Sarah speaks with Matt Patterson from Help Scout about making customer support better for not only the customer but also for the support specialists. Matt and Sarah discuss customer-centric mindsets for companies and their products. The two share thoughts on building the right team with effective recruiting and avoiding the pitfalls of building a team.
Speaker 1 (00:10)
Too many of us have been in a position doing support for any company where we're the last to find out about a feature release or a version release or a version update. We're the last to find out something gone live or just that it's broken and it happens to be 08:00 at night, and everybody else who broke it has gone home for the day. Hi, everyone. It's Sarah Hatter, and I'm so excited to launch our brand new podcast with Assembled. By the way, if you're a customer experience or customer support manager and you haven't checked out assembled, you need to stop what you're doing and head on over to assemble.cm.
Speaker 1 (00:38)
It is the first and last workforce management platform you will ever need, and it's going to be everything that you need to help scale your team as your company grows. Now, that is what this podcast is all about. It's about building out, scaling growing customer experience teams. There's a lot that requires when you're building a team, not just hiring the right people, but setting the right policies in place, having the right career path for those people who are on your team and also understanding how you build out a persona of the customer experience team for your company.
Speaker 1 (01:13)
None of this is prescriptive. I tell people that all the time there isn't a school for customer support or a template you can use. It really requires a lot of your own gut intuition for what your customers need, what your company needs to provide for them. So that's a lot to say to start out our first podcast. And I've got even more to say in this conversation with my friend Matt Patterson from Help Scout Helpscout. Obviously one of the best help desk platforms out there. I love it.
Speaker 1 (01:40)
I think it's wonderful for teams of 15 and under, especially when you're just starting out. It's a great way to work together, and they have so many resources on their blog about building out your customer experience team. You might notice in this episode. I'm talking very fast with Matt because we were trying to cram so much wisdom into this short episode, but I think that just means we need to do a follow up with Matt. He's so awesome about sharing his wisdom with us. Please check out their blog.
Speaker 1 (02:06)
Please make sure to check out assembled. Com as well and subscribe to this podcast because there's going to be a lot more episodes coming up with a lot more fun guess. Anyway, that's why I love talking with you. I'm so excited that you're just taking the time to reinvest back into the Elevate community. You know that you are like our mascot these days. Is that derogatory that you're a mascot that you had?
Speaker 2 (02:33)
Maybe I'd like to imagine myself wearing one of those giant suits, Dancing Bear?
Speaker 1 (02:39)
Yeah, I think that would be good. I think that would be perfect in the sports arena of the Elevate World. You are a Hype Man mascot, so I'm really glad that you're into that. So you're working at Help Scout. How long have you been at Help Scout now? Feels like an eternity.
Speaker 2 (02:55)
Yeah. Just over five years, five years.
Speaker 1 (02:58)
And you have what I think is a dream job and your whole purpose that helps Scout is to talk about customer experience on all levels. Right?
Speaker 2 (03:08)
Yeah. So I think it's a role that has shifted somewhat over time, but yeah, ultimately for me anyway, it is. Our kind of mission in the world is just to make customer service better as a career, better for customers as well. Just all about how can we do this thing that we do in a way that is just more enjoyable for everybody?
Speaker 1 (03:29)
Well, I think that's like a big part of why I love Help Scouts so much. There are so many help desks out there in the world. I mean, the market is incredibly saturated, but, you know as well as I do when Zendesk came on the scene. Zendes is an awesome product, but it doesn't feel like it's built with the spirit of people who are really customer centric, right? They're very engineering centric. And now they have this amazing marketplace and API, and it's fantastic. But I really feel like everybody on your team is really thinking hopefully forward about not just people buying a product and using it, but who those people are using that product.
Speaker 1 (04:02)
Building customer centric products is a trend that I really think that helps get started years and years and years ago saying we are going to do the same thing, but better. And here's why don't you think?
Speaker 2 (04:14)
Yeah. I think there's no shortage of tools like you say, not every business is run by someone who actually genuinely does care about customer experience. Some people are super into the not to say that they are anti customers in any way. It's just that there is a certain type of person for whom what they really want to deliver is like, I want the person using who works with my company, buys our products or services to just have a great experience. And it's just a certain type of person, right?
Speaker 2 (04:44)
That's what helps out is built for those types of people. And when you take that all the way back through to the customer service we give them and the products that we build for them, it has that certain perspective and that point of view that changes how you design things and how you deliver on them. That's what healthcare is about.
