Customer Support Confidential, Part Two: Know Your Enemy. All quotes are verbatim. Names and revealing details are redacted for privacy and job security.
Now that you understand the basics of what you’ll be dealing with as a customer support representative here at A MAJOR CASUAL GAMES PORTAL, it’s time to get a better idea of whom you’ll be dealing with.
In the interest of saving your faith in humanity, you need to remember that you are often coming into contact with these people at their worst. They’ve spent hours trying to get a game working on a computer they are simultaneously ignorant of and frightened by. They are frustrated and tired. That said, some of them are just mean and stupid.
There are three basic moods that customers tend to fall into. They are:
The thing to remember is that there is almost always a gap in between their request for help, and your reply. Friendly can easily turn to Angry. Surprisingly, Angry is often Friendly by the time you get back to someone.
Angry: The angry customer comes in two major flavors, angry with you, and angry with everything. Angry with you is preferable. At least you are able to make some attempt to rectify things, and placate this customer. An angry with everything customer is just trying to find someone they can unload on, and it doesn’t matter what, if anything, is wrong with their game. Here is a rough transcript of how a phone call with an angry with everything customer might go.
You: Hello, A MAJOR CASUAL GAMES PORTAL, this is YOUR NAME.
Customer: Finally someone answers the phone.
You: Is there anything with which I can help you?
Customer: Yeah, you guys… I ordered GAME WE DON’T CARRY from you guys, and now everything’s, I had a virus. So it’s all, I need a new one.
You: I’m sorry, we don’t carry that game, did you purchase it elsewhere?
Customer: No, it’s from you.
You: I’m afraid it isn’t, we don’t carry it.
Customer: Well I bought it from you.
You: Do you have a receipt?
Customer: Yeah, I have this credit card.
You: Excuse me?
Customer: It says I paid you in 2003. I want it back. I want a refund.
You: What’s the last name on the order.
You: I’ve got an order, but it was refunded nearly three years ago.
You: Yes, I do. I’ve got a copy of the emails you sent. It looks like they offered you help, but you demanded a refund.
Customer: I want my game.
You: You don’t have one, you’ve placed one order, and you were given a refund. You haven’t actually bought anything from us.
Customer: Let me speak to your manager.
At this point, the correct response is to put the customer on hold until she hangs up. She has never, it appears, given the company any money. It’s not worth it.
This is the minority though. Most customers are so excited that you’ve replied that they almost immediately switch to...
Friendly: Very few customers start out Friendly, but it’s not hard to get them there. Interacting with another live human being tends to immediately cheer most people up. The sooner you are able to put customers in contact with a warm body, the faster you’ll make them happy again.
Here is a sample of the transition from a real email exchange.
A bill just came up for that has me purchasing the game
TWICE ,total of alomost 50 bucks!!! cancel it! Or will
contact my lawyer!!
After a quick reply stating that the second order she placed had been refunded.
SORRY! my son simply wants to play XXXXXXX. could you please walk me through the steps to make that possible?! Thanks!!!!! God Bless, XXXXX XXXX
It’s important to note that the reply sent ignored any of the threats or anger. Simply behaving in a friendly and professional manner will cause most people to do the same.
All of this is even more true on the phone. While you will often find an especially upset customer hard to please over email, something about the phone makes almost everyone behave themselves.
This is certainly not true of customers leaving messages. The messages found after a three-day weekend, for example, will often include more swearing and threats than an entire week of emails, but once people have a real human being on the phone some kind of social conditioning about the way you treat people kicks in.
The impersonality of email makes it much easier for the customer to continue abusing you while you are politely trying to fix what is most likely their mistake.
Indignant: Often confused with Angry, the Indignant customer is distinct in that he’s not just upset that things aren’t working out, he’s offended.
He might be offended that you gave him a general reply when of course he’s already tried reinstalling. Maybe he’s insulted that you’ve implied that he should check his drivers and Direct X because it can’t possibly be a problem on his end. Perhaps he feels slighted by your inability to fulfill whatever physically or economically impossible request he has.
