How to run a support center nobody will want to call

How to run a support center nobody will want to call: [If you have any suggestions on how to improve this list, please let us know.]

  • Reassure customers right at the beginning that their problem is very simple and you’ll solve it in just a few minutes.
  • Require them to install support software on their computer before you will even listen to their problem. They might not be able to accurately describe it, so you need to see it. They will need to get their own internet connection working in order to do this.
  • If you have a perfectly acceptable name like Amit or Sarita, change it to something like David or Mary. It’s fun to see if you can really fool customers by adopting an accent to match the name.
  • Make up new words for letters. So if you are spelling words, don’t use the standard Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, use new words like Papa. Papa is an endearing term used by kids to refer to their grandparents so it will bring back good memories for your customers and they will think more highly of you.
  • If your customer starts to lose her temper, calm her down by using terms of endearment like "sweetie" and "honey".
  • If at any time your customer asks to speak to a supervisor, explain to them that you are working on their problem and that your boss couldn’t possibly help them.
  • If your customer is getting really worked up, telling them they are stupid or don’t get it will usually silence them for a few seconds.
  • There’s a 50% chance that your customer is on a cell phone. If that’s the case, and they are being problematic, you can tell them continuously that you are having a hard time hearing them. Most customers will hang up after a while.
  • Do not ever give out your direct email. Inform customers that receiving an email from them might take up to two days to get through the central mailbox and then to you.
  • End all calls with "God Bless".

Why I’m never going to buy a Kindle

I want a Kindle. I think they are cool because:

  • You can carry around 100s of books in the space of one. I routinely carry 4-5 books with me on long trips – in my carry-on. I always carry at least two: one fiction and one non-fiction.
  • You can take electronic notes. Notes, quotations, highlighting and underlining are all stored electronically. You can then search for that particular quote or stat you are looking for.
  • It always looks like you are working! Nobody can tell if you are reading a novel or reviewing a document for work.

So why don’t I buy one? I have two shelves full of books I haven’t read yet and it seems like a waste to rebuy them on the Kindle, so I’m waiting until I’ve read them. The problem is, every time I finish a book, I swap it for a new one, so I’m never going to get to buy a Kindle!

Applying what I learned in the book First, Break all the Rules

I think one of the best ways to learn is to immediately apply what you are trying to learn. So last night I jumped on the perfect opportunity to practice skills from First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. As you’ll see, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

Jacob, our 7 year old, plays baseball and while he’s quite good, he doesn’t take it very seriously. This drives his dad (Frank) nuts. (It would probably drive me nuts too but I think Frank has it more than covered, so I try to stay out of it.)

So last night, when I overheard Frank telling Jacob yet again that he’s doing really good, but if he’d just apply himself … I decided to intervene.

My first attempt to show different people have different talents or drivers failed miserably. I told Frank (in front of Jacob) that he might just have to deal with the fact that Jacob doesn’t want to be first. (I meant that Jacob might play baseball to hang out with friends instead of winning.) Jacob broke down crying. So after I tried to reassure Jacob and at least got him to stop crying, I tried again.

"Dad likes to play baseball because he’s really good at it, and he likes to win. If he wasn’t good at it, he probably wouldn’t play. I don’t like to play softball because I’m good at it – or I wouldn’t play. I play because I get to play with my friends and have a beer afterwards." He thought the beer part was funny and we agreed that he probably shouldn’t play for a beer. Then I asked him why he liked playing baseball and he said because it was fun. It took several back and forths before he decided it was fun because he learned things. I asked, learn things like in get better at them or learn completely new things. He said to get better but Frank interrupted with "I think you’re saying what you want me to hear." So we tried asking, "at baseball camp last week what was one really fun thing you did?" He said the bunting contest – he didn’t know how to bunt before and learned how during the game. So now maybe we can work on getting Jacob to take baseball "seriously" by focusing more on what he’s learning instead of how fast he’s running or how much better he is doing than the others. We’ll see, it might take a few rounds.

One of the main points of the book wasn’t just to figure out what your
employees are good but to help them figure out what they are good at:

The initial Frank/Jacob conversation started because Frank was wondering why Jacob had been monkey for so long during monkey in the middle that afternoon – he though Jacob wasn’t trying hard enough. I suggested that Frank could teach Jacob a way to throw over anyone’s head no matter how tall they were (assuming that Jacob would like to learn and practice a new technique more than he wants to "win"). Jacob said that would be neat. Now I just hope Frank knows a way to throw like that. If he doesn’t, I know the challenge will be motivating enough to him that he’ll find a way!

Book Review: First, Break All the Rules

I’d recommend First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently to all new managers – well, to all managers for that matter. The first point the book makes is that who you work for is more important than the company you work for, your job description or even your paycheck. I agree, 100%.

We have said that an employee may join a company because of its prestige and reputation, but that his relationship with his immediate manager determines how long he stays and how productive he is while he is there. We have said that the manager is the critical player in turning each employee’s talent into performance. We have said that managers trump companies.

The next main point they make is that everyone is different and you should spend your time finding the perfect role for them and the perfect way for them to accomplish their goals. Don’t waste your time trying to improve your employees’ weaknesses. Get them the skills they need or find them the resources or partnerships they need, and put them in the right roles – where their talents and drives match the job they have. They break talents and skills into skills, knowledge and talents. The first two are teachable but "talents" are inherent. I saw their talents more as drivers. A talent was more than just what you are good at but what motivates you do what you do well.

The authors define 12 questions that measure the key things needed to attract and keep good employees:

What do I get?

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

What do I give?

  1. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  2. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  3. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  4. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Do I belong here?

  1. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  2. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  3. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  4. Do I have a best friend at work?

How can we all grow?

  1. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  2. This last year have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

According to the authors, managers should spend their time making sure the first two sets of questions are answered: "what do I get?" and "what do I give?" They also point out that most organizations aren’t set up to treat people like individuals (in the sense that we all have different talents) – instead they try to get everyone to do a job well in the same way – nor to reward people in their current role without promoting them out. They offer suggestions for how managers can work within existing company policies. They also provide a section on what to do if your manager is still working on becoming a perfect manager – a section how to manager yourself and help your manager work best with you.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently is well worth reading for anyone who is a manager, aspiring to be a manager or frustrated with their current manager.

Book review: The Hungry Gene

The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin is another good history of eating, or rather obsessing about weight. It’s not as detailed as Good Calories, Bad Calories but she made some good points. Here are the two messages I took away. (I’m sure there were more in the book.)

  1. Our genes influence how fat we get – not just how we process food but also what types of food we like and how much of them we eat. She gave an example of an island in the Pacific where the inhabitants were decimated by famine. The survivors were genetically inclined to use all calories "effectively" – they eat lots of fatty foods, enjoy being sedentary, and put on lots of fat – food storage. Today with plenty of convenient fatty foods they are very fat. Her point seemed to be that it’s only a matter of time before we are all fat in today’s society. If you are skinny now it’s because you are lucky to have good genes or you have time and money to work at being skinny.
  2. Until we treat "Big Food" like Big Tobacco, the situation will continue to get worse. Food companies exist to make money and they make money when we eat lots. They will continue to lobby for laws and situations that enable them to sell us lots of food.

The Hungry Gene was an easy to read, absorbing book. I found myself reading it long after I should have been in bed!