Do Right. Be Right.

man with headphones facing computer monitor

Do the right thing, and be the right person.

Stop! Think about what you are about to do. This is essential and extremely easy to do when writing, especially when responding to a request for assistance.

Do the right thing. Ensure you are reaching that point where you are providing a benefit to the person asking the question or reaching out for assistance.

Be the right person. Recognize that some conversations may start from a very stressed individual that first needs to be talked off the ledge they are peering over and then providing the information they need to take a step back and resolve their issues.

In almost all cases, your response should be designed to step up to the edge with the person and then walk them back to a point where they can see the problem for what it is. Then, you can move towards the best solution to sort out the circumstances they have found themselves in where they reached out for help.

Do the right thing. Find and relay the simplest solution, and more importantly, remember this may not be the most straightforward, but it will be the one that works best.

Be the right person. Know that taking care of a request for assistance rarely has any relevance to take personally. Making every effort to empathize with the request for assistance and the person making the request will go a long way in helping them accomplish their goals.

Providing Documentation

When providing documentation, there are almost always going to be a great many factors to consider. However, going back to a simple system of asking the “W5” will get you focused in the best direction.

Who – who is going to be reading this? Who is the documentation being focused on? Who did read it?

What – what is being documented? What does it do? What could it do? What might it best be used for?

Where – where should it be located? Not only where, in general, the documentation should be located but where updates and additions should be added to the existing documentation.

When – when will this documentation be read? When should the documentation be read? When was it read?

Why – why is the documentation necessary? There are several schools of thought on why something should be documented. However, in a perfect world, the documentation is only for those not using the service or product, to begin with, as the UX/UI itself should be designed in such a fashion that it is intuitive and self-explanatory. This may not always be the case, but we also don’t live in a perfect world.

Think of the analogy of sitting down to a bowl of soup with utensils. Granted, most people will understand the soup is food and can be eaten and choose to eat in a manner comfortable to themselves — they may pick up the bowl and drink from it, or they may use a spoon provided. Others may need to be “spoon-fed” as this is something new, and they are not certain how best to eat the soup… think of documentation as “spoon-feeding.”

Remember that too much documentation or documentation that is too complex may be seen as the equivalent of force-feeding another bowl of soup after the diner is full and satisfied with their meal. No matter how great the meal, there will always be a point where you need to stop eating.

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Personalize Responses

Responding to customers in writing daily could lead to a form of “writer’s block” where although you may know the correct answer, you still stumble over getting that information out.

One thing to consider for these situations is “canned responses” — not form letters, but more basic templates to get the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing. Communicating with customers is all about getting the information across in a form best understood by the person receiving it. A “saved reply” provides the basics; you can fill in the “blanks.”

Always use an appropriate salutation and personalize the response to the subject and the recipient.

Also, keep in mind that if the customized “template” you are going to send feels a bit “canned,” it will mostly come across as such. In some cases, this may be fine, although, for the most part, it will always be a good thing to read, edit, re-read, and edit your response some more before sending it out — make those little tweaks so your response will be more personalized and on point.

Remember, writing begets writing; consider some off-topic personal writings to shake things up and give yourself some ideas and methods to improve your written communication skills. Maybe start a blog about support?

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Get It Right The First Time

You’ve only added two lines – why did that take two days! ~ Matt Lacey

The above is a great read and another aspect of providing support. In this case, the premise is “fixing a bug” and getting it right the first time.

Ideally, every time you have an interaction with someone in support you will be able to provide them with a solution in your first response… and sometimes that may take a bit longer than usual but most of those times getting a solution will be much more appreciated than a quick response prolonging the support request.

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No Shortcuts

Learning a new shortcut can often take longer than the long way you already know.

When offering a new strategy or approach to something, keep in mind following the tried and true methods will always work. Sure, it may be great to find a new and better way but not at your customer’s expense or reducing the quality of care you would have provided before spending the time to find the new approach.

This doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t find ways to improve and enhance your approach — only that it should not be at the expense of others when you do.

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Quality communication is a key component to any support endeavor. You will always need to be able to convey the idea you are trying to present to another person, or persons, and how you communicate will be of utmost importance.

As a continued theme, working remotely you will most likely be using some sort of communication “tool” with your team that provides audio, video, and text channels. This post will mostly focus on the text aspects and some considerations when using it.

First off, “text has no tone” is a bit of a mantra to remember. When you are typing your message to another person try to remember to be clear and concise in the information you are sharing. Also remember, there is no body language to convey any extra emphasis and no real means to add emphasis like physically leaning in or raising your voice to animate the conversation (there are some formatting tricks you might consider but for the most part think simple monospace plain lettering as what the person will ultimately see).

Also to note, mind your language! You are typing a message, it’s not like you can accidentally drop an f-bomb into the conversation and carry on — if you type it and hit send it’s mostly going to be a done deal and there for all to see that have access to your sent message.

Take a moment to read (and re-read) the message you have written before hitting the send button. Aside from any poor choice of, or inappropriate, words you should be re-checking your spelling and grammar as well. Some things like blatant spelling and grammar errors or unprofessional language can both distract the reader as well as affect the reputation you are representing (yours and the company if writing to customers). Of course, knowing your audience is the caveat to this, if having a chit-chat is expected/wanted by the other person then it might be best to use that approach and have the content of the message much more loosely guarded.

In my personal opinion, there is no reason whatsoever to use inappropriate language (i.e.: f-bombs, etc.) in text communication. Take the time to find a better way to explain the idea you are trying to share and find better ways to accentuate these ideas… even if that means using more socially acceptable, business-friendly terms that convey the same meaning as a frakking 5hi7-storm f-bomb might.

One last point to ponder, when you are writing someone, pretend they are on the other side of your workspace and consider what reaction they might have if you actually said what you typed instead.

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I heard it said that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

In some homes, a sole occupant faces endless loneliness. In others, family members are getting peace, rest, and time with each other — while in still others, quarantine means an increased danger due to domestic violence.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment, some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk, and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near-death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.


An inspiration to take to heart when working with others, especially when you are trying to help. You might be working with someone facing challenges you are not and this may have an effect on them.

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Ça va bien aller

Perhaps more a timely phrase with the current work environments being seen at the time of this writing although ultimately this really holds true no matter the case.

“Everything will be OK”

When working remotely or just providing support in general, one of the key elements you should be striving for is having your customer feel that all is well and things are just going to work out.

This also applies to yourself. You are your first customer of the day every day. You need to make certain you are in a good headspace to do your work. Remember, a smile goes a long way to helping someone feel better about their current concerns.

Start every conversation with a smile on your face and treat the conversation as though it was the first one of the day. This shows through to the customer, this also lets you shake off the earlier events of the day and give your best efforts towards the customer you are currently working with.

Vive les Québécois for this reminder.

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