Speaker 1 (05:01)
And I think that really is a huge for someone who if I'm working in customer support for a startup or for an enterprise company or whatever it might be, I'm staring at a window all day. Right. I'm locked into this workspace, this virtual workspace. And so I want that to be a place that's friendly, that feels intuitive for me that feels accessible. For me, that feels like it's not a burden to look at or to have to log into. And you'd be surprised how many people are just using really awful products out there building awful products.
Speaker 1 (05:32)
So in my world, as a customer experience consultant, I get to experience these awful workplaces. Often it's mostly on more of, like the enterprise spectrum or the smaller company spectrum, not necessarily the startup spectrum. They're using these, like wonky products. They have horrible processes for triaging bugs to a Dev team. Maybe their Dev team isn't even responsive to bugs, and it always comes back to me. Kind of preaching the same mantra is that you have to create a culture inside your company around customer centricity. Starting with the people who are actually doing that role, they have to really have a seat at the table.
Speaker 1 (06:16)
Like we used to say, right. That used to be the trending topic, but I think it has to do with something like this is part of the core of our company. We're either going to be this or we're not going to be this. You can't half asset. And you can't say that you love your customers if you don't have that culture inside your company, right?
Speaker 2 (06:35)
I mean, you can definitely say it.
Speaker 1 (06:40)
We're sort of seeing that more and more recently, companies who have had long histories of saying that or now we're finding out they probably don't mean that as much as we believe them to mean that for so long. Right.
Speaker 2 (06:53)
I think even at some of those companies, you would have lots of people in the company who do believe that.
Speaker 1 (06:57)
But yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 2 (06:59)
From the top, it will fall apart somewhere before it gets to the customers.
Speaker 1 (07:02)
Right. And so let's pretend we're working at a SaaS company. That's a start up. Right. And let's pretend that we're the people who have been hired in to sort of start this team. It's an emerging growth stage company. What should our startup be in? Let's say we're like the Zoom for podcasting, right. So ubiquitous, accessible, like easy company. We're just really cool. We're on trend. And now you and I have been hired to build this team. So I think that the two of us, with our combined knowledge and wisdom, we can start talking about some of the basics of what it looks like to start building customer centricity as a culture for my customer experience customer support team from the beginning that hopefully will sort of vibrate out into the rest of the company.
Speaker 1 (07:49)
Right. So you've done such a great job of corralling so much of this in your writing for Help Scout, I'm going to talk about the very first one that is on your list. Strategies for anybody coming into this is hiring the right people. So how many people do you think you've hired in your career? Bet Patterson.
Speaker 2 (08:12)
I'm trying to think I've certainly been involved in a bunch even before my customer service days. I did some hiring. Actually, my very, very first job was as it support for a company that sold software to accountants who wanted to become financial planners. It was very odd business even there. When I was way too young and foolish to be hiring people. I did hire some customer service people back then. So a lot, I think it's fair to say a lot same here.
Speaker 1 (08:42)
What do you think as you look back on some of those people who you have hired at your various careers and incarnations? Are there things about your hiring practices that sort of have made you cringe thinking back on them that you could say you could swiftly say I would never do that now.
Speaker 2 (08:58)
Sure. The classic mistake that I think I made in the past hiring someone who's just like me. I've definitely done that because it's easy. It's easy to find people who feel just like you. And sometimes that's great.
Speaker 1 (09:12)
Yes. I think homogenous and hiring for anyone is the lowest bar, like the minimum viable product that you could possibly have on IRA is just hire someone who agrees with me and things like me.
Speaker 2 (09:25)
Yeah. Just has the same background. And sometimes you need that. But then it becomes like a constraint very quickly, and you're locking in your own kind of perspective, which is limited because you're one person and so definitely finding people who come from a different background or have a different set of experiences that can bring in a different eye and see things differently. Just make such a difference. And, of course, it is dangerous, too, that you can bring in someone who has kind of a cultural background. Corporate culture.
Speaker 2 (09:58)
I mean, that is so different that it shifts your own culture. You hire very quickly, especially like fast growth teams. I've hired five or six people for a support team all at once. And there is that danger that you bring in a bunch of people, and you haven't really defined your own culture enough that it embeds that they come into that customer service culture and they bring all their own things, and suddenly you start finding the company shifting in a way that you weren't expecting.
Speaker 1 (10:26)
I think on top of that, when you're hiring for small scale teams like we're trying to create, you and I and our fake company are trying to create the best customer support organization that we've ever seen, combining our wisdom and all of our experience. Right. Well, the problem with that is if I hire people who only had experience on their resume of working at call centers or working for utility companies doing support or maybe in bad retail environments with bad managers. They're also bringing their bad experiences and their bad habits forward into the foundation of what we're building.
