Talking Shop with Ani Niow from Square

October 25, 2010

Where do you work?

I work at Square. I’’ve been there for about four months. I started at the end of June.

When did you first realize that you liked customer support?

My last job was a computer repair technician and one of the most fulfilling parts was just talking to the people. A lot of the guys I worked with would just stay in the back and work on computers, but I actually really liked talking to the customers. You get some interesting stories if you talk to someone for a while. I also have a background in education. I taught a couple summer classes at a local community college in San Francisco. It’’s a two-week program where high school students can sign up (for free) and learn about engineering.

Support Stats

Name: Ani Niow

Originally from: Santa Cruz

Now Resides: San Francisco

Age: 26 years old

Golden Rule: Be excellent to each other.

So your current job is the first time you’’ve been in support full time.

Yes, this is my first job where my complete and total job responsibility is talking to people, whether it’’s via email, Twitter, on the phone or in person.

Do you ever get tired of just dealing with people all the time?

No, not yet. Working with people is one of the things that’’s required for me to really enjoy myself. As long as I have something where I’’m constantly stimulated and constantly engaged with people, I feel good at the end of the day. A lot of our customers are just generally curious about how things work, and I’’m here to educate them.

Do you have any awesome stories from the field? Where you just completely connected with a customer?

We had this one user who wrote in awhile back asking, ““Where’’s my reader?”” A reader is our credit card reader here at Square. It plugs into the headphone jack of your mobile device and enables you, with the associated app, to accept credit cards. We manufacture our readers in China, and then they are shipped out to St. Louis. I had a user write in wondering where his reader was, he wanted it not only for his business, but to get money from mooch friends that never seemed to have cash around.

He said: ““I know you have a communist pact to get it done,” [since we sent our hardware guy to China to sort out manufacturing], and he attached an image that was a little ransom note and an angry looking anthropomorphized reader. It said, “You made Square man angry!”” in ransom-type letter.

I wrote back and said: “”Congratulations! Our communist partners have devised a contest to send a reader to the 10,000th user that sends in a request and you’re it! Keep in mind, however, that the terms and conditions of the contest explicitly state that you need to write back to accept this offer, as well as provide any other feedback that comes to mind when you start using Square.””

He wrote back: “”send it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!””

And then he sent back a modified image with the frown turned into a smile, and a “ransom note” that said, “”Square man love you!  Square man love you long time!””

Are you kidding me?

It was great. So then I went outside and got a few magazines so I could cut up a bunch of letters ransom-style. I wrote, ““Hi there! Enclosed is your solution to your mooch problem — Ani “The Communist” Niow.”” I then photocopied the note and sent it out.

That’s hilarious.

Square's wall of customer commentsWe have a wall of the interesting things people have sent in. One guy sent in a two-page comic around Square. People send us postcards. One guy sent me original artwork. That’’s part of support.

How do you handle an angry customer? The kind that just is so frustrated and feel like they’’re getting nowhere with their issue.

The biggest thing that I’’ve found is to really acknowledge that their feelings are absolutely and totally valued. Validation. It’’s really important that I recognize their frustration and their anger. We are customer support. We are here to help out the customer.

What do you do when you get off of work?

It depends. Usually I’’m in class. I’’m taking Spanish and JavaScript. I’’ve been wanting to learn Spanish for a long time and I have a passion for doing web work. Trying to learn how to program.

Where are you most likely found drinking in San Francisco?

DNA lounge. I have friends who work there. There’’s always something interesting going on there and their drinks are incredibly potent. So it’’s totally economical to drink there.

Which potent drink do you order?

Their Long Islands are really good. Like I said, I’’m pretty economical when it comes to drinks. And they’’re fantastically delicious.