How would a company have telephone customer support without the agents hating their jobs?


I hear stories about how working in the customer support division of any software company is terrible work. Boring, often in bad conditions (i.e. environment and supervisors), and often little technical training in the product your are supporting. The most recent I've found was from this reddit post.

That said, as a business owner, how would you get around this? We're thinking that similar to doctors with clinical hours, developers should have to devote a certain amount of time per week on handling customer service. Probably not the first tier, but for issues that are more technical, or for ones that have to do with coding of the software, these on-call developers would be available to help.

This aside, do you know of any good systems for handling customer support that is pleasant for both the user and the employee?

EDIT - The point is to have customer service reps enjoy their jobs as well as clients enjoy the customer service. The question is, how would a company do this?

Customer Support

asked Oct 26 '11 at 12:17
384 points
  • Great Q- If by system you mean software rather than the bigger 'process' I would recommend (satisfied customer) – Ryan 12 years ago

4 Answers


Fog creek just posted a relevant blog on this topic As for a system to use, I have personally found to be very good, but I only trialled this and Assistly, so I don't have a broad experience to back it up.

answered Oct 26 '11 at 16:10
Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points


A few tips that we have found have helped us in similar situations:

  • There must be a genuine career path for customer support. That might mean for some people there is opportunity to understudy a programmer and get in to a more technical role. For others it might mean team leader / support manager / project manager for rolling out more involved and planned projects than random customer phone calls and emails.
  • Similarly, if you have the opportunity, let the customer service people work with the level 2 or technical backend to see what they do to solve a problem. It's a cheap way to train "lower level" staff. This also helps avoid silo effects if you are growing.
  • Empower the customer service people to demonstrate their expertise. The best ISP call centres I've called all allowed their level 1 front line support people to "get technical" with callers that are comfortable with that. The worst I've dealt with had such people admitting they can tell us the solution but aren't allowed to because they are forced to read off scripts and pre-prepared answers.
  • I agree that developers should have exposure to working with customers. As Peter Drucker so rightly stated: the job of everyone in an organisation is to get and maintain customers. Developers can get a little fussy about this issue so just remind them where the money is coming from to pay their wage!
answered Oct 26 '11 at 21:05
Paul Filmer
790 points
  • Those are very good points, and work well with the Fog Creek post – Mirov 12 years ago


Great question.

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that support reps are not empowered (frustrating) and are only noticed when bad things happen (also frustrating). There's a couple easy ways to combat this:

  1. Set expectations for customers that there won’t be support during certain hours, so the support employee has fewer angry people to deal with after those hours
  2. Awknowledge that there are always going to be some grumpy customers
  3. Make it easy for the employee to see their POSITIVE progress (we've done this through gamification)
  4. Make it easy for teammates and bosses to see the GOOD work that the employee is doing
  5. Give rewards for good work, even if they’re only verbal

All of that is incredibly easy to do, and will work wonders.

I originally posted this (and some more detail) at our web site.

answered Dec 8 '11 at 06:33
Evan Hamilton
111 points


Paying the same hourly wages, outsource those jobs to a third world country like the Philippines. I guarantee you they are going to ask you for overtime as often as possible.

Try it!

answered Oct 26 '11 at 13:31
Jim Syyap
237 points
  • The problem involves untrained customer service reps who hate their jobs. Outsourcing it doesn't solve either of those. – Mirov 12 years ago

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