Speaker 1 (10:58)
Right. And I love hard workers. I love fast workers, but I'm not looking for two crushers just to be addicted to getting work done, right. I'm also like really wanting people who aren't concerned or feel this intense burden of fast replying constantly fast replying, getting people off the phone. Do you know what I mean? Because that's really like a culture in some of those places, those reply farms as I call them. And it doesn't give you the opportunity to give your workers the opportunity to be slow and methodical and think things through and ask questions and to be curious about why customers are encountering a problem or why they're asking for a certain feature request.
Speaker 1 (11:38)
Right? It really sets the tone to create a reactionary support environment, which is very hard to dismantle once you get into it right.
Speaker 2 (11:46)
It definitely is. I think a lot of that comes from the job of customer service. It's such a broad title when people join, like, what does it mean? What do we even mean by customer service? What is actually the job? And I think that was something that I did learn after a bunch of hiring was that I needed to be better at defining, like, what does it mean to succeed in this particular role in this company? Because there was a bunch of things that I had as expectations in my mind that were not anywhere else.
Speaker 2 (12:13)
And of course, it's impossible for people to meet expectations that they don't know about, and I hadn't really specified for them. Oh, I don't need you to just answer questions. Actually, I want you to be engaged with the process in other parts of the business and looking at the intranet discussion that we're having about what policies should be having this area. I hadn't written any of this down that I expected people to do it because that's how I did it. I just assumed that it would magically happen.
Speaker 2 (12:38)
And I learned that lesson for a bunch of people who had a hard time because I was judging them on things that I hadn't really set them up to succeed in. So that's something that if I was doing it again, I would get very early, like, explicitly write out, like, I think you're doing a good job. Looks like this.
Speaker 1 (12:52)
I love that. I love just framing it in that way. So it's not just this job description with bullet points, right. I made this mistake, too, where I assume people I've hired or people who've worked for me understand what my expectations are because of who I am or because of how I lead or because of what I've written in a book six years ago, right at the end of the day, if I want you to succeed, my benchmarks can't be in my head. They can't be behind a wall somewhere.
Speaker 1 (13:21)
And it's a failure as a manager for me to not be explicit with those expectations. So that's why now I get very sort of primal about this stuff. And when I'm helping other companies build out ads that they're going to put on a job board or build out job descriptions or create what their structure is supposed to look like for hiring. I have them say things like we don't use these words in an email. These are off limits, like, thank you for your feedback or sorry for the inconvenience or whatever it might be.
Speaker 1 (13:51)
We have specific expectations about how much we're working. I cannot tell you how many times I've consulted with companies that complain that they don't have data on their email tickets when they're not enforcing tagging taxonomy for email tickets. That blows my mind because wouldn't that just be a basic function of someone doing this job right? That before you close the ticket or send a reply? All of these things are sort of done. So you even have to go back to those things. And as simplistic as it might seem along with, here's my expectations for your career growth.
Speaker 1 (14:26)
Here's my expectations for your engagement. Here's my expectations for how you involve yourself in a specialty and support. You also have to think about the day to day actual work life for people, because I think with everybody, we all do really well. When those benchmarks are defined and they're clear, we can track them on our own. We can talk about them transparently. It relieves so much anxiety. And when you take away that element about your day to day job, you're left with a lot more emotional energy to put into the work itself.
Speaker 1 (15:00)
And I think that that's something that people who are good managers who have wisdom as managers, most of us will say I made that same mistake, right? I wasn't clear on my expectations and then.
Speaker 2 (15:15)
Dramatic fallout sometimes from that and very often because you aren't clear on those expectations because you haven't really thought them through yourself at all, not even writing them down. It's just I'm actually not aware of what I consider to be good. And there's just a bunch of things that I just do. Some of them I understand why I do it, and some of them are just habits that I picked up from other jobs I've had, and I haven't thought about is this actually helpful in this environment that I'm in?
Speaker 2 (15:39)
So going through the process of that, like, what do I actually value? What does this company value in terms of customer interactions and what are we actually trying to do for the customers? Like thinking through all of those things is very time consuming, and it's sometimes hard to make the time to do it, especially in a brand new company when you're just trying to keep up. But it's so valuable to have thought it through because it makes everything else easier for years to come.
Speaker 1 (16:02)
It does. It really does. It's one of those things just like keeping up with your health documentation that becomes somewhat tedious to do on a day to day basis. But it's so much better to do versus trying to catch up with a year's worth of releases or changes or features and additions in your documentation in a couple of days time. So what you said, I love how you phrase these things so often because they're so concise. And I think this is why you're so great at writing about this stuff, too, because everything is so consumable from you, from your standpoint in one of your great posts.
