easy, the first days were terrible but I quickly found the way how I can enjoy the communication process, and it worked well. It's hard to remember, but I think I enjoyed the conversation itself.

You know, sometimes people were scared talking to technical person just because they're afraid that they can't explain what's wrong and they wouldn't get the problem solved. Someone thought that being aggressive is an excuse for being lame. Well, it's not and I did my best to explain that to several of such guys (and few gals :).

We had no cliches, no templates, no scenarios or scripts (fuck the outsourced customer support lines!). The only one thing we had to say is "Hello, this is Alkar Teleport and my name is ...". It's more then enough. Everything else had the only one goal: help the person on the other side. That's it. Simple to say, but hard to achieve. :)

As I said already, it was a great school. I found myself enjoying talking to other people (well, not all of them, but still nice :) and I got some grounds of how you can help, if you really can't. That was mostly the answer to what is it all about. And the answer was simple: you can be a winner even if you can't help. Just do your best to be helpful. Don't give up too soon. I had millions of opportunities to give up just because this is not something we supposed to help with. Well, as I said earlier, I was over skilled for the current position and I could help with much broader number of questions. However, the most thankful people who even took time to call next day to my boss and say that they're very happy with the service and me, personally, were those whom I really didn't help. But I really tried to.

You can't fake your willingness to help. You can either help or try to to pretend that. And if somebody thinks you can fake that feeling, you can't. It'd be a lame try that gives you even more negative points.

What's my post about? Well, first of all this is my history thing. What's more important though is to remember what the customer service center is all about. Customer Support is supposed to be a real live person, reading your email message, receiving your call and reading the mailed letter. The job is not to follow stupid, bureaucratic and corporate-envenomed script, but help the person. Whatever it takes.

Well, sometimes you don't need your skills just to be helpful. This doesn't mean you should take this chance as an excuse and forward the person to the answering machine or hang up on him: just help or quit the fucking job. Asshole-ish customer support can end up with more problems than the person really comes with.

Here, at Atomkeep, I want every our user to know that I'll personally do my best to help anyone who contacts us. We have no scripts, no scenarios, not even "Hello, my name is ..." (although, we'll have it someday ;). All we care about is are you happy or not. I want you also to understand that we might not be able to helpful all the time. There are some things that are behind our possibilities. However, what I can assure you about is that we'll certainly do our best.

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