Spolsky on Customer Service

Anyone who has anything to do with customer service in their organisation should read and learn from Joel Spolsky’s article on the subject. It’s not just software companies he’s talking about. Anyone who deals with customers could benefit from taking his advice.

I particularly liked point 2, “Suggest blowing out the dust”.

Microsoft’s Raymond Chen tells the story of a customer who complains that the keyboard isn’t working. Of course, it’s unplugged. If you try asking them if it’s plugged in, “they will get all insulted and say indignantly, ‘Of course it is! Do I look like an idiot?’ without actually checking.”

“Instead,” Chen suggests, “say ‘Okay, sometimes the connection gets a little dusty and the connection gets weak. Could you unplug the connector, blow into it to get the dust out, then plug it back in?’

“They will then crawl under the desk, find that they forgot to plug it in (or plugged it into the wrong port), blow out the dust, plug it in, and reply, ‘Um, yeah, that fixed it, thanks.’”

Many requests for a customer to check something can be phrased this way. Instead of telling them to check a setting, tell them to change the setting and then change it back “just to make sure that the software writes out its settings.”

One comment

  1. Let me tell you about Joel Spolsky. I used to use his FogBugz software, and it was reasonably good. Then he “upgraded” it with a load of Ajax stuff that it didn’t need. Now it’s a truly awful product. It didn’t install properly, giving error messages that they couldn’t help me to fix. It’s full of bugs. And to cap it all, you don’t get any patches unless you pay for a support contract!Quite frankly, I would put lessons in customer service from Joel Spolsky in the same place as my manual on Responsible Childcare by Michael Jackson, my book on Marriage Guidance by OJ Simpson, and Boost your IQ by Paris Hilton!And he can shove the dusty connection to his keyboard up his ass!

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