Jeff Vincent is the Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia. He’s the guy who’s there for you when things go “bump” in the night. Proud pet owner and sharer of awesome articles, Jeff likes to blog about productivity, support and the startup life. Wistia helps businesses track performance of their videos on the web and helps them find new ways to build and engage with their audiences.
We managed to catch up with Jeff and ask him about life at Wistia.
How big is your team? Where do you guys operate out of?
Seven. And we’re not a distributed team. Just a single office in Cambridge, MA.
How many products do you guys support?
One – the best video hosting on the planet 😉
Haha! Well, we’re big fans of Wistia too! Tell us about the channels you offer support in.
We meet folks where they need us, and where it makes most sense. But, it’s mostly email.
How many queries do you get every day?
A ballpark figure will do.200
Jeff and Lenny Lavigne, from Recruiting, hard at work.
Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you end up in customer support?
Before Wistia, I was an intern with Teach for America. I worked on an internal web platform for them and I knew that video would be a powerful way for teachers to share lessons and connect with students. So, I went looking for a video platform that would work for TFA and stumbled upon four local guys at a tiny company called Wistia. A whirlwind tour later, here I am.
So, what does a typical day look like for Wistia’s Head of Customer Happiness?
My day starts around 7 AM. That’s when I take my dog, Sherman (a large flat-coated retriever) out for a walk and for those few hazy moments as I follow him around, I flip through emails that came in while I was sleeping to spot major problems. This is also when I plan out my schedule for the whole day. After breakfast, I take some time to do some personal emails before biking to work.
Biking to the office is a great way to work up some AM sweat. I’m not a morning person so this is about the only exercise I get. I usually get to the office sometime between nine and nine thirty. I fuel up (I love coffee. Especially the espresso our machine makes over ice. But this is nothing new to most support folks!) and spend some time checking with the early arrivers on our team, making sure that there are no critical issues crippling our support.
After this, it’s just a lot of brainstorming and meetings. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how our product, and how we can improve it to reduce the volume of support. I’m lucky to work with an amazing team that is tackling most of the major issues, and looping me in when my particular brand of thinking or decision making would be useful. So while I get assigned a few support tickets each day, I also get lots of time to interview customers and work with our designers and developers on the product itself.
My goal is to reduce the meetings I have to only what is essential. One place I’ve struggled with this as our team has grown is in 1-1s. I wish I could report I spend lots of time talking with team members individually (Customer Champions is our technical term), but I don’t think I spend nearly enough.
You will normally find me working up-to-the-moment that I head home to feed Sherman around 6pm. As my team members would probably attest, they start getting barraged by email/Trello notifications again around 11pm when I pull occasional late nights.
Have I mentioned before just how adorable Sherman is? Because he is. I have no idea how you actually get things done. How do you motivate yourself (and your team) day in and day out?
I’ve been motivated from my first day to create the best customer experience possible for our customers. I wrote an investment thesis in grad school that customer experience would drive business growth in the coming decade, and I really hope I’m right! As far as my team goes, they are the most motivated bunch I know, and I deserve none of the credit. So I don’t spend much time trying to drum up excitement, but I do spent time crafting and sharing a vision for a great customer experience. A clear vision keeps everyone focused and rowing in the same direction.
Burnout is a very real thing in support, and it’s on my mind constantly. I’ve found we won’t be of much service to our customers if we aren’t in a good place ourselves. The happiness and personal progress of our Customer Champions comes even before our customers in my mind.
This is reflected in the way we hire, the investment we put in each person, and the performance metrics we keep.
Let’s talk support. What’s the most important metric you think a support rep should aim for?
Ah this must be where the tough questions come out.
If we’re picking a single metric, my thinking would be, “what would happen if we pushed that metric to its extreme?” If it’s response time – what would responses look like if they came within a minute, Basecamp style? Would that make customers happier with our support?
The only metric I look at frequently is what percentage of support conversations are reported as “happy”.
Folks are known to give us negative feedback if the agent takes too long, is unclear, or the answer is incomplete. So our satisfaction scores tends to reflect all the other metrics you can think of wrapped together.
Recruiting takes the floor at a Wistia standup
I’m going to throw some situations at you. Tell me how what the Wistia policy is when
a) A customer asks for a feature that’s in the works but it’s complicated so it’ll take a while.
When folks reach out and request a feature I know is in the works, my goal is to make them feel like they had a great idea, without communicating an expectation of a deadline. Something like “You must have read our minds! We’re thinking about working on that soon!”
Customers want to feel like they are part of the total experience, and they think their problems should be the most important thing on our plate (and sometimes they are!). Treating them with that respect is a real delighter.
b) A customer asks for a feature that you’re never going to build
When folks reach out about features we’re never going to build (and most feature requests fall into this category), my recommendation is to be honest about that fact. Start from the highest level reason why that feature runs counter to how you build products.
For example, when someone requests “just one more checkbox/option”, my default response is “we’ve always been focused on reducing options for our customers, because video marketing is hard enough as it is.” There are so many trade-offs that go into building a product, and it’s not the customer’s job to think of those. But again, treat them with respect, by communicating why you aren’t currently planning to build that feature.
c) A customer asks for a refund. Do you rope in sales reps sometime down the process to woo the users back?
Refunds are a tricky beast. We provide an annual payment option, which makes them even trickier. I encourage folks to strike a balance between being liberal with refunds and respecting your own product and value. When a customer respectfully and reasonably requests a refund, our default is to provide it. Our Customer Champions are able to make that decision for any customer, and extend the offer of a refund if it is the right move.
Bring Your Kids To Work Day is always fun at Wistia
What do you guys look for when you’re hiring support reps?
When I’m looking at applications, I look for detail-oriented folks who are willing to put themselves out there a bit. No stock resumes but rather, a cover letter that indicates research and displays personality.
On interview day, we score applicants against the following attributes: empathy, curiosity, humility, dedication, and technical inclination.
This is great for filtering folks who wouldn’t be a good fit, but inevitably, we end up having to make a tough decision and choose between some great people.
A trick I learned from my friend Bill Bounds, at MailChimp, is to spend a bit of comfortable time with them as a final interview. Get them out of interview mode with questions about their personal life and passions. In that chat, I look for smarts and compassion. If after that chat I can think of a laundry list of topics I could talk about with that person – they’re the right one. If I find myself needing a nap, we should probably pass on them.
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
I’ve got a long list 🙂 I look up to Campaign Monitor the most – they consistently report happy customer scores, and mostly importantly, the Campaign Monitor customers I interact with are positive, happy people who trust us support folks. That says a lot.
Mathew Patterson, the fearless leader of their support team, has graciously provided me every original thought I’ve had in the support realm. He was doing it all before I had a clue.
(Editor’s note: We took his advice; here’s the interview with Mathew from Campaign Monitor.)
Name another rep you’re a big fan of, and would like to hear from
Mathew would come first. After him? Bill Bounds of MailChimp, and Sonya Green of GitHub. Both are wonderfully thoughtful, intentional leaders of their respective teams. That, and they deal with MUCH larger problems than I do.
Just one more question, Jeff. If you could own a mythical pet, any mythology, what would it be?
Who in their right mind wouldn’t want Pegasus as a pet? I challenge anyone to a duel if they wouldn’t choose Pegasus.
We started the Secret Sauce series to find out more about what makes the customer service of some great companies click. We get in touch with one awesome support representative and we pick their brains. We find out what a typical day is like for these support rockstars, their personal work-philosophy, support process and what inspires them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy. Know a customer support rep you’d like to see featured here? Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.