Speaker 1 (16:37)
If you want to call it that or your courses on Help Scout blog, you talk about defining customer service quality. When I talk about that, I talk about defining your why? Why are we here? Why are we doing this? What is the point, right? I actually had a great conversation with Monty, who I will link to because he just did Ted talk around this kind of same thing. I'll link to it in our show notes. But his whole thing and his whole history in leading customer service teams is you have to have passion for what you're doing beyond the function of it, right?
Speaker 1 (17:08)
There's got to be a purpose. People. Human beings are purpose driven. We want to have a cause and effect in our daily life, and especially someone doing a job that's a relational as customer support. We want to know that we're making a difference for someone, even if it's on a very small scale, like fixing a problem for them or doing a refund or something. That's just very quick. I think that's one reason why we love self service so much because it eliminates the need for any more hassle with people.
Speaker 1 (17:35)
Right? So I want you to talk a little bit about ways that people can maybe rethink how they're presenting this to their team, defining what that quality means. What are the basic concerns that you think people should have when it comes to quality? And I don't mean like SLA. We get back to everybody within our not that stuff, but what you call the foundations of great service. What do you think that some of those are?
Speaker 2 (18:04)
I have a picture in my head all the time about this. Is that what is the function of customer service in a business? And it's that these customers, nobody's coming to help scan, right? Because they're super excited about using a help desk. They're not doing it because they want to use a help desk. They're doing it because they think this help desk tool promises me that I can help my customers better. So what they actually want is that outcome. They want my customers to have better experience.
Speaker 2 (18:27)
And so really, our job is in support and customer service is how do I get them from where they paid money for this tool to that end goal of actually delivering better service to their customers. Some of that is showing them how to use the product and understanding how it works and figuring out all the little edge cases, all of that stuff, the work of customer service in that way. Some of it is also having conversations with them and understanding what sort of service they want to deliver.
Speaker 2 (18:53)
And how can we inform them about how to use the product in a way that will get them there? So we're forming that bridge because there's often such a big gap between I paid money for the product and I got the value that the product promised me or that I was sold. The big old gap there that people fall into all the time, and some of them you will lose as customers if there's no bridge there to help them. And customer service is the bridge. Self service is part of that, whatever educational stuff you might do with webinars and training and all of that stuff that is what customer service is for.
Speaker 2 (19:23)
And so you need to understand what value are you trying to deliver because that's your job. And then that's a very high level of quality. And then, of course, you can take that down to what does that look like in individual interactions with customers? And that's when you can get into your quality checklists. And we should include a link to a knowledge base article where it makes sense. We should be friendly. We should use these words and not use these words because they confuse people, all of that sort of stuff.
Speaker 2 (19:49)
You can get very nitty gritty about it, but it all needs to come from that understanding of what ultimately your job is get that person to where they want to get to. And that's why I like to work in companies where the individual customer service person can do that, and they can make judgments about what does this person need in order to get where they want to go to.
Speaker 1 (20:07)
So that's part of probably our next great bullet point that we can talk about is this idea of creating customer friendly policy, right? Customer friendly policies, I think, are I don't want to call them fringe, but I do want to say they're not as heavily relied upon as I would hope they would be. We're seeing that more and more people are making support accessible, and they're making it easy, and they're doing things to surprise and delight like that's been around for ages, right. But there are some times when our support teams need to know that they're empowered to make the best decision on behalf of the customer without there being fall out from that.
Speaker 1 (20:48)
Right. All of this gets back to hiring right people and training them well and managing them well and making sure that you are setting a precedent for them to feel empowered and to feel like they can experiment a little without judgment and give them information to make the best decisions. But we talk about building company cultures around being customer centric. One of those is this idea of policies, whether it's refund policies or, I don't know, like non abuse policies whatever it would be, what's your experience in creating customer friendly policies and where do you think someone should start reviewing their own internal processes to sort of check the boxes?
Speaker 2 (21:29)
Right. I think when you've done good hiring that mostly people understand how to give good service. It's not usually that they don't know what would be good service for this customer. It's usually that they can't give that for some reason. Like, I don't have the training to do it, or the tools don't exist to allow me to make the change for this customer, or I'm not allowed to do it. They buy policies. So all of those things are very often the job of running a good customer service Department is what is stopping us from doing.
Speaker 2 (21:57)
What we already know needs to be done and figuring out how can we change those things. So a lot of the policies, like refund is a classic policy. People want their money back if the thing didn't work for them. And sometimes the best policy is, yes, we can do that. That's fine. But of course, you've got to manage that in balance with, well, it's still a business and we still need to run a business. I think of the best customer service policies as being like, I'm going to put some guardrails here.
