6 Very Unusual Customer Support Questions (and how these support pros dealt with them)

6 min read

Excellent customer support is also about knowing to “read the room.”

Having a job in customer support can feel like a rollercoaster sometimes. Some days, like with any job, can feel monotonous or repetitive. Especially when you’ve been in the same position for a while, there’ll be times where you’ll have to answer support questions you’ve responded to a hundred times before.

Other times, however, customer support will make you feel very alive. That’s because, as a customer support professional, you’re dealing with people – and their emotions. And so naturally, customer support pros can experience so much at work: the urge to laugh, to feel compassionate, the reward of teaching someone something new… Customer support questions are often powerful enough to trigger all of that at once.

Read on to learn how these customer support pros dealt with some very uncommon queries.

Winston and PowerPoint

Craig Stoss, a senior lead of escalated support at Shopify Plus, still chuckles when he thinks about one particular question he’d often get at his first job in customer support almost 20 years ago.

“We used to have a customer named Winston,” he explains. “He was renowned for sending in a PowerPoint that contained a single screenshot and the only text in the email was ‘I will be calling shortly.’” Naturally, this brought some confusion at first. After the initial emails, the team got creative. “We used to have a game where we would try to guess what the hell the problem he was going to ask about was based solely on that screenshot before the phone rang.”

How did they respond? Act normal. Sometimes you have to welcome the fact that you don’t have the answers to everything – especially when questions are unclear or contain partial information. Whenever possible, ask for more data so that you can give a full response. And, do what Craig Stoss did, and be willing to be surprised when the phone rings.

support questionsThe math homework

The majority of emails you receive from customers are about your company’s product or service – but that’s not always the case. Or at least it wasn’t for Jesse Short, a customer support professional. When he was working for a tech company, he got an email about an issue that had to do with…math. “I had a customer email in and ask for help on their math homework,” he explains. “Instead of ignoring the email or responding to the customer that that’s not something they could help on, Jesse had a different approach: “I sent them to a youtube video explaining the theory they needed to use.”

How did they respond? Using humor. Excellent customer support is also about knowing to “read the room.” For example, if a customer is silly, makes jokes, and uses emoji or smilies all around the email – you’re probably right in responding the same way. A customer who has had a pleasant experience is more likely to talk about it and recommend you. This is why humor is something you may consider using.

support questionsThe non-bilingual customer

No training will ever give you the answers to 100% of customer questions. Especially not this one: “I worked for a software company that provides sample data so you could play with the widgets and see how they worked together before you set your system up,” one customer support professional we interviewed explains.

“Once, I had a customer call and ask for the English version of the sample data, as she was accidentally given the Spanish version. I didn’t even know we had a Spanish version! I put her on hold and asked my coworkers, and no one knew what she meant. So I had her take a screenshot of it. It was Lorem Ipsum. I had to explain that that was not English or Spanish, but the text used to simulate real data.”

How did they respond? Being patient. Patience is a crucial skill if you work in customer support. Often, customers that reach out to you are confused or frustrated. Make customers feel heard and treat them with diligence and care is part of making those frustrations disappear. Patience is also important because when you look at an issue with enough time, you’re likely going to give a better response. And while providing a fast answer is great, giving one that actually solves the issue is much better. For that to happen, you have to be willing to listen and take the time to figure out what the customer’s need is.

support questionsMy neighbor is a spy

Face-to-face communication requires a different kind of approach to written interactions. Since your customer is right in front of you, soft customer service skills, like being able to convey care and empathy, are probably even more critical than when you’re answering an email. Due to the nature of face-to-face communication, being able to keep a positive and assertive attitude at all times is crucial.

How would you react if a customer comes to you telling you that their neighbor is a spy? That’s exactly what happened to a customer support professional when he was working at a telecom store. “I had someone ask if the government could track their phone and how to best prevent it from happening. They also told me their neighbor worked for the NSA and had secretly dug a perimeter around their house to install an invisible barrier to track them.”

How did they respond? Being gentle/compassionate. Just because a person is behaving in ways that don’t make sense to us doesn’t mean that we can’t provide them with service that is part of our jobs to deliver to a customer. In this case, the store employee did his best to give his customer the information they needed while being calm, answering “their questions as respectfully as possible.”

The T-shirt making company

Delayed orders are a classic of customer support. But what if the order in question is not from your company? “I used to work for a company that had a very similar name to a T-shirt making company, and people would email all the time complaining about delayed packages or t-shirt misprints,” Craig explains. “And they’d get angry when we told them we were the wrong company.”

How did they respond? Being practical. The first and second time, you might be amused. Once the novelty wears off, the best thing you can do is being pragmatic. “We had a macro response that gave them the exact URL and contact details of the right place to direct their inquiry,” Craig explains. By coming up with a solution that can be reused multiple times and helps to give the person the information they need, the customer support team was saving time while keeping the person – even though they weren’t actual customers – satisfied. That’s a win-win for the company and the person writing in. You never know if they might become “real” customers in the future!

The Klout score

The Klout score is a numerical ranking between 0-100 that measures how big a person’s social media network is. The score correlates the activity and content posted to measure how other users interact with that content. In other words, it tells you how popular you’re on social media.

When Sarah Chambers was working at Hootsuite, she once had someone ask how to increase their Klout score. They had SO many followers that they were sure they should have at least as high a score as Justin Bieber, the customer said. After looking at the customer’s numbers on social media, the team had to patiently explain that 100 followers were not actually that many and show her some tips on how to increase her Klout score.

How did they respond? Educating the customer. Don’t miss an opportunity to inform your customers. On this occasion, the easy thing would have been merely telling the customer they were slightly off with their calculation. Instead, use the chance to first explain in detail why they are wrong. Then, teach your customers about your product based on their actual needs. Educating customers ensures that they understand the benefits and value of your product. Who knows? Maybe next time they email you, Justin Bieber’s followers will be small compared to theirs.

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