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Warm Fuzzies: The Best Kept Secret of Customer Service

Dog lickIn most industries, including the tech world, “support” is a piteous word.

Posts like this one, while written in jest, enforce the stereotype that working in support essentially sucks. We are known for getting abused by ranting, angry customers. We can’t take a day off, because the emails never stop flowing in. We must just be doing this to get trained with the company, right?

Well, I’d like to offer a slightly different view into the world of customer service.

While we do occasionally bear the brunt of unhappy customers and receive unkind words, those experiences are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the patient, smart, grateful and human emails that usually flow in. I recognize that I’m spoiled by my Buffer users, but I’ve experienced this same trend in all previous customer service jobs.

Engineers may get a lot of the glory in the industry. But they also spend most of their customer interactions on the hardest, fringe, or bug-related cases. Our chief hackers often help the Happiness team figure out the trickiest ones, and sometimes they speak  with the most irate customers who have been passed around a few times without an answer. The Happiness team, on the other hand, is spoiled by spending every day teaching our awesome users how to use Buffer in the best way possible.

The best kept secret in support is that we actually get all of the glory. Each time one of those “Thank you so much!” emails comes in, the Warm Fuzzies swarm.

At Buffer, we use Hively to invite customers to share how we’re doing. They can leave comments and rate us using faces ranging from happy to unhappy. (For more on the customer service efforts at Buffer, including our Hively stats, check out a recent Happiness Report.)

Admittedly, the “unhappies” sting a lot. Joel, the founder of Buffer, recently likened the feeling to “being punched in the gut.” It feels a bit like being told “you are bad at your job.” That hurts.

However, Hively also encourages people to give kind and honest feedback that they might not otherwise have shared.

Here’s a recent comment left for me by Mike Gilroy (@mike_gilroy), re-printed with his permission:

“Carolyn was brilliant! She answered my questions and gave me all the information I needed in a polite and friendly manner. It’s not often you come across an excellent product combined with excellent customer service, but Buffer provides exactly that. Credit to Carolyn and the entire Buffer team. Keep it up!”

Did I mention the Warm Fuzzies part of the job?

So the next time you’re feeling sorry for those whose job titles include the word support, customer service, or even “Happiness Hero,” take a second look at the pep in our step. We may have received an email like that today. Or 10.

(Disclaimer: It’s my personal opinion that the customers of Buffer are tremendous. This may not be the case for all customer service reps; do still be kind to them and bring them cupcakes and stuff.)

Have you experienced these Warm Fuzzies before in your customer interactions? Have you ever sent positive feedback to a support hero who made your day? I’d love to hear your happy customer service stories.

Image credit: mikebaird

This post originally appeared on my personal website, Feel free to browse the archives for even more insight into customer service and support.

  • Daniel Gdowski

    The “unhappies”can really sting. Especially considering that when someone takes the time to email in an “unhappy”, there are probably 10 more thinking the same thing that didn’t bother to email. Plus, we lose visual context in email so it can cut a bit deeper. I think a lot of support is about communicated intent and attitude. On the business side, you can treat that “unhappies”as tremendous opportunities to fix an issue you’re weak in (and become proactive on) and double down on service replies to change a customer’s mind.

    I’ve found most “unhappies” are savable. The customer tone may be negative, not because they hate you, but because they are frustrated. Good reactive service from someone who actually cares and is empowered to fix the issue can go 99% of the way to getting that customer back on the team again.

    • Jevon Millan

      I completely agree. Unhappy customers are most often happy when met with earnest attempts to help them! Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that people treat others how they treat themselves, to overcome any negative feelings about a “determinedly unhappy” customer – to go ahead and do your best for them anyway.

  • I had my first Buffer support interaction a few weeks ago with Mary (Happiness Hero Extraordinaire) and I must say — a lot of warm fuzzies and smiley faces ensued. :)

    She deserves a bonus and/or cookies! You guys and gals are awesome.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Awww, I can’t wait to share this with Mary, Thea! You rock for sharing the warm fuzzies with us :)

  • Agnes Dadura

    You guys are great :) I do enjoy talking to good customer service people, and make sure to let them know I appreciate the help (well, if provided of course). Even when they bring bad news, but handle it well, there’s no hard feelings between me and the brand.
    I know the fuzzy feeling, I was lucky to get it from my customer’s feedback a few times. The best one was after I left my company, and my previous client, without me asking, wrote a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile. That felt really good.

    Ps. I like the green CTA better than orange :) I see you A/B testing :) I’m already a user though, so just saying.

  • Do you need a cupcake? :-) not sure how to send a digital one

    • I like that idea, too! :-)

  • Meredith Gould

    Your customer service team is such a fabulous combination of smart, helpful and delightful that I always race right over to Twitter with my smokin’ hot warm fuzzies. Really, you’re a model for how it should be done.,

  • Just a heads up, if you’re not already using respondly (or aren’t aware of it), you may want to check out their recent video intro – full screen…

  • Pingback: When to Teach and When to Fish: 3 Times To Skip the How-Tos in Customer Support - XTBlog!()

  • On point as always! :D

  • or use to send them a handwritten thank you card!

  • Sylvia

    So true~ our founder always reminds us that there will always be the 2% that you may not be able to make happy, but stay kind and hopefully we caught them on a bad day. My faith in humanity is restored every day~ :D

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