Speaker 2 (22:23)
So there are some limits that you can't cross, but it's pretty wide. We've got a wide road and you can find your path, you and the customer together and figure out how do we get them where they want to go? We're not going to go anywhere. Terrible. Those guide rails are there to stop me from accidentally doing something that's going to bankrupt the company or get us in legal trouble or whatever it is. Some of those constraints need to be there. But how can we just guide people in the right direction and then let them use their individual judgment to modify things as makes most sense for this person in this particular context at this time.
Speaker 2 (22:53)
So you've got to have a level of trust in your staff to do that. You need to have some way of actually measuring what they're doing. You need to be able to see it, obviously, as a manager, and then you need, I guess, an agreed set of principles about this is how we work with our customers. And these are the boundaries we wouldn't cross and we wouldn't allow customers to cross. And then you very quickly figure out actually, a lot of this involves the rest of the company and not just us.
Speaker 2 (23:15)
So that's when you need to start working with your company leaders to say, look, we can have a policy around refunds, but the big problem really is actually a product problem. And if we fix that, we wouldn't be having so many refund discussions in the first place rather than going stricter and stricter on the refund policy. Let's figure out why so many people are in that situation where they're demanding a refund and let's address that.
Speaker 1 (23:35)
I think that is such a great example. It's something that I've seen mostly more of an uptick in recent years with smaller SAS companies, especially not being transparent about feature set inclusion, not being transparent about maybe if it's a cloud software storage levels, right, not being transparent about what something will integrate with or whether you can export your data or whether it stores certain activities for you. And then, of course, that's only going to lead to people wanting to get out if they're unhappy with that practice.
Speaker 1 (24:07)
But we're just in this constant loop. Like you're saying, if we actually just address this at a purchase level or a pre purchase level, or we address this at a pricing page chart, for Gosh sake, you're not going to have to have someone who's sitting there trying to go back and forth and retain customers, and you're not going to have to worry about too much churn, because the customers that do agree with those policies are going to stay at the door. The other one, this makes me think about which is my giant pet peeve is non transparent cancelation and not self service cancelation.
Speaker 1 (24:42)
So if I have to call you to cancel something that I purchased online, I hate you if I have to go through this clicky process where you try to upsell me back or you try to say, but what about this? And it's like this five page click through or what about my favorite ones? Like when you unsubscribe from an email and you just sort of go through the motion to click on subscribe. But the button that you're clicking actually says, no, I don't want to unsubscribe.
Speaker 1 (25:10)
This is the stuff we're talking about. I mean, you're angry just hearing me talk about it. I'm sure I can tell you.
Speaker 2 (25:16)
As someone who did nearly ten years of customer service for an email marketing company, it's infuriating.
Speaker 1 (25:24)
And it's like I truly believe that people who have a no refund policy and people who don't allow you to cancel a Web purchase on the web. I believe that they're making crappy products in the first place, and they're making half ass products. They don't want to increase their budget to fix their products. And so they're just trying to burn you down so that you just forget about it, right? Or anything that's like I found out recently that we had accidentally set up our Elevate Community subscription to reset automatically.
Speaker 1 (25:54)
And I'm sorry, that's not something I would ever be okay with doing, especially not sending, like, 19 emails warning someone that they're going to be charged and give them a chance to cancel. I was so annoyed that this was just obviously a glitch in our system because I was like, oh, my God, I know how this feels. I think this is what we talk about. We think about customer centric policies is that it doesn't just end up in the seat of the person having to respond to the email or to respond to the claim to defuse the customer and try to appease them.
Speaker 1 (26:23)
It really the responsibility goes back to whoever built that process. Whoever built that feature, right?
Speaker 2 (26:29)
Yeah. The poor customer service person at the end of that line can only do so much. You can't fix that. And it is very disheartening to be a person who is forced to defend a policy that you definitely don't agree with. You're not going to get great customer service out of someone in that position. You're just not that's part of building a customer service culture or a culture of good service is to not stick people in that position, in fact, to engage them earlier. And sometimes I think we've all been in places where sometimes our policy is just necessary.
Speaker 2 (27:04)
You can't change the product in a way that maybe customer service would like it to be changed for various reasons may be technological reasons, or the company is going to collapse if we change it so that it works this way. But what you can still do, even in those situations, is to engage with the support people and the people who are making those decisions at a higher level and make sure they understand. Why are we where we are? What does the future look like and give people some sense of understanding of the bigger picture?
