What does customer service mean to you and how did you decide to follow that career path?
I was in the second year of my software engineering university degree when I signed up for software development training at Telerik Academy, a tech-ed initiative by Telerik. While learning about Telerik and the company’s best practices, the idea of interacting with customers appealed to me. At some point during the training, they asked us to list in order of preference the roles the company was hiring people for. We could choose between being a Developer, a QA, and a Technical Support agent. With Telerik Academy being a software development training, the Support role was less popular. I recall sitting at home late one evening, looking at the form I had to fill in and wondering whether to pick what my gut was telling me to — Support or cave in the peer-pressure and select one of the other two options.
Today I’m glad I chose customer support. To me, this role is what bridges the gap between the software products we build (which, let’s face it, are never perfect), and the actual pain-points our users have and need to be solved. I am also extremely fortunate to have started my career in a company with solid support practices and amazing mentors to learn from.
How do you know if your customer support efforts are actually working? How do you measure that? What kind of tools do you use?
That’s easy — we ask our customers.
I believe that the only way to know if you are moving in the right direction towards the goals you are trying to achieve is to have metrics in place. Ours are extremely serious about the customer satisfaction — from the overall support experience and from the helpfulness of each provided response — and the efficiency of our self-service resources in solving issues for our customers even before they contact assisted support. Both are measured by surveying our users.
In your opinion, what is the difference between good customer support and great customer support?
As a user, I observe that most companies strive to solve the problem. When the solution is timely and appropriate, this will 9 out of 10 times create a good experience.
What makes for an exceptional experience is your company’s ability to connect to your customers on a human level. The magic happens when you take the time to listen to what the person has to say, rather than try and jump with a solution. There’s no way to know what you will learn — it might be a product idea, an insight that can never be born within the walls of the company or a cool bar recommendation.
In your experience what are the most common customer support mistakes that companies make?
The most common mistake is treating technical support like a cost center rather than an opportunity. Luckily, the trend of this happening appears to be downwards.
If you had to pick only one thing that your support team is doing exceptionally well what would that be?
Connecting with our customers and understanding their needs.
What are some of the support software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?
We are technologists at heart, so when we need a tool to solve a specific problem, we are often faced with the decision whether to build or buy. Most of the support software we use today was built and is maintained in-house. However, we also use measuring and reporting tools such as Google Analytics, and we recently purchased Qualitista licenses to enhance our conversation review process.
What emerging trends do you foresee in customer support which companies should adopt in the future?
Obviously, complete or partial automation, based on AI, is trending but I don’t believe this will ever replace humans. I’d encourage companies to adopt cutting-edge tech in an effort to make their agents’ lives easier, rather than try to minimize the number of assisted support interactions.
Companies are starting to realize the amount and quality of information that sits in their support departments. I believe more businesses will start using these conversations and insights as an opportunity for growth.
How do you keep up with the latest news/trends in Customer Support? What sources do you read and follow?
I’m a huge fan of the Support Driven community and try to be active in the SD Slack channel when I have the time. I also follow industry experts and leaders such as TSIA, Freshdesk, HelpScout or Zendesk.
What’s a good or funny story that you’d like to share?
Issues are not normally funny for anyone involved, but what brings a smile to my face are the nice comments customers have made about my colleagues or me personally. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there that set you up for being called brilliant or a genius on a daily basis, but this one is one of them.