What Customer Service taught me
My first full-time job was with Facebook in India. Right out of college, a graduate student at 21, I had landed the best job in the world.
I joined the Facebook Advertising team that helped Small & Medium businesses globally. I was the youngest member of my team and had tons to learn from the ones around me. Soaking up everything like a sponge, I picked up a skill that is relevant and valued even after 9 years.
“Customer service is at the core of everything I do. It is engraved in my communication at my current start-ups and my food blog. Hell, it even reflects in my conversations with strangers and most importantly in my emails to all those suppport@ email Ids.”
Here’s what I learned on the job:
- Empathy: A large chunk of my day was spent addressing customers' concerns. My job was to solve their problems. These problems varied from billing to product bugs. They came from customers who were 50-year-olds and did not know how to use the system and from 21-year-olds who wanted new features and tools. We were trained on structuring our responses. This included a format where we would first thank the customer for reaching out, acknowledge the issue they were facing and then get into the process of solving it. This meant that in every single response I had to take a moment to empathize with the customer. Today, this is a habit. (I did respond to over 80 emails a day)
8 years later, at a sales job at LinkedIn, my customers valued me because I paid attention to their problems. I took a moment to empathize therefore built trust and credibility. Customer empathy is key to successful customer service.
Seek first to understand and then to be understood — Stephen Covey
I learned that instead of blaming customers for being stupid or demanding we could first find faults in our own product. The more you criticize and look from a customer’s point of view, the better you are able to build. I believe that everyone working in the UI/UX space must spend a few weeks in a customer service role. This is Design Thinking simplified.
2. Going the extra mile: In order to solve problems, we often needed information from customers. These would be screenshots or some proof from their end. A lazy customer service analyst would ask for information from the customer, put the case on hold and go back and forth on these emails. An efficient analyst on the other hand would use the tools at his/her disposal and extract as much information as possible in order to close the case at the earliest. It’s easier to ask them for more information but I learned to put in those extra minutes and save the customer the trouble.
I learned to do my homework. This helped me in preparing for client presentations and for tough life conversations.
3. Why I make a good customer: Customers would often send incomplete emails or vent without a structure. This meant that I had to look closely for relevant information. Only then would I be able to solve their problems. Today, when I send out emails to companies asking about my order or complaining about a defect in the product, I make it a point to address them, detail out the issue, attach a screenshot, provide the Order Ids (other relevant information), and then thank them for their support. I know what it feels like to be treated poorly by a customer. Back at Facebook, we would celebrate every email where the customer was nice to us. Today, I try not to be an asshole on email.
Being in a customer service role can make you a better human being.
4. Customer loyalty can be built by simply being nice: (Assuming your product works) We sent detailed instructions to our customers, step-by-step guides, and customized notes to help them. All our emails reflected patience and an intent to help. Customers are not stupid. They will notice this and they will choose you for your service. So be nice every single time.
Customers are not always right but if you treat them well, they will accept their mistakes.
The only drawback of being nice all the time is that it does get difficult to say NO to your customers. I sometimes struggle with saying no to my clients. I end up taking every request of theirs because I have been conditioned to help them no matter what. More importantly, I sincerely want to help them all the time. It is because of this intention of mine that they do not get mad at me when I choose to say no or when I am unavailable to take their request.
When the emotional bank account with your client is positive, you can afford to screw up. It gets easier to say no : )
5. Business Ethics: We were trained to write emails that were professional yet had a human touch. We were taught how to address concerns and present ideas to our customers. We compiled customer feedback and shared it with Product Managers. We aimed at making each experience better than the previous one. This is how I became a business professional that customers liked working with.
I spent 2 years in this role and it helped me look at everything from a customer’s point of view. This helped me deliver better service over the 9 years of my corporate life. I like to believe that I left a mark on my clients by making each interaction delightful.
That in a way was job satisfaction.