Seven months ago I left the world of a typical Monday through Friday eight to five job where I commuted to the office, to what many are calling the "future of work". I’ve switched to being location-independent having my closest teammate at least an eight hour plane ride away. I had some worries about the challenges of working remotely that I discussed in an earlier post. I’ve learned a lot about starting a support structure from the ground up while working remotely since then. Here goes my three key lessons.
Written by Ashley Sachs, Customer Support Manager at appear.in
Don’t get chained to the queue
I’ve said it before, but let me say it again in the most loving voice possible: “Burnout is real ya’ll”. For those in the support world, it can happen quickly because of the main responsibility of the role: the ticket queue. While ticket time responses and maintaining low volume are important goals for any support organization, they can easily become a heavy burden. This can also make the task of answering e-mails mundane which can negatively reflect in your voice to customers.
Early in my journey I committed to the Pomodoro Technique of setting a timer to dedicate a specific amount of time to one task and one task only, without interruption. This continues to work great but it raised the question: What did I do when I wasn’t working on tickets to keep my productivity up and encourage growth in my role? Responding to customers was still my number one priority and knowledge center articles could only be reviewed so many times a month before you have exhausted yourself on revisions.
During my breaks from the ticket queue, continual learning became my new goal. In our Slack team, we have #books-n-podcasts channel where we can post recommendations for anything, including blog articles and TED videos. Everything posted in here relates to business, work style techniques, or character building and has a been a great resource when I’m feeling stuck or need a little inspiration to get my work juices flowing again. Z%x6
I also use my breaks from the queue as an opportunity to look outside my immediate role responsibilities and see where the support area overlaps with other roles in our team. I take the opportunity to learn from my teammates and make changes in the support area based on the knowledge I gain from them. While working to revise our FAQ site, I noticed that our the site needed a style makeover. Its font and graphics did not align with our main page and brand, and it was in need of an overhaul. In order to accomplish a new look, I needed a little CSS knowledge, something I knew nothing about. But now, thanks to the help of a couple of my teammates and some awesome online resources, I am running through some CSS tutorials and hopefully will be able to make some edits to our FAQ page soon!
There is truth to the saying “variety is the spice of life,” especially in the remote work world. Allowing myself a time to step away from tickets and emails and focus on continual learning has helped me become more effective and engaged with my team, my work, and with customers.
Know more than just the product, know your customers
When first starting a support role, one of the most important goals of training is for support team members to learn the product inside and out. For me, an equally important goal is to know your customers. At appear.in we have two different versions of the product, the free version and our premium version. Both not only have different features, but they cater to two different types of customers. This difference in demographic can shape the support experience as well as the product itself.
One of the most integral parts of our product process at appear.in is customer feedback. When it comes to support conversations, we aren’t simply solving problems, we are learning from the most important part of the business: the customer. As part of my role I handle a lot of the feedback and feature requests that comes through to our support inboxes. When handling these e-mails, I try to get the entire scope of the customer’s use case. If it aligns with our product strategy, I present it to our product team with customer’s input and any additional data from other support conversations.
Working with customers through feature requests has helped bring an unique perspective that has allowed me to further the support experience by meeting the customer where they are in their challenges with the product and understanding how to best use it for their business. It’s simple: perspective breeds empathy. Something we see ring true especially in a world saturated by social media, why not use it as one of our principals when support a product? Our users range from the technical developer community to those not so technical, from education to counseling groups, and consultants to large businesses. When I am working with our customers I try to gain a sense of where they are coming from and the best way to approach the problem with their perspective in mind. This way of working has also lead to plans for improvement of technical feedback features inside appear.in.
Framework is important
When I first started at appear.in, my main focus was to learn the product and get answers to customers as soon as possible. After I had spent some time developing a rhythm and getting the ticket queues to a clean state, I felt myself looking specifically for a “why”? Why was I in this role? Was I performing the tasks to the best of my ability? More importantly, was my method of supporting customers in line with our product and mission? I may have just spent too much time reading Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” and listening to his Ted Talk, one of my favorites. Since support needs to be a natural extension of the product, I knew I needed to guide my support conversations with customers in a way that built trust with the brand and reflected our product mission well. These ideas led me to make our Support Principles.
This list has helped guide support interactions and align the team on what our goals are as we build out our support team. If you and your team don’t have a set of guideline or principles that influence your interactions with customers, create some. Take time to sit down and think about the “why”? Why do we support the way we do? What, as a team, keeps us inspired during our day to day conversations?
The lessons above are just scratching the surface of the knowledge I have gained so far in this role. To be a part of fast-moving, remote-friendly team has taught me a lot about my teammates, customers, and myself. I can’t wait to see what the future brings and share about my adventures in support for appear.in!
Right now we are looking for a Customer Support Specialist to join the appear.in team!