Speaker 2 (27:30)
Because any good customer service person is going to give a better response to a customer with that context in mind, even if they can't reveal it all, they can still work things more helpfully and more positively if they understand the underlying issue. I'm a huge fan of that, and I think that carries across all parts of the business. I'm thinking of an example of campaign monitor when I was running the support team and we made a huge change to the email editor, and it removed a bunch of very useful features, which is always fun to support when you know that's happening.
Speaker 2 (28:03)
You know, it's going to cause a bunch of questions, and it does. But because we had a designer in there who sat down with support and said, look, here is where we are. This is where we're going to get to we can't build this yet. We've got to change all these things now. We're not taking them away just for fun. We're taking them away because it enables us to rebuild this other area and eventually build this new thing, which is going to be better so that's the future.
Speaker 2 (28:25)
We can't talk about that to customers right now because we don't want to make promises. But, you know, now what that is. And then it just means that as a support person, if someone complains about, why did you take this thing away rather than being all kinds and empathetic and saying, yes, you're right. That sucks. I'm going to pass your feedback on or whichever word you would like to use instead of feedback.
Speaker 1 (28:46)
Speaker 2 (28:48)
I know I still feel the guilt every time I say it. We'll pass that on to the design team like that could be a really nice, friendly and empathetic. Yes, it does suck. Let me hear your comments and let me pass them onto things that's good. But a much better response is I hear you. You're right. That does suck. But let me encourage you to move forward in this new system because we're actually doing something which is going to be so much better for you. And if you start making these changes now, you're going to be in such a great position in the next quarter or the next year as we build out this functionality for you.
Speaker 2 (29:21)
And so you can answer that same question in such a more helpful way to the customer if you are involved in understanding the bigger picture. So I'm a huge fan.
Speaker 1 (29:33)
I think one of the things that makes this powerful is that it represents. Okay. We joked around a little bit at the beginning of this talking about getting a seat at the table. Right. But too many of us have been in a position doing support for any company where we're the last to find out about a feature release or a version release or a version update. We're the last to find out something's gone live or just that it's broken and it happens to be 08:00 at night, and everybody else who broke it has gone home for the day.
Speaker 1 (29:58)
Right. So having context is so powerful for support teams. Understanding roadmaps is so powerful for support teams. But if you're siloed and if you don't have great, let's say liaison interaction or you call them emissary interactions between teams, you're not opening those lines of communications for the Dev team, the product team to understand how powerful that is for someone on the front lines whose customer facing so one of the things that I am a huge, huge fan of, I have been a huge fan of it since the very first job I did in support, where I kind of forced it on my Dev team.
Speaker 1 (30:33)
It's this idea of whole team support, so it doesn't necessarily mean someone kind of shadows you for an hour to understand what your job is like in my world. In my ideal world, I think anybody hired into any single company should at least spend their first week a day on support, seeing what people are asking, seeing the methodology behind answering emails, maybe not answering emails themselves, but getting contextual information around it. Right. And then for every six months or so, three to six months, every single person in the company shares that rotation continually.
Speaker 1 (31:06)
Companies evolve. Customers evolve, products evolve so you can't do this one and done thing where you just sort of like, meet and greet on your first day. And my team, I love customer support. You guys do a hard job. Yeah, I know. I do a hard job. Why don't you come do it with me? I think it's the best way for people to understand continually on both sides the complexities of the jobs, right? Our product team needs to understand. Okay. We have customers who love this feature.
Speaker 1 (31:36)
They love it. It's convertible to them. It reduces churn. It's something that we don't see a lot of complaints about. You're not going to have someone who has that context saying, let's yank this feature. Let's put that feature behind four clicks and a hamburger menu. When people are used to this muscle memory of where to find that part of your app, right? They're going to be less likely to implement intrusive design when they understand the things that customers love and rely on and how they actually are functionally using your product.
Speaker 1 (32:08)
And you can only get that from first hand experience, right?
Speaker 2 (32:11)
Yeah. It's the same reason that when you get a letter from a charity, they don't just say give you the big stats of how many people are in poverty. They tell you the story of the individual person because it just connects with you so much better. You feel it more when you know these are real people, and it's just really easy in a company to be detached from. Actually, these are actual humans trying to use this thing and struggling with it. And when you're a person responsible for the product and you actually are trying to talk to someone who is struggling to get something done or is frustrated by something, suddenly you understand it at a deeper level, in a different sort of way.
Speaker 2 (32:48)
I used to love. This is something that the founders of Campaign Monitor were absolute Champions for doing every now and then they would just both decide the two of them. We're going to just spend a week in the queue just talking to customers. And I both loved it and hated it because so helpful for them. But also they would come in so pumped up to do a bunch of things and to shift a bunch of obstacles out of the way. And it was very frustrating to me because I'm like, yes, these are the same things that I've been wanting to get done for months and months and have asked about, but just didn't connect with them in the same way.
