Without a doubt, the most important quality to have as a customer support worker is empathy. This is the quality you need to look for when hiring. However, some companies, especially, young startups seem to take this a little bit over the top. Recently I've read an article by one of such startups, Slack, that I strongly disagree with.
The article in question is called "Offering helpful human tech support". Slack support team boasts that they don't use any customer support automation, which I find a bit concerning. Here is a quote:
“When you’re receiving similar inquiries, it’s tempting to create canned responses. DON’T DO IT.”
The author implies that automation kills empathy. That is just wrong. There is no correlation whatsoever. Here is another quote:
Craftsmanship reflects that you’re a human who cares about their work, so be sure to craft each response for your customers.
Craftsmanship? What the next step? Writing handwritten notes, scanning them and attaching to your support emails? That would be pretty empathetic.
I wrote about companies taking friendly customer support way too far before "Robotic 'enterprisey' customer support is not the worst kind". It seems that things just keep getting worse.
Here is the last quote, I promise:
Put together the pieces of context you can gather (without Internet stalking?—?we’re not trying to be creepy here) and create a little persona for your customer.
Okay, this is just crazy. Who in the world has time for that? The implication that automation kills empathy is wrong on many levels. Let's talk about it in a little bit more detail.
Most support inquires do not require any effort or empathy to respond. Simple questions like "how do I delete my account?", "how do I change my password?", etc. can be and should be answered with canned responses or knowledge base articles. Am I supposed to google the person's hobbies or something before responding to a question like this?
We talk about burn-outs and mental health a lot on this blog lately. Typing same things over and over and wasting time on irrelevant things is the quickest way to start hating your job.
You have full control of what you write in your canned responses. Your automation doesn't need to be robotic and boring. Spend some time to create good, empathetic responses that work for everyone. What is even the point of having ticketing software without using features that save you time?
Automate everything you can. Even my greeting ("Hi FirstName") is put in automatically for me by Jitbit Helpdesk. I would go crazy if I had to type it a hundred times per day. Also, don't forget that automation prevents typos that you will inevitably make.
At the end of the day, empathy is just a bonus. What really matters is resolving customer's issues as fast as possible. The response time is your most valuable metric. Your customers are busy too -- they just need their questions answered quickly.
Don't waste your time writing a super-friendly response to a simple question that can be replied to with a canned response in two seconds. In some situations, you differently need to go the extra mile, for example when dealing with an angry customer. But most of the time it's just a waste of everyone's time.