As I marched up the steep hill up towards the elevated park in the distance I saw police tape flapping in the wind as it hit the public benches wrapped up in the plastic. There was no option to stop to catch a breath—only to keep walking on the cobbles and up the road.
Like most of the world the pandemic has hit the capital of Portugal hard. Only 6 months earlier the street had the bustle of tourists and locals mixing together but still staying apart in the summer heat.
One year on it’s fair to say we’ve all had enough of this virus taking over our world. Those who worked online before the pandemic have been hit a little less hard. But the emotional side has taken its toll on everyone.
"Post-pandemic I just can’t quite find the spirit to use the word awesome all that much. It feels awkward to use. In reality will they have a good week? Probably not—we’re all struggling."
There’s been one strange thing to come out of all of this when it comes to customer support—the changing attitudes on both sides of the ticket.
I’ve found myself holding back with some aspects but also becoming more emotional with others.
Learning to Drop Awesome
I’d like to think part of our support is making our customers feel valued and cared about. Part of this involves asking how their week has been and wishing them a good rest of their week or weekend.
Pre-pandemic I found myself using the word awesome a lot. I hope you had an awesome week! Have an awesome weekend! That’s awesome!
Post-pandemic I just can’t quite find the spirit to use the word awesome all that much. It feels awkward to use. In reality will they have a good week? Probably not—we’re all struggling.
Instead I’ve found myself phrasing things slightly differently and using other words. “I hope you had a relaxing weekend” is a sentence I tend to use on a Monday morning. The best we can all realistically hope for is some resbite and relaxation in our own homes, right?
“I hope you’re having a good week” is my go-to mid-week right now because good is better than bad but it’s not quite great.
Am I overthinking this whole thing? Maybe.
Batch Instead of React
With everyone’s brains turning forgetful it’s not surprising to find myself struggling to deal with tickets in a consistent way.
I was once able to read, think, draft, and send tickets in an orderly way. I now get stuck trying to rummage through my memory to think up an answer to send to the customer.
To manage this I tend to batch up tickets so I can deal with multiple tickets at a time when I’m feeling good. That way I can give quick answers without sacrificing quality. I do this about 3 or 4 times a day. While this has affected our ticket times I reckon it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.
Luckily we don’t get many tickets because of our knowledge base. Still, I can imagine people at big companies who run customer support must struggle with this.
A Major Shift in Attitudes Inside Tickets
If you’re in customer support you’ll know there’s a vast range of tickets that come in. Some are pretty simple while others require technical expertise to solve. Unfortunately some are just downright unpleasant.
"I've found is that a lot fewer people are responding to my answers. Off the top of my head I'd say only about 1 out of 5 people respond at all nowadays. I'd take a guess people are too emotionally exhausted to reply."
I’ve found myself giving people a little slack when it comes to being on the rude side. I’m not sure whether that’s the right thing to do or not. I’m worried I’ve been unpleasant myself sending in messages to other companies.
Recently I found people to be a lot shorter with their questions. There’s been a shift from niceties to bluntness because people are confined in their homes a lot more. People seem to just want an answer rather than getting to know the person answering behind the scenes.
Another thing I've found is that a lot fewer people are responding to my answers. Off the top of my head I'd say only about 1 out of 5 people respond at all nowadays. I'd take a guess people are too emotionally exhausted to reply. They're spending their time in more and more Zoom meetings (something we've decided to actively avoid).
It's tough to be on either side of the ticket right now. Thinking of sending in a customer support ticket requires a lot of effort. It's one I've avoided a lot more recently. But answering these tickets and either getting blunt responses back or no response is also emotionally challenging.
Light at the End of the Ticket?
When the tape is stripped from the benches, the tables and chairs start to make their way back on the street, and the tourists come back to enjoy the sunshine, maybe we’ll all start to become a little less grouchy.
Maybe I'm hopelessly optimistic but I'd like to think this summer people will start to make their way outside again. Perhaps I'll be able to use the word awesome once again.
For now though I think we should all be a little more mindful on both sides of the ticket.