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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Power of Courtesy

I've been working as a customer support tech for the last five months. I've learned quite a few "life lessons", but the most powerful one has been the power of being polite.

I answer emails for an iPhone app company. It's me, at home, by myself, working when I have time. It adds up to a handful of hours per month and a little extra income. I suspect many app companies have even less. I try my best to make sure all emails are answered within no more than 72 hours, usually less than 24. So imagine my surprise when a customer sends me twelve emails within two hours and is absolutely livid that they were not answered immediately. It was after eleven at night when he sent them. I'd answered his first email, finished the rest of the queue, and gone to bed. (I'm a mom and I work several jobs, I'm tired that late at night.) The next day I log on and am faced with increasingly angry emails. I respond as politely as possible, trying to resolve his issue. He sends a message back complaining that we are a terrible company because we do not have someone sitting a the computer 24/7 just waiting for emails to answer.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be paid $10/hour 14/7 just to wait for emails to answer, but I don't have that kind of life and the company I work for doesn't have that kind of money.

The customer ended with an abusive rant that left me upset and angry. Guess how much service he's going to get from me if he ever needs more? He will still get basic assistance because I can be professional, but I won't go out of my way to help him.

That's just one example. I've had quite a few others.

The basic lesson? If you want good customer service, try being polite and reasonable. Even if you believe anger and outrage get you more, you'll still leave the impression that you are an insufferable, arrogant jerk. Karma or not, the reputation you earn will catch up sooner or later.

More on customer support lessons later.

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