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How Providing Customer Support is Like Defusing a Bomb

I recently read How To Be Calm Under Pressure: 3 Secrets From A Bomb Disposal Expert (via Swiss Miss) and immediately connected its 3 secrets with 3 guiding principles for providing customer support. I recommend you read the full article, but here’s a recap of the 3 secrets along with my observations about how they connect to support:

  1. Do a threat assessment. While you may not be defusing a literal bomb, a customer in distress can make you feel like you are. Don’t panic. Assess the customer’s problem and try to think of a similar problem you have handled in the past. This makes the problem less intimidating and gives you a place to start troubleshooting or resolving it.
  2. Emphasize the positive and what you can control. Is the customer facing a bug? Did they experience a serious problem with your product? Focus on positive aspects of the situation and actions you have the power to take for the customer. That could mean providing workarounds that you know about, making small fixes you know will help, or even bigger solutions like proactively offering the customer a refund if something went really wrong.
  3. Focus on the next step. Don’t try to solve the entire problem in one shot. Focus instead on just the next step you need to take. Did you just uncover a giant bug in the product? Set that aside for a moment and focus on this one customer and how to help them first. Not sure what went wrong or how to help the customer? Focus on talking through the problem so you understand it fully. In other words, think about just that one thing you need to do next, to avoid getting overwhelmed.

These general guidelines have helped me handle any number of stressful situations with apparent ease, including the pressure of being on the front lines of customer support. I hope they serve you well!

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Excellence Wrangler for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. Linguaphile and Translator. Tester.

1 Comment so far

  1. I love your connection. What you’ve done with the connection to customer support reminds me of this Josh Waitzkin quote: “lateral thinking or thematic thinking, the ability to take a lesson from one thing and transfer it to another, is one of the most important disciplines that any of us can cultivate”.

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