Saturday, January 18, 2003

Finding the Good Stuff

Of course, the fun part of something like this is - where do I start? Day-to-day stuff seems best, as I do aim to be practical here. If you're an Tech Support person, talking with customers, how you talk with them is probably a good place to start. Even if you don't talk with external customers, you probably have to deal with people who at least some of the time seem like idiots and individually or collectively come to you with the same questions over and over.

That's annoying. But sounding annoyed to them doesn't go over too well. So what's a geek to do?
My first attempt at handling this problem was working one of the computer labs in college as work-study. My real job was supposed to be studying but I kept getting interrupted by people who didn't seem to know how to spell STOP with an o (oh) instead of a 0 (zero). so I got pretty good at looking for that particular problem and a few others that seemed to crop up regularly.

Long before David Letterman, I had a top ten list of likely problems which I then posted and proceeded to memorize the numbers I'd given each. I'd review their printout, and then in my surliest voice, I'd snap, "Look at number 2 - that's your trouble!" and then I'd go back to my studies or, more likely, bit-net conversations with buddies at other schools. It was great fun, it was efficient and... it didn't work out so great. Something about the surliness didn't go over so well. Somehow, truth is the best defense doesn't seem to apply to service situations.

When you look at it, though, there IS some usefulness to canned responses. If you listen to what comes out of your mouth... and then PAY ATTENTION to whether the other person responds favorably or not... you can re-use the good stuff. The "good stuff" here being defined as the stuff that tells the customer what you want them to know in a way that they go, "Cool! That's exactly what I need; you've been a huge help"... or at least grunts in a way that leads you to believe they're harboring similar thoughts.

Keep a list of what works. Save it for using over and over. It's a good thing.

If you know of a publicly available list of phrases that keep customers (and people who are sort of like customers even though they're not), send it to I'll post the link for others to use.