Because I’m really good at it. It’s a skill set that’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. I’m patient, easy to talk to, and I’m a good teacher. I thrive on problem solving.
In libraries, this type of job is referred to as public service, rather than customer service. It’s the work I’ve been doing for 10 years, and I really like it. I’ve worked with all kinds of people who have all sorts of different levels of education, tech skills, and research experience. Everywhere I’ve worked, I seem to develop a fan club of people who know that I know the right answer to their questions.
I don’t always know the right answer, though, at least not right away. But I do know where to look or who to talk to; in some ways, it’s a more important skill. I’m in a constant state of learning, and the work that I do with our patrons is brain-food.
I read customer service blogs like Customer Experience Matters & Good Experience, but I think I get a lot more out of the anecdotal stories on the Consumerist. The tales of bad interactions, and interactions that go above & beyond tell me a lot about what makes customers happy, without a lot of statistics or charts.
Customers want to communicate with a human, who has the power to give them an answer. They want their frustrations acknowledged & their problems listened to. They’re willing to forgive a mistake, but don’t like excuses. They want accountability.
Unsurprisingly, customers want to talk to someone who will treat them like a human. And that’s something I’m very good at.
I use 37signals products. I believe in things that are easy to use; they’re simple & elegant. I like that enhancements are judicious, not reactionary. I appreciate the balance between the free apps like Writeboards, the free demo accounts, and the full bells & whistles of Basecamp & the rest. I read Signal vs Noise, and nodded my head in agreement throughout Rework.
There’s a whole lot of reasons I want to come to work for you. But the aspect of your company I admire the most is the straightforward, open way you conduct business. Everything is laid out clearly, from the prices, to the terms & conditions, to the names of the employees. There’s no haggling, no half-hearted promises, no shadiness. I love the idea of working for such a WYSIWYG company.
That kind of openness saves everyone time & hassle. The idea of saying “these are our terms, take it or leave it” sounds cold, but it’s not. The very fact that you’re advising a customer that Milestones could be used as a substitute for Gantt charts demonstrates that 37signals is not indifferent to the customer. You’re helping them to think about what they really need, and to work with what’s available to solve their problems. Teaching someone how to fish is ultimately better than writing a $ rails generate fish command.
I’m a big believer in getting creative with what is on hand. I’m all about problem solving. 37signals has a culture of teaching & learning that I know I would thrive in, and feel confident that I could contribute to.
I’m a knitter. Some of my knitter friends told me about a company called Knit Picks, and I checked out their site. If you look through the list of yarns, each different color has a written description; they’re really well done. I enjoy them so much that I tweeted about it.
Twitter is used so mindlessly that one forgets people are listening. So I was very surprised when I got a response* from the Knit Picks employee who writes those descriptions. She was thrilled with the compliment. I was thrilled that she was thrilled.
And with that, there was a face to the business. I follow her on Twitter, and I’ve asked her advice about color combinations & different knits. She’s gone so far as to send me pictures of different combinations. I’ve taken her advice, and spent money with them. I’ve told a lot of people about my experience, and they’ve gone to the site & bought yarn as well.
This told me a lot about their philosophy towards their customers. Customer Experience Matters talks about the Laws of Customer Experience, and I think this interaction nailed a few of them. It was a genuine, personal interaction with an employee who is obviously engaged in her job. It was a small interaction that made a big impression on me.
* updated in January 2011 ... looks like Kate no longer works at KnitPicks. I hope she's rocking out somewhere good!