The other week, I ran into this Medium post about how all those sucky startup customer service jobs are moving out of Silicon Valley. You can read it for yourself, but to summarize, companies like Lyft and Yelp are moving their customer service teams to cheaper places. I have been on this boat before– promised this cool startup gig was a great career stepping stone, to find out it was naiive at best, and a total lie at worst. The idea that some jobs can suck (startup or not) is 100% valid. One line specifically struck me though:
That simple statement got me riled up. I do support. I see it as a career. What am I missing? Am I not a valuable asset? The thing is… we’re still in the dark ages, seeing support a cost center, rather than an opportunity to know our customer and even add value via increased loyalty and retention:
This can be true if you work in an organization that just doesn’t “get” or respect customer service and the massive value it can provide — insights on what product should be building, data (ideas, kuddos, improvements), and mainly relationship building. They are the front line reps shaping what your customers think of your brand as a whole, and people will be loyal to a company who treats them nicely, no b.s. scripts but refreshing transparency.
You can make support a forever thing when you stop seeing it as a “ticket center” or “call center” and start thinking of it as a customer advocacy department, customer champion center. Whatever you call it, the agents need to be empowered and they must have a seat at the table. They should be deeply immersed in the product feedback cycle. That is the difference between a “nowhere” gig where you are overworked on little pay, and a place you want to grow with. If you are isolated, lack autonomy, or are treated like a “lesser” part of the team, start looking for the companies that understand that support has far evolved. They are few but they exist.
I see it as a permanent thing. I deliberately moved into support and find it rewarding, mostly because most people do it badly. I have a shot at being the best of the best, and my company “gets” it.
After writing this, I have spent more time thinking about the exciting direction our industry is going. While the #1 trait I look for in a customer service hire is still empathy, I have only recently realized how important it is to push, push, push and be an agent of change.
By nature, support people are generally nice and they enjoy getting to know the person on the other side of the screen, phone, or live chat. But the exciting direction we are going has to do more with “voice of the customer,” surfacing bugs, feature requests, kudos, and the hard, not-so-nice constructive feedback too.
It takes someone willing to walk over to as many people as they need to until they see action being taken. Sometimes, this means being stern and maybe even feeling like you are “pestering,” and you have to be okay with it.
The product team can always prioritize and keep customer service in check too, but we need to speak up for the customer. If the front line people don’t, no one will, and this data is valuable stuff!
Your customer service team knows why people aren’t using your app, they get mad (for the customer) when the experience isn’t up to their high standards. Just remember, you all want the same thing (a happy customer and a product people love). If you are on the front lines, stop seeing your job as just reactive. Think about what you can do to make things better and don’t settle.
If you are NOT on the support team and you are having meetings about your product roadmap, tests you can run on the website to increase sales, etc., now you know why you should invite your customer service team. Times are changing and this team knows your customer experience intimately.