Thursday, July 26, 2012

Genetic Genealogy – The definition of Customer Service

According to Wikipedia, the definition of Customer Service is “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”[i]  With this in mind, if I am working with clients, I need to focus on interfacing with the customer, identifying their needs and satisfying their needs. And as you will see in my post below, I also need to look at WHO my customers are. What do they have access to? Do they have a computer at home with internet access? Do they know how to use a computer? Or do they prefer to “touch” and “feel” what they are looking at?


When I agreed to help Keith with his autosomal DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA, I thought everything would be easy. He would take the test, find some matches, meet new cousins, fill in the gaps in his family tree and go on about his merry way!

But when that final email came that said his results had been posted, Keith was ready to go! He wanted to know what to do next and he was just busting with questions!  He wanted to know who all his matches were. Who they were related to. How they were related to him. How he could contact them. Would they give him information about his mother’s side of the family. Which side of the family were they from. The questions just kept coming and I was excited for him!

I was totally prepared.

I had the email all written out about how to log into the site with his user name and password. How to view his matches. How to view the pedigrees of his matches.

Except there was one tiny problem.


Keith had dial-up internet.

One thing about taking on “clients” is that you have to think of every possibility, probability, or issue that may crop up. You have to think about who your client is, or what kind of client they are. In this case, my client has dial up internet. But what about some of the older generations who prefer to have paper – something they can hold, touch, feel? How do you adapt your way of doing things to satisfy their needs?

After a few phone calls, we determined that the 23 pages of Keith’s matches could not be displayed with his dial up internet service. Well Keith being the inquisitive one that he is, asked a simple question:

“Can I download my match data?” - Why of course you can! And I can take care of that for you.

I can download his matches from the Family Finder section of his homepage into a csv  file which is just an unformatted format of an Excel file. There are a few limitations with this though: First, his list of matches will need to be redownloaded each time matches are added, which could be daily or weekly. Or I could filter his list of matches by date and then download the new ones and add them to the already downloaded list.

Second, one of the things that is lost when the list of matches is downloaded from the website to the csv file is the highlighting of the common surnames and their variations. The website automatically bolds the surnames that are in common between you and your matches’ list of names and includes surname variations. This is lost when the match data is downloaded. You can still do a search within the csv file, but it will not pick up name variations like the website does.

I saved the csv as an excel file and emailed a copy of it to Keith. He received it ok, but when he went to print it, it was at least 40 pages long. Another thing to consider is what if your client doesn’t have the Excel program on their computer? It can be converted to a PDF file which is easily read by a free PDF reader program. 

So far, working with Keith has been a great learning experience. I didn’t realize how little customer interaction experience I actually had. I also hadn’t thought about all the little things that could go wrong! I am definitely on my way to becoming a better professional.

Have you ever hit any unexpected roadblocks while working with a client? If so, please share your experience in the comments below or email me at ginger.reney (at) (replace “at” with the @ symbol).

[i], Definition of Customer Service, citing Turban, Efraim (2002). Electronic Commerce: A Managerial Perspective. Prentice Hall.


  1. Very good have a job ahead of you, these will not be the only things that will pop up. Each client will be different and will challenge you again...LOL AND THAT my dear will be the fun of it, you will never get bored with it! With Shari and will be comparing names to identify which family the names belong to since we have different mothers but same father! Good Luck.

  2. Thanks Linda, I am looking forward to working with you and Shari! I almost had a heart attack the other day when I saw that new results had been posted. Thank goodness it was for someone else!

  3. I often hear:

    "I already knew that."

    "That's not what my father told me about our history."


  4. Every now and then when I sign out of working on my blog I take a look or two at 'the next blog'. Yours is the first that has tempted me to look closer and join. The DNA tests for genealogical reasons interests me, only seen a few other references to it as DIY and they were very minimal. Have a couple problems with the broad ideas of the DNA experts, just the same have found the books "The Seven Daughters Of Eve" and "Saxons, Vikings And Celts" written by Bryan Sykes very interesting.

    The way you mention csv as an unformatted Excel file makes me want to explain it a little realizing you may know this and maybe even more and decided to keep it simple. By not explaining though some people who might be able to use a program they are more familiar with aren't getting that advantage. And like me a person might be a Linux Open Source Lover and just never see Excel as being available.

    A csv file is an ascii or text file that is formatted in such a way that each line is a record and each record has fields (which become cells in a spreadsheet) separated by a comma (comma separated values or csv) which Excel and other spreadsheet programs can import. Normally the comma is surrounded by an apostrophe on either side so that individual fields can include commas. In addition database programs are also able to import these files. Maybe some spreadsheet or database programs can't do it, they're few though. Text editors of the simplest type can also be used to view and even edit these csv files though in a case like ftDNA files a person isn't going to normally want to do that.

    I haven't checked lately but a few years ago Institute For Creation Research requested that cousins get together and provide ICR with their DNA to see ancestral lines. This using mitochondrial DNA so the lines had to be through ancestral women.

    I shall look at your other postings soon. Thanks a lot, Jim Gossage.

    1. Hi Jim, thank you for visiting and reading my blog posts. Your information is very useful and insightful. I enjoyed reading your blog as well!