Why Doing Customer Support Sucks, and 5 Ways to Make it Better

Customer support is (often) a terrible job.

I’m sorry to say it, because I think it’s one of the most important jobs in a company. But doing customer support is generally a terrible experience, which is why so few people want to do it and even fewer continue doing it after a few years.

Here are some of the reasons support sucks:

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  • Customers are frequently frustrated (that’s why they contacted support).
  • When bosses hear about angry customers, they get stressed.
  • Bosses and teammates rarely see when the support staff make customers happy, only when they make them mad.
  • There are few project starts and ends, just the endless inbox.

The thing is, very little effort has been expended towards making this situation better. Perhaps because companies see this as minimal-training-required role (false, but whatever), they’re happy to continue burning through support staff. Or maybe they don’t even realize it could be better.

What’s odd is that we’ve spent plenty of time making other roles better. We’ve improved programming languages for developers. We’ve built ergonomic workstations for writers. We’ve given Sales people bluetooth devices so they can drive and network. We’ve required hardhats for construction workers.

Improving the workplace for the support employee really shouldn’t be that hard. Here’s some things to do today:

smiling customer support employee
  1. Set expectations for customers that there won’t be support during certain hours, so the support employee has fewer angry people to deal with after those hours
  2. Awknowledge that there are always going to be some grumpy customers
  3. Make it easy for the employee to see their POSITIVE progress
  4. Make it easy for teammates and bosses to see the GOOD work that the employee is doing
  5. Give rewards for good work, even if they’re only verbal

All five of those bullet points can be implemented easily within a month. Think of it/pitch it as an investment in the bottom line, and it’ll get done even quicker. It just might mean that your support employee sticks around, does more work, and makes your customers happier. Which means your business does better.

Domo photo courtesy of Lamont Cranston.
Woman photo courtesy of Alan Clark.

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