Terrifying Tales of Spooky Support

It’s a Help Scout (Howl Scout? Help Scour?) Halloween special! We know you’re not afraid of anything, but even the most hardened customer service professional isn’t immune from a scary support situation now and again.

Be sure to let us know your own scariest support scenario in the comments below!

“Interview With a Support Vampire”

I need answers. I desire … clarity. I must be heard. I must — always — be heard.

You may call me a support vampire, but such names have no power over me. Once I was a perfectly ordinary customer, seeking help, receiving it gratefully, returning to my work.

But that was eons ago. The change came upon me before even the great rise of Web 2.0.

Always I take small bites, mere nibbles here and there. Never enough for you to drive me away. An irritation; not a plague to be hunted down, attacked, or destroyed. Little by little I take my prize.

Hell Scout: Terrifying Tales of Spooky Support. Support Vampire

Of course you attempt to repel me. The garlic of response times, the feeble wooden stake of auto replies — these are your weapons, such as they are. And for a time they work, but I shall not be deterred.

I persist.

The wisest among you have begun to recognize me, seeking to avoid my ministration. For you I have my disguises. A Gmail address — a witty nom de plume I adopt for a day or a week before I shed it like a snake’s skin.

And there will always be fresh delights for me to enjoy: your new agents, your unwitting engineers and helpful executives, stumbling helplessly into my traps like newborn giraffes.

Your empty inbox, it calls to me. It is so lonely.

I admit, this is not an easy existence, but it is mine. Whenever you begin to imagine you are free, that I am gone, it is then I shall return. I am patient. I am eternal.

I am also, incidentally, on the free plan.

But I’m considering upgrading.

Tips for handling highly demanding customers

Most support teams will know one or two customers who demand a disproportionate amount of their time, asking multiple questions daily and expecting immediate responses. Here are a few ways to be able to still help those customers, without the rest of your customer base receiving slower service as a result:

  • A gentle, persistent push to self-service
    If the customer is continually asking questions that could easily be answered through your self-service options, it’s reasonable to reduce the depth of your responses and increase your linking to those self-service answers.
  • Agree on a fair priority as a team
    You don’t have to answer questions on a “first-in, first-out” basis. The most fair order will take into account the needs of all your customers, so it’s OK to shuffle the order around and not be controlled by an over-eager emailer.
  • Share the load
    Actively share this type of repetitive workload across your team to avoid the risk of patience wearing thin or a team member burning out.
  • Wait it out
    Many over-eager customers are going through a particular learning phase. One day you’ll get in the queue, and they won’t be there. They’ll often be happily using your product and you’ll rarely hear from them. This too shall pass.

“The Silence of The Inbox”

When the unicorn first appeared, we celebrated. An empty inbox, a job well done. In Slack we traded celebratory GIFs back and forth like Chris Gatling. And for a time, we relaxed.

Soon we happily went our separate ways, picking up other tasks. Documents were updated. Thank you notes drafted. Long-neglected internal tools were dusted off and reworked. It was glorious.

As the minutes ticked on without a new conversation appearing, the most anxious amongst us began to worry. “It’s a bit quiet, isn’t it?” they said. But the rest of us turned our heads, studiously avoiding the mouth of this particular gift horse.

Hell Scout: Terrifying Tales of Spooky Support. The Silence of the Inbox

Eventually though, the oppressive emptiness of the inbox became obvious to us all. We refreshed, of course we refreshed. Caches: emptied. Browsers: restarted. And still, they did not come.

Theories were floated hopefully: “Maybe it’s a holiday we don’t know about.” “I guess everyone has taken off early for the weekend.” “This might be our most stable release ever!”

Gradually, hope was replaced by concern, and concern in turn by dread. The cry went out: “Send in a test question from the contact form!” The missive was sent; the wait began.

One minute passed, then five. The unicorn was long gone. Mockingly, a disco ball spun silently, spilling shards of colored light on a barren inbox. It was clear something was dreadfully wrong. As we cast about for answers, a shout came from the marketing team. A website update was being rolled back, an email forwarder address corrected. “Not to worry,” they said happily, “nothing has been lost! All those emails will come in now!”

Everyone knew what was coming. We looked to our leader for hope.

“Get ready!” she cried, strapping on a foam hat and sipping on tubes supporting two cups of hot coffee.

And she hit refresh.

Help for handling holiday support

For many customer service teams, Halloween marks the beginning of a very busy holiday season. It can be a time of high demand, but also of enormous opportunity to deliver exceptional service and create newly loyal customers.

To thrive through the holidays takes preparation, planning and flexibility. Here are our favorite tips for dealing with all of the normal bustle and unexpected chaos of holiday customer support.

Mathew Patterson

Mathew Patterson

After running a support team for years, Mat joined the marketing team at Help Scout, where we make excellent customer service achievable for companies of all sizes. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.