Spolsky's Eight Steps to Great Customer Service

I've done corporate IT internal customer support as a manager and front-liner (not everyone agrees with thinking of internal users as customers, while it's not a direct analog it's a useful frame-of-mind at times), and most recently front-line technical support for an enterprise product in the Education sector. Joel Spolsky's piece: Seven steps to remarkable customer service totally rings true on a number of levels. Reading it brought back a lot of very good and very bad memories about successes and failures I've had in the Support role.

A few things that jump out at me:

  • Spolsky is bang on when he discusses the dialog between Support and Development. We had this at my last job and it was big plus.
  • Definitely give your support staff a career path. In my experience the majority of support staff have a job span of two to three years, then they're bored and looking for something else. Bored often means they give sub-optimal service, it's hard hide the boredom, and when they leave a lot of knowledge goes with them. If you do find one of those remarkable exceptions that lasts longer and still gives great service they're gold and should be rewarded accordingly!
  • Sadly, greed will get specific individuals within the company somewhere (Spolsky's point 7), or it wouldn't happen. In the long term greed won't get the company as far as it would get with good customer service.
  • While I agree with his points about handling customers, there are times with some customers when push-back is needed. This is very situational and usually very delicate, but in some cases can strengthen the relationship.
  • The thick-skin thing is soooo true, though this is the first time I've seen it described as "puppetry".