The role of a customer support agent is quite exciting until you think about the career path. Common belief has it that a career path in support is going from being a product specialist, to a technical account manager, and most likely ends at customer support manager. But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, experience in customer support opens up opportunities in technical writing, customer success, marketing, product management, or even as a CRM analyst.
Do you find this hard to believe?
In fact, quite recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a few of our former support agents who are now in different teams at Freshworks. I was interested to know more about how their background in customer support paved the way to get them to where they are today.
In this article, I’ve captured the conversations I had with them to give you an idea of the various career paths you can transition into if you’re a support agent.
The Not-So-Usual Career Paths of Support Agents at Freshdesk
#1 Bring Your Customers Onboard
Everybody knows how crucial it is to onboard a customer. Setting up a project plan that is tailored to the customer’s needs and successfully carrying it forward is a challenging task. With each customer coming with their own set of requirements, it can take anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 months (sometimes, even longer) for the onboarding team to implement the solution.
However, for Lloyd Sylvester, an onboarding specialist, onboarding is a customer’s doorway to the product.
Since Lloyd knows the product like the back of his hand and has spoken to different customers, he found it easy to map their requirements to the product’s functionality and chalk out project plans. Since this role demanded a more proactive approach, Lloyd was inspired to move from support to onboarding.
Support is the base for everything. The in-depth product knowledge and experience I gained through communicating with customers across the globe really helps me even today.
— Lloyd Sylvester, Onboarding Specialist at Freshworks
Anirudh, a TAM (Technical Account Manager) who is now a senior onboarding specialist, said that handling many mid-market and enterprise customers and implementing the product for them laid the groundwork for his current role. As a TAM, he always dealt with challenges, set processes for the team, and provided solutions for customer’s requirements. He enjoys implementing best practices for customers based on their business requirements and solving their complex use cases and hence decided to become a full-time onboarding specialist.
#2 Maintain an End-to-End Connectivity
When Bharath started out as a helpdesk analyst in the support team, he had to categorize incoming tickets which required him to carefully parse through each ticket, analyze the content, and put it into an appropriate bucket.
Bharath wanted to take up an opportunity that would let him extend his expertise beyond his role as a helpdesk analyst and help in adding value to the overall organization. So, after spending 3 years in support, he moved to the revenue operations team as a CRM admin.
From his experience as a helpdesk analyst, he picked up the skill of categorizing issues by drilling down to the root cause of it. This helped him identify and sort issues in the CRM. Once the glitches in the CRM were identified, he tried to improve the workflows of the sales team by accommodating their requirements in the solution. For instance, he helped in setting up the lead-to-deal creation workflow for different products which streamlined the process of deal creation. Additionally, he took care of a variety of things from implementation to handling rules of engagement.
In order to solve a huge problem, you need to understand the ground-level of the issue
— Bharath Srinivas, Business Systems Analyst at Freshworks
Early this year, his career took another turn. Bharath is now a business analyst. As a business analyst, he implements the CRM for the IT team and handles internal requirements.
#3 Build a Community and the Product
While the support team has received good feedback, there were a few customers who weren’t happy with our community forums. Customers felt unheard and they often reached out to our support team saying we could do better with the community.
Aravind who was then a part of the support team decided to set things right. He started engaging with customers on the community and after a point, he wanted to do it full time.
The Forums are one channel where you actually get to know your customer’s pulse. Being a support person and solving the issues of multiple customers at once, feels great.
— Aravind Sundararajan, Product Manager at Freshworks
The community forums made it possible for Aravind to bring the product and the customers together. And this paved the way for the switch from Community Manager to Product Manager. Back when he was a part of the support team, he extensively used Freshdesk and so he understood the real problems customers faced. Since he knows what it’s like to be on the other end of the spectrum, he wanted to build features that made our customers lives easier. To add on, since he has interacted with customers day in and day out, he developed an understanding of how customers react, which helps him make better decisions.
From a Jack of Different Trades to a Master of Many
Raghu, another support agent turned product manager, has a different journey. He joined Freshdesk back in 2012 when there were only four people who took care of sales, pre-sales, and support.
Being a part of support and presales gave Raghu a 360-degree view of our customers needs. On one hand, he helped customers when they got stuck while using the product. On the other, he explained the value of the product and tried to fit in customer demands. Through this, he learned that customer requirements were evaluated on how impactful the feature would turn out to be and the market demand for it. This helps him be a better judge of the requirements that could be built as new features such as our trademark feature ‘Omniroute’.
Thus, from this experience both in support and presales, Raghu could identify pain points that tied back to gaps in the product.
A support role lets you understand your customers pain points and the gap in the product’s capabilities.
— Raghuvaran Viswanathan, Product Manager at Freshworks
#4 Document the Product
Being a part of the support team for over two years, Sumana had the opportunity to converse with customers across geographies. Through this, she developed a clear understanding of where customers got stuck while using the product. She wanted to curb the ambiguities right at where they stemmed from.
While she was still in the support team, she started writing solution articles. She made small but significant changes to the way solution articles were written. This made a huge difference in the way customers understood the feature. For instance, if she wanted to call edge cases and warnings out, she would be sure to add a note at the beginning of the solution article.
For example, Freshdesk lets you store information about a contact or a company in the form of a note. Often, customers are confused about where they could access these notes from. So, by letting customers know this upfront, we eliminate that confusion.
She wanted to do this full time, so she joined the customer engagement squad in the product marketing team and is now our favorite customer champion. She writes solution articles, makes tutorial videos, and gives feedback to the product team on new features and enhancements.
#5 Improve Your Customers’ Welfare
Sethu, a former support agent, was so invested in speaking to customers and ensuring that they were happy with the product, that he consistently topped the leaderboard for being the ‘customer wow champion’. So, when a team was exclusively formed to provide ‘wow’ moments to customers, Sethu was the first to make the leap from support to customer success. Today, as a customer success manager, he ensures that customers understand the value of the product and put it to maximum use.
Watching a customer change from being a detractor to a promoter, you know you’ve increased the customer’s happiness and welfare.
— Sethupathy R M, Customer Success Specialist at Freshworks
Similarly, Riaz, a Customer Success Specialist, saw how a proactive approach could delight customers. According to him, by helping customers realize the potential of the product beforehand, you can eliminate the hiccups that arise due to lack of clarity. To do this, he had to closely interact with customers and so he switched to customer success.
I really wanted to move out of my comfort zone and try something new. I’m excited to see how this pans out
— Riaz Sheik, Customer Success Specialist at Freshworks
Both Sethu and Riaz pointed out that interacting with customers from across the world has helped them understand their needs better. They carry this experience and apply it in customer success as well, and nurture customers to make optimal use of the product.
It’s a Promising Path Ahead
While support is itself a great role to be in, the career paths it opens doors to are very promising. The biggest takeaway I gathered from speaking to the support team alumni at Freshworks is that their experience in dealing with customers and knowing the product inside out acted as a cushion every time they made a switch. It gave them the confidence to venture out and try their hands at different roles.
Lastly, but most importantly, Freshworks lets its employees play to their strengths. It is this ideology of our CEO that has encouraged each one of them to bravely pick different career paths.
I’m not the CEO of a customer support company, I’m a support person who went on to become a CEO.
— Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshworks
Here’s to the support agents (current and former) for putting their heart and soul to deliver moments of wow. 🤩
Have you heard of an interesting career path taken by a support agent? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it.