(and gratuitous music videos!)
When I’m at work, I’m my best self. I’m positive, patient, helpful, curious and considerate. I tap seemingly bottomless reserves of empathy, and drip, drip, drip kindness out to customers and colleagues. I’m resourceful and flexible, bending over backwards to solve people’s problems. I take pride in exceeding their expectations. I listen to criticism, but try not to take it to heart, and I show up ready to make a difference to someone’s life, day after day after day.
But when I close my laptop, something changes. By the time I’m done working, I’ve usually had enough of other people. The last thing I want is to be around other humans, listening to their problems, responding to their requests. I forget to call my mum. I miss my friends’ events. I complain about going to buy ice cream for my wife — something I actually love to do — because I don’t want to be asked for. One. More. Thing. I open Twitter and get into fights with trolls, then turn around and troll others. In my downtime, I’m antisocial and cynical; I’m lazy, sloppy and thoughtless.
What if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if the me who makes customers happy all day could continue to spread cheer through his private life? If switching off from work didn’t have to mean switching off the parts of my personality I’m tired of exercising — all the nice parts. What are the things I practise in customer support that could make me better at supporting humans in general, and myself in particular?
I have a plan for being my best self, even when I’m not being paid to do so, when I’m not being monitored and given feedback. You know, when I’m “just” living my life. Here’s what I’m going to practise — and what I’m going to listen to, to get me in the mood:
Just do it
If a customer writes me an email, I respond in a matter of minutes. If they want to talk on the phone, I’ll call them as soon as I can. My goal is to resolve their problem as quickly as possible, with the bare minimum of back-and-forth. But if someone calls my personal phone, there’s little chance I’ll pick up; zero chance if I don’t recognise the number. I hardly ever listen to my voice messages, let alone return those calls. I don’t pick up my mail, and it’s returned to sender. In my office there’s a patch of wallpaper I’ve been waiting for months to strip. Well no more. Whatever needs to be done, I’m going to… just do it.
You’re gonna wake up and work hard at it
You’re gonna wake up and stop giving up
You’re gonna wake up and just do it
It’s easy to forget that, on the other side of that phone call, email or tweet, is another person, made up of flesh and blood, and faults and feelings. Good support pros keep in mind, and occasionally remind their customers, that we’re all human here, doing the best we can in sometimes frustrating situations. I’m going to try to speak to people online with the same courtesy and respect that I would if we were face-to-face. Even if I disagree with them, no one deserves to be disrespected, demonised or dehumanised. We’re all human, after all.
I’m only human, I do what I can
I’m just a man, I do what I can
Don’t put your blame on me
My team practices something called noncomplementary behaviour. That’s a Psych 101 term (beautifully illustrated by this Invisibilia podcast) for meeting anger and frustration with politeness and positivity, leading the conversation in a more constructive direction. Don’t feed the trolls; have a cup of coffee with them. Some people can’t be helped, but others will benefit from a little listening, understanding and empathy. I’m going to be the disarming, charming(!) person Basecamp expects me to be, and make life more bearable for everyone, myself included.
The killer in me is the killer in you
I send this smile over to you
Let it go
In life, especially online, it pays to pick your battles. We waste so much time and energy fighting with people whose beliefs we have no hope of changing — and I’m as guilty of this as anyone. While supporting customers, I’m empowered to help them and address their concerns, but there is a fair amount of frustration and criticism I let wash over me. Outside of work, I’m practically powerless, and vulnerable to stronger and more personal attacks. I’m going to stop taking it personally, make a positive difference wherever I can, and let everything else go.
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway
At Basecamp, we take self-care very seriously. We’ve invested in health benefits for employees; we’ve created a Basecamp for that. Over the years, I’ve become better at caring for myself, and worse at caring for others. With all the terrible things happening in the world, it’s easy to feel hopeless, and my way of coping has been to detach, and exist in a state of blissful ignorance. But part of my job is to empathise with people, to care about what they care about, and by doing so, help make their lives a little better. I’m going to invest myself more in others, in their passion and their pain, and see if I can inject a tiny bit more love into the world.
I know you’ve been hurt by someone else
I can tell by the way you carry yourself
But if you let me, here’s what I’ll do
I’ll take care of you
I’m going to try and break down the (otherwise healthy) separation between my work and my life, and let the good habits filter through. I’ll hold onto that positive attitude past 6pm, and see what else I can apply it to. It’s going to take work and thought, practice and commitment. But it’s going to help me live my best life. Why not join me, and let me know how it works out?
If you’ve read this and thought, “I do that anyway”, then you might be perfect for Basecamp’s support team. We’re hiring someone in the US to help care for our customers, and resolve their problems with a considered response and a smile😀. If this sounds like you, then apply to join one of the world’s best customer support teams here.