Speaker 2 (33:22)
My secondhand reporting of this list of issues didn't have the same impact to them as actually talking to someone who was trying to do it, who was like, I want to pay you money and I cannot get this thing to work and they would just fire them up and things would get done, which is great.
Speaker 1 (33:37)
I think it also really helps for people who are in, let's say, those higher level C suite, Cofounder, CTO, whatever it is, I think they also need to see the consequences of decisions that they make for products as well. So many choices are made for products, especially in growth stage companies because you're looking for a certain benchmark or you're looking for a certain user acquisition, whatever it may be. But are those decisions that you're making? Are they going to benefit the most of your customers in the most?
Speaker 1 (34:07)
Like I said, in obtrusive way, just because someone is a CEO of a company or CTO of a company, it doesn't mean that they have the best ideas for our product. It just doesn't. It might mean that they're running a company and that they're making sure payroll gets done and that they have an HR Department or whatever it is. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they can always make the best decisions for a product or for a customer base. So we have to stop thinking that they're always going to make the right decision.
Speaker 1 (34:35)
We know that from being in the hot seat with customer facing roles is that often we have to roll back decision or roll back features or figure out a way to grandfather people, in which is the biggest headache in the world. Right? Running two different versions of apps for people who refuse to change. I just think that's such a common thing, and it's really weird to me how I've been doing this for what, 1516 years now. I've been consulting for ten years in and out of companies of all sizes all over the world, and it's the same stuff at every company.
Speaker 1 (35:07)
We're seeing the same struggles with support teams. We're seeing the same struggles with people trying to keep morale high on customer support teams or customer facing teams that are just having to be reactionary when they want to be relational or they're drowning in the consequences of bad decisions, or they're stuck behind things like a stupid cancel gateway that's just like they don't have a voice for it. So I think getting more and more and more people involved, and it sounds very negative, but getting involved in the consequences of all those decisions that are made in a boardroom or that are made in a product select group.
Speaker 1 (35:47)
All of those things. It's so important to sort of take those ideas and put them into context with how people are going to react to them. How are you going to teach people how to use these features? How are you going to show people where this lives now? How are you going to say? Okay, you've gotten so used to doing this type of thing in the app, but now it lives over here and now it's even harder to do. It puts in better context that maybe we should slow down and think less about acquisition, acquisition, acquisition and think more about retaining our loyal customers and serving those loyal customers first.
Speaker 1 (36:20)
Right. So just a rant about SAS companies in general.
Speaker 2 (36:26)
As you were saying that you've triggered for me, I think something we maybe don't talk about in customer service as much is. There is the opposite side, too, which is that support people sometimes could do with learning about the business that they're in. You are just in support. You're so focused on individual people, and it's easy to just have your world view shaped by the people you talk to as customers and to lose the perspective of the overall business and realize we're trying to sell to a different type of people.
Speaker 2 (36:58)
Now we're building a business for a different audience, and there is going to be pain associated with that when you lose some customers, some types of customers who the product maybe was originally built for but is no longer actually intended for.
Speaker 1 (37:09)
Which is fine and totally valid.
Speaker 2 (37:12)
Totally fine for a business. Absolutely.
Speaker 1 (37:14)
I think getting the correct customer fit for a product is probably that's like the golden goose out there, right by making sure that all of your customers are the right people to buy your product. So you avoid so much of that hassle and consequence with them. But yes, there's nothing wrong with that. It's just one of those things that collectively, everybody in your organization needs to be on board with. And you're right there's oftentimes support teams who are not left out of that discussion. But just maybe not enlightened to that, right?
Speaker 2 (37:43)
Yes. You need to bring the front line people along with you because again, because they can give better service, you just give a better answer to someone who's struggling. Sometimes the best answer is going to be, you know what, five years ago when you signed up, we were building it for someone like you, but the product is not moving in that direction. You're actually going in different directions now and you're going to be better off somewhere else. And let me help you find the best option for you.
Speaker 2 (38:04)
Or let me help you shape your usage in a way that's going to fit with the kind of new paradigm of this business. And again, you can only do that if you understand who the customers are and where the company is going and you have that kind of sense of the vision for the future, that roadmap at a broader level. So again, if we don't both ways, if we're not communicating both ways, service is going to suffer no matter how nice and helpful people are, because a nice and helpful answer can still be very wrong.
