Inside Support is a new blog series featuring customer happiness leads from companies that have outstanding experiences in customer success to share. We go into detail on how their support team works and share their dedication to customers as a way for everyone to learn how big players do it.
To start off, we talked to Martin, Head of Support at Pipedrive. Coincidentally Pipedrive just launched elevio on their website – you can read more on “reading people’s minds” and how they use self-service support below. Martin also shares a lot of valuable insights and tips on how to create amazing customer experiences, as well as an entertaining story that you’ll surely remember. Read on below…
Tell us about your background and how you ended up at Pipedrive.
My background is mixed. I studied and worked in PR for the first third of my career, then moved on to marketing and general management in e-commerce. After that, I had a moment where I could pick my next challenge.
The proposition of building the support department at a rapidly growing global company was very appealing, so I joined Pipedrive as Head of Customer Support. I would argue that this function carries more weight in a B2B environment and that made the opportunity even more attractive.
That was about three years ago, since then I’ve been along for the ride at Pipedrive. I suppose building human relationships has been the common denominator in all of the roles.
What are your top tips for building amazing relationships with people (including customers, team members, and other companies)?
I like the way this question is asked. Because of my mixed background mentioned above, I have ended up in a place where I view all of the above as different formats of human relationships and the underlying principles are the same, only with slight variations and nuances.
Professionally speaking, I think it all begins with the kind of people you hire. That is my main piece of advice – get great people and pretty much everything else takes care of itself. If you are strict, picky and demanding in the recruitment process, it allows you to relax and trust your new colleagues forever in the future.
Pick people that you like, trust, whose abilities you believe in and (unless you’re terrible) your customer will like too. Easier said than done, but it will save you a lifetime of micromanagement, negative emotions and poor results.
Invest more time in the selection process. I’d say a net of at least five hours with a candidate is needed to gain some true understanding of each other. You wouldn’t move in with a person after the first date, why should this be any different?
Talking about customer support – how do you make sure you deliver an outstanding experience for your customers?
We have distilled it down to this: give fast and useful answers with a human touch. Each of these elements is important.
The perfect answer doesn’t matter if delivered too late. We see a direct correlation between speed to answer and customer satisfaction, which should come as no surprise.
Obviously the whole reason for having support is to provide solutions for the customer, so we discourage shooting polished blocks of text at users – instead focus on making it something that actually solves the issue efficiently. If your ad hoc screencast tutorial is rough around the edges – perfect! Shows that it’s actually for that user and that you give a damn.
The human touch part should be pretty obvious too, I suppose. If you a have a problem, you desperately want somebody to notice and help you. If the agent is hidden behind a wall of jargon and prepared generic answers, you will never get that feeling across. It’s not about being nice, it’s just a good business tactic, because in the end the emotional side of the interaction is just as important.
But again – it all comes down to having great people. Some aspects of the above can be coached, but mostly – just get the people that are naturally like that. You’ll have a hard time teaching a person how not to be an a**shole.
How do you measure the ROI on customer service, as well as customer happiness?
We do not measure ROI on customer service directly. It might make sense in some other business, but for us it is just as core as product management – it’s an underlying consensus that we need to do it and need to do it as good as we can. Naturally, we keep an eye on costs, but ROI on customer support is not a separate metric.
Customer satisfaction is probably the most important KPI for our department (currently hovering in the high 90s) and something we obsess about a lot. It is measured through the Zendesk CSAT survey and in focus every day and at every metrics meeting. The company also measures general NPS, but that is about the broader customer experience, not just support.
At what volume does support load go from being done ad-hoc, to needing an organised team and a process to handle it efficiently?
Depends on a lot of factors, but in our case it was at about 7 team members and 2000 support cases per month. But there is no such thing as getting organized too soon.
What are some of the most memorable lessons you’ve learned over the years when it comes to customer support? Can you share a story or two?
I don’t know how much we learned from it, but I immediately remember listening to a recording of a support call a few years ago. It was this sweet old lady that called us every now and then and pretty much knew the whole crew. She had some questions about doing a data import and was put on hold for 5 or 10 minutes while the agent investigated.
The call kept recording and while James was looking for the answers in our back office system, she had a lengthy interaction with her dog. It was established a) who’s a good boy (confirmed multiple times) and b) who deserves a treat for being such a good boy.
How do you think customer support relates to other areas in business (e.g. sales, growth, marketing)?
As it tends to happen, after a while you see that it’s all part of the same big picture. We in fact say to our people that customer support is sales and it is marketing as well, because… it is.
It may not be as true in B2C, where you have big brands and each interaction does not carry the same weight, but in our business it does.
What’s next for you?
Reading people’s minds and improving objective quality.
Reading people’s mind: At this point, after years of building the team and processes, we have reached a point where we are pretty good a being reactive. The next step is trying to predict users having issues and anticipating what they need.
We just implemented Elevio and feeding users relevant contextual information is a good example of the direction that we are going in.
Objective quality: at some point, as the team grows, you need to devote more attention to objective quality. CSAT is a great measure of subjective quality (was the customer happy with the interaction/answer?), but in the long term, you also need to have actual answers that are “right” from your perspective as a company.
This can only be achieved through systematically going through a large number of support cases and providing your agents with feedback in order to develop skills and knowledge. We have done this for years, but now are really stepping up these efforts to push quality higher.
If you think you’d be a great fit for our Inside Support series or can think of a company that would be, get in touch.