Have you ever had no idea what you were doing, so you just copied people around you? It’s how I learned a lot of things — how to ski, fill out important government forms, drink tequila. On the other hand, it’s a terrible way to learn to drive, manage your health, date other human beings — and learn customer service.
Like many people at startups, I felt like I was new at everything. So I’d let my past experiences at the receiving end of customer service inform the way I did my job. I took cues from all the interactions I’ve had with call center operators, bank tellers, airline employees, cable company employees, and insurance people — pretty much everyone’s least favorite human interactions of all time. It was like copying all the answers from the kid next to you in class, even though you know he’s getting them all wrong.
So why did I do this? With no prior experience in customer service, I felt safer copying others and sometimes found myself slipping into a weird robotic customer service mode without even realizing it.