Speaker 1 (38:32)
Yes, that's such a good point. Okay, let's go back into our fantasy world. We're at our SaaS Department. We created this great the Customer Service Excellence of Values standards for our whole team. We've hired the right people. Some of them came from Whole Foods. Some of them were bartenders and baristas. They're great with customers. They think on their feet, they're really empathetic. We have a couple of librarians, they're very into data. They're very statistically driven. That's great for our documentation and great for all that kind of stuff.
Speaker 1 (39:02)
We have an awesome team. So we're leading a team at a growth stage, fast company. And now I want to say, okay, my career path. I want to in six years, five years, whatever arbitrary go from leading a team of five people to being VP of customer experience at the same company or at a different company at the same size. What do you think the next steps are as I grow as a manager and as I sort of claw my way up to this next peak in my career.
Speaker 1 (39:36)
And I know there's several steps along the way, but let's think about us, right? And like, what have we done and what would we do? And how would we mentor someone who was in that position?
Speaker 2 (39:45)
Yeah. Well, the honest truth for me is that when I was at that stage and started thinking about that, I realized that's actually not what I want to do, because to get to that next level requires a different set of skills and a different set of interests than I personally had. And I was able to find someone in my last job who was much more interested in following that path and kind of be able to make space for her to do that by leaving eventually like a Disclaimer.
Speaker 1 (40:13)
I don't want that job either. I don't want to be ahead of support any startup people, not from me jobs. However, there's many people who do. And I think it's a completely valid career path. And now that we've opened this career path, I mean, it didn't exist ten years ago, five years ago. Even so, there's so much opportunity for career growth just up the ladder, if you will, up the mountainside. What do you think those next steps are, or how have you even seen the people that we know in our own circle kind of get to this point?
Speaker 2 (40:41)
Yeah. So I think the big step, the big jump is to go from my job is to look after customers to my job now is to build this organization, this customer service organization, in a way that is contributing to the goals of the company. What is this company that we're in our magical world that we live in now this what was it, Zoom podcasting?
Speaker 1 (41:09)
I think we're podcasting for Zoom or Uber for Zoom. Okay.
Speaker 2 (41:16)
So understanding, like, what is this business and how can I be contributing to the success of this business? Because that's really what other executives are going to want from you is if you don't want to be treated as well. Yours is the team that fixes things when they break, which is, I think the kind of the default position a lot of customer service organizations end up in. You don't want to be there. You'll never get anywhere if you're only there as kind of a backstop to broken decision making in the rest of the business.
Speaker 2 (41:41)
That sucks to live from that spot. So you really want to be, well, you know what? Nobody else in this business is closer to the customer than we are. And my team is. And so let me be the person who is bringing in all these insights from these customers that we're talking to. The customers are the ones who know what's out there in the marketplace. What are the competitors are people talking about? What are they loving elsewhere? How do they think about the problem that we're trying to solve?
Speaker 2 (42:06)
And maybe how is that shifting over time? All of that stuff is inside the heads of the customers, and the customer service Department has this opportunity to understand that, to ask questions and to get a more nuanced understanding of it and to bring that information back into the company in a way that then can inform where the product goes and how it is designed and how it's marketed and sold. All of that stuff is so valuable if you can be the person who is showing that, backing it up with data understanding.
Speaker 2 (42:34)
And again, this is an area where when it got to me, I'm like, I really don't want to do that. But understanding the data and how much money are we spending on talking to these customers? And where are the problems that we could be fixing? It could be saving money. There's so many opportunities there, I think, to be an informative and helpful part of the business more so than just a reactive problem solving team, learning some of those data analysis skills and storytelling skills and combining that and saying like, this is what our customers are saying to us.
Speaker 2 (43:04)
This is what the market looks like from our customer's perspective and the language that they use to describe it. If you can bring that in, you don't want to be in that position where the rest of the company is like, oh, I should talk to that person because they know our customer base, and they will probably give me some good input into whatever decision I need to make. I think that's where you want to be, Matt.
Speaker 1 (43:24)
You nailed it. That is what I wanted you to say. I don't know if it's because we've known each other since we were 25 years old. I don't know if it's because we both had similar bad experiences working in weird environments that we've had to kind of create what we wanted out of our lives and our jobs. But that what you just said. That endpoint of being the person who other people seek out for information about customers. That is it. I think that's it. That's when I have my big library garden and I have a bust of you, Matt Patterson as our elevate a mascot figurehead.
Speaker 1 (44:01)
That's what's going to be in Latin, I think stronger a ribbon under your face, if that's okay.
Speaker 2 (44:06)
Well, I look forward to seeing that one.
Speaker 1 (44:08)
I can't promise you what is going to be available. But I don't worry. I'll send you an email. When it's ready.
Speaker 2 (44:14)
I'll be right on.