Of course, it’s possible that he’s just incensed that he’s paid you money and it’s not already working.
Regardless, this customer will likely find even the most innocuous replies insulting. No matter how polite you are, you’re rude. It’s almost impossible to make these people behave in a humane fashion. The best you can hope for is to gently point out some error on his part, at which point he will never contact you again.
Of course, there’s more to your customers than just their moods. Other important traits that can help you understand how to deal with people are
Poor: “I was buying the game, and it went through twice, and now I’m overdrawn!” These are words you will hear with astounding regularity. Why anyone would ever spend their last twenty dollars on a video game, I cannot fathom. These people are almost always going to start out Angry, but are usually pretty easy to convert to Friendly. In our culture, Poor people are not used to being treated like human beings. When you do so, they will call you “Darlin’.” They tend to be good customers because apparently they will buy games instead of eating.
Rich: Rich people are rude. 90% of your Indignant customers are going to be Rich. They will usually point out that the computer is Very New and therefore it is obviously our fault.
Jesus: A lot of your customers love Jesus. 95% of the time this is great, and just means they will be friendly, and say God Bless, or Have a Blessed Day if they’re from the south. However, sometimes it will mean that they are crazy. Perhaps your game has a pirate level, or mentions magic. They will write to let you know that you are supporting Satan in his quest to draw our attention from God’s work. You should delete these emails.
Disoriented: While a fair number of email customers are disoriented, you can deal with deciphering them at your leisure. It’s the disoriented phone call that causes problems. Below is how the average credit card fraud victim will leave a message, or speak to you, if you do nothing to intercede.
Hi I have a charge and I don’t I’m I didn’t buy anything from
you I don’t know what you are and I didn’t make any charge
but I have a charge and I don’t understand, It’s not mine and
I’ve never heard of XXXXXXXX because is this the internet?
And I didn’t make the charge, I don’t know who you are, or
what this is, because it and I have no idea.
The humane thing to do is cut them off early on with a question that can actually get things moving, like their last name. If it’s a message you’re dealing with, good luck. They will leave their phone number only at the very end, and they are apparently under the impression that there is some kind of race, and the caller who says their phone number the fastest gets a Football Phone.
Foreign: Usually Disoriented, always hard to understand. As phone calls, this takes a very long time. Unfortunately, it will also require your attention, so minimize the web browser, and stop reading Penny Arcade while you try to help this person.
Old: Again, often Disoriented, most Old customers will tend to be Friendly on the phone because they are talking to a real person. They will not like being told that they are better off getting help via email, and any time you send them instructions, they will want to keep you on the phone until the email arrives. Sometimes, they will want you on the phone as they follow the instructions. In this case, please, maximize that web browser, and enjoy the wacky antics of Gabe and Tycho while you wait for them to finish.
Disabled: This set regularly intersects with Old, but less often than you’d probably expect. Disabled customers are just like anyone else, except that many of them will tell you really inappropriate, personal details to make sure you try to help them. Since you’re already doing your best to help everyone, this won’t really matter, but it might creep you out.
Retarded: Hands down the hardest type of customer to interact with. I am not referring here to stupid customers, or frustratingly ignorant customers. I refer only to customers who actually suffer from mental retardation. Sometimes someone who struggles with a serious mental handicap will call or email you. Unfortunately, ordinary customers can easily be so distressed, confused, or lazy that determining when the person you’re dealing with is actually retarded and communication is impossible is very difficult, and very touchy. You just can’t be sure. You need to be well past certain. Even then, it’s always a risk to be specific, so try something non-committal like “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can help you.”
Remember, all of these are guidelines, a series of tools and hints to make it easier to get a quick idea of how an interaction is going, so that you can tailor your replies and keep the customer satisfied. Once you realize there really are customers who can’t be satisfied, and that in some cases just hanging up or hitting delete really are the best option, you’ll be able to focus your energy on people who you can actually help, and keep happy. It’s impossible to know exactly how someone is going to behave, but it certainly makes things easier when you have an idea. Except retarded people. That always goes exactly the same, and it’s always incredibly hard.