What I Do All Day as Dogster’s Watch Dog (I Write E-Mail!)

As Dogster's customer service manager, I get a LOT of emails. I also get a lot of baby pictures.


I’m often asked by friends what exactly it is that I do. When I explain that I read and write e-mails all day long, they are a little bit skeptical as to whether I have a real job. After all, what sort of job would that be? As it turns out, most of the time, it’s not only a real job, it’s a really cool job.

Keeping the Dogster Support mailbox up to date means there is a clock ticking all the time. With many jobs, when you stop working, the project stops, but with customer service, when you clock out at the end of the day, the only things that stop are outgoing replies to members. What don’t stop are the incoming requests, questions, and suggestions.

On a typical day, I write 40 to 100 e-mails. Even allowing that many of the inquiries we get only need a template response (yup, one of those dreaded form letters), most problems require logging into a member’s account to check a pet page, pawmail, diary entries, forums, groups, comments, or the gift store, just to mention some of the most common areas.

Testing a feature for a particular problem might require logging onto the site on multiple operating systems and/or with multiple browser versions. When issues are particularly thorny, I’ll need to send additional emails and instant messages and sometimes phone calls to other HQ members. Before I know it, an hour or two has flown by and I’ve only dealt with a handful of customer emails.

Customer Service Tip of the Day

When you write to Dogster Support about a technical issue, always include your current operating system (OS) and browser version (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Otherwise, the first e-mail you get back will likely be to request that information for testing purposes, so letting us know your system information up front speeds up getting help. Not sure of your OS or browser? Here’s a free website that will give you your system info.

In addition, we get pitches to write reviews for all sorts of things. Most are for normal pet products (bowls, litter boxes, pet clothing), and often these will turn into cool Dogster Magazine contests and giveaways, but every now and then we get some really off-the-wall sorts of requests. I considered sharing some details on the odder ones, but it just doesn’t seem right to make fun of someone else’s dream project, no matter how goofy we think the idea happens to be. So in the spirit of Dogster and to preserve all of our individual sanity, I’ll just say that if you think some of the published product articles are a bit off the wall, you’d pawsitively flip over some of the product requests in our DO NOT RESPOND file.

And speaking of crazy … you think you get spam? I’ve lost track of the number of SEO (search engine optimization) offers we’ve gotten. And no matter how many times you ask, we’re never going to help anyone sell acai berry multilevel marketing diet plans, unless, of course, you want to sign up for one of our advertising plans. 😉

In the odd but kinda cool department, we get lots of baby pictures at Dogster Support. Not the new kitten or puppy pics, mind you, but genuine, bona fide baby pictures. Sometimes readers send out baby announcements to their entire address books, or we accidentally get included either in the Bcc or Cc field for a family update. I can tell you without any shadow of a doubt that not only do our members have the cutest pups anywhere, they also have the cutest human babies, too.

We also get included on those ubiquitous Internet jokes, urban legends, political rants, and “great financial opportunities” people like to forward to everyone. True enough, those “this won’t happen again for 200 years” junk e-mails take time to wade through, but here’s an admission to one of Watch Dog’s guilty pleasures: Some of those e-mails are kind of fun. (In other words, keep forwarding the Maxine comics. You know who you are.)

That being said, we’ve also been accidentally copied in on arguments about and/or between spouses, significant others, families, and employers. Stories of dates gone bad, legal entanglements, and the like are probably not the best kind of information you want to be sharing with third parties not directly involved. We try to be helpful at Dogster Support, but divorce settlements are a little out of my league.

E-mail Tip of the Day

When you send updates about sensitive and/or very personal issues, check the Cc and/or Bcc field to make sure you’re not sending it to a person or company that really doesn’t need or shouldn’t have that information. We love getting baby pictures, but don’t really want a copy of the divorce decree or bankruptcy documentation intended for your attorney.

One of the joys of my job is getting to know readers on a one-to-one basis, at least as far as is possible with emails. In the context of resolving an issue around a Plus Subscription renewal or misplaced link, you’ve also shared other aspects of your lives. Whether it’s finding out how much fun you had on a recent vacation or understanding how tough things have been through a harrowing hospital stay, I am honored to have been given a glimpse into the life of the person behind the pet page.

Final Customer Service Tip

A browser keeps thousands of files in its cache to optimize performance on frequently visited sites. Over time the cache can become cluttered with unneeded files. Clearing your cache can often solve performance issues, especially after an update has been made to the site.

Howard Rheingold, the author of Virtual Community, summed up online community best with the motto he uses in the signature to all of his emails: “what it is —–>is——>up to us.” Building community doesn’t happen because one person arrives. It doesn’t end when one person leaves. True community is a process of togetherness, of building something alongside and with one another.

Like any town or city or state or nation, there will be problems and disagreements — and yes, disasters both natural and human-induced. What separates the great communities from the also-rans is not the superficial eye candy of monuments or impressive structures. The great communities are formed and preserved with the fabric of individuals having made the choice to dwell together. Through laughter and tears, joy and heartache, Dogster has chosen to be the latter –- a truly great community.

In Dogster-speak, I’m saying you’re grrrrific, wonfurrful people. Keep barking to Dogster Support, and always remember that even if/when we disagree, the closing mantra of the e-mail you receive from your friendly neighborhood Watch Dog is decidedly true: “Thanks for loving Dogster. We love you right back!”

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