We’ve all had those customers; you know the ones. The ones who come at you fists raised, steam blowing from their ears, and ready to fight you tooth and nail on everything they think is wrong with your company or product.
Whether you’re handling customer requests, complaints, or general inquiries, customer support can be stressful to say the least. Managing customer support comes with a certain level of inherent chaos that can leave you and your team feeling overwhelmed and ill-prepared if you don’t have plan set up in advance (and I strongly suggest that one gets put in place if you haven’t already done so).
While you may want to go on the defense (believe me, I get it, people are the worst), it’s important to take a step back and have a strategy for when customers have support issues, requests, or questions. Now don’t get me wrong, a little snark or sarcasm may be appropriate in some cases, but temper your responses dependent upon the customer.
So here a few ways you can handle customer support like a champ and come out on the other side with your sanity in place:
Categorize incoming requests.
Begin by sorting any incoming customer contact into at least 3 categories: requests, issue reports, and general inquiries. This keeps everything organized on the front end so you know what needs to be tackled, what needs to take priority, and honestly, what kind of mindset you need to have going into it.
Have a place to put all of those requests.
This is a two-fold approach to staying organized. First, whether you are placing each request into a spreadsheet by hand or using a management tool like Zendesk, you need to keep a detailed log of requests, responses, plans of action, and resolutions. Second, you need to prioritize requests as they come in, not as you are trying to determine which tasks to tackle next.
Don’t let any incoming customer contact go without a reply. Your customer took their time to sit down and reach out to you, so at the very least, send a confirmation of receipt acknowledging that you are aware of the problem and will be in contact soon.
Believe me, waiting until the issue is resolved to respond can take a good chunk of time, meaning that the customer has a lot of time to become angry at your silence and possibly blow up your inbox with less-than-kosher messages.
Fix the problem, take the suggestion, answer the question.
Once you’ve categorized, prioritized, and sent an initial response, go through your messages and address each thoroughly. If it’s an issue report, let them know what you’re doing to fix the problem and when in will be fixed. If it’s a request, even if it’s a request you know will never be implemented, thank them for the suggestion and update them on what you will be doing about it. If it’s a general inquiry, answer to the best of your ability. At some point it may be helpful to compile a FAQ sheet to reference so that your answers are consistent from customer to customer.
Have a drink. Take a breather.
No, really. Drink some coffee, tea, wine, beer, all of the above, etc. Take a minute to get up and take a break. Go for a walk or read a chapter of a book. Customer support is stressful and frustrating and customers are not always kind. After your break, get back to it and kick some customer support butt! In the nicest way possible, of course.
Jason Long is the founder and CEO of BrainLeaf and an Information Architect and Managing Partner at CodeWright. A self-professed serial entrepreneur, he is always interested in new businesses, new ideas, and new ways to change the world. He has over 15 years of experience in design and development and has served in a variety of different roles ranging from designer to Information Architect to CEO. He spends most of his time focusing on the build and development of new ventures while trying to travel the world.