Two quick apologies – 1)This post may ramble a bit more than usual, and B)It’s not my intent to insult or degrade any of the folks I help online. This blog serves as my conscience and my therapist, and I’m not in the mood to cover technical topics today.
First off, you may wonder what I mean by ‘user.’ Surely that is synonymous with the term ‘customer?’ You might be surprised how many people actually steal our software and then get indignant when it doesn’t do what they want it to. So when I say ‘user’, I mean anyone who is using one of the products or services that I support for my current employer, Quest Software.
I have always been in the service industry. In high school I was a bus boy at a restaurant, and then a front desk clerk for a hotel. In university I supported my lifestyle (beer habit) by working as a resident assistant in the dorms and as a support IT person for one of the colleges. My first ‘real’ job out of school was as a front-line support person for a small software company.
I never intended to take this career path
I thought working at a hotel sounded cool. They had a pool, and I got to flirt a lot. Not too shabby for a 17 year old, right? Being a RA/babysitter in college was more about the free room-and-board. I took the support job at the software company because I didn’t want to be a developer. But looking back today, I recognize that I really did enjoy working with people. Being able to take a person who needs something, and satisfying that need, is very rewarding. Not everyone is a people person, but I love and require social interaction.
Message boards, Twitter, and the Innerwebs
I am no longer in customer support. However, I am in a position where I can help a lot of people. I enjoy stalking Toad users and helping them. My ego requires constant attention, and it feels good to help people. Some of my happiest days are when I can take someone who says ‘Product _____ is a piece of garbage’ and lead them to ‘I love _______!’
But (there is ALWAYS a ‘but’)
It can be a drag to be constantly surrounded by so much negativity. You may not have noticed this, but most people don’t take the time to go on-line and sing the praises of others. Rather, anger and frustration tend to be the primary motivators for taking time and energy to share your experiences with others. Part of this is due to the fact that someone is looking for help. If you are genuinely looking for help, do you insult the person who can save you? Probably not. But on the Internet, the stronger your words, the more attention you garner.
I don’t take it personally. It does frustrate me a bit though. I quit my support role at Quest because the constant negativity was taking me to a bad place. I started answering questions with links to Google. Not Google search links to the answer – I was just sending links to Google.com. Actually, I’m not sure if I ever did that or not, but I know I fantasized about it. I had an opportunity to go into Product Management, and took it.
I’ve never really left customer service though. Having it as a hobby allows me to spend the amount of time I want to help others. So, it’s not my ‘job’, but it is my calling. Users still drive me nuts though.
It’s all about me.
We are human. Two year olds are cute, but no one wants to marry or work with someone who acts like a two year old. Believe it or not, but there are plenty of those people out there. None of my readers of course – if you were, you’d have no reason to care about what I thought or felt.
Why is it when one of products doesn’t work, that some people assume we purposely screwed it up? Actually I know why people feel that way. I get really, really upset when I beta test our own products. It upsets me that bugs and design flaws weren’t caught before they reached me. So imagine how someone else feels who dropped several thousand dollars on a product that over 2,000,000 people also use. IT DOESN’T WORK!
Please tell us when something doesn’t work.
I actually enjoy helping people fix their software. Often I can alleviate the situation in a few minutes. Sometimes however it requires R&D to code a fix. Developers don’t sit around and brain-storm new ways to upset users (or do they?). They don’t pick bugs out of a hat to fix. Everything gets prioritized. If you are the only person reporting an issue, and it’s not a core feature, odds are it might take awhile.
Don’t be shy. Call and pester us. Often times I ask a developer about a bug, and they take that moment to fix it right there on the spot. The squeaky wheel gets the grease so they say. And developers HATE bugs. If you show them one, they’ll drop everything to fix it if they can. Thankfully I don’t come calling very often. Our official support system is VERY good. I often just get the folks on Twitter and public message boards out there. So when I do call, the developers still answer the phones – and I thank my lucky stars every time they do. You see, I rarely call with good news. I try to make up for this by blogging about one of their new toys and giving them the success stories when I remember to do so.
It’s not broken, you are just doing it ‘wrong’.
Software is engineered. There are requirements, then plans, then code. It gets tested a bit. It gets sold. It goes out. Someone uses it, and claims there is an issue. A support rep takes a phone call. Writes down the issue. Confirms that ‘yes, that is the behavior I see too.’ A bug is logged in our database. It gets assigned to a developer. The developer looks at it, chuckles, then changes the status to ‘dev reject – works as intended.’
How many users do you think enjoy hearing that?
The support folks get to massage that answer into a solution. For me, that’s the fun part. I get to be creative, and even figure out ways to get the user what they want anyway. Sometimes, I can’t come up with a fix or an answer that satisfies the user. I just have to hope that they understand that we are doing the best that we can, and that we do have their best interests at heart. So while it may be ‘all about you’ – there are 2,000,000 of you and only a few dozen of ‘us.’
When it’s no longer fun, it’s time to get out.
It’s still fun. I get more than I put in. Most people are really cool. I’ve met some really neat folks out there. Everyone has a bad day now and then. I just get to meet people on that particular day, and that’s OK.