CustServ Week Special: Chase Clemons on all things Customer Service

It’s #CustServ week, and for some strange reason that matters way more to us than Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work & School day. We got a slew of posts lined up for you this month. Before all that, we’d like you to meet Chase Clemons, Support Wizard at 37signals, self proclaimed bourbon Connoisseur and Sharer of awesome insights at Support Ops.

Here is Chase on finding “the one” in a support agent, metrics that matter and putting the “humanity” back in customer service.

FD: How important is getting an “everyone on board” support process? Do you guys follow any kind of team-wide support process at 37signals?

CC: I think an “everyone on board” support approach gives you a better product overall. Sure, short term it gives you the ability to still support your customers without hiring an extra support rep. But the real power of this approach comes from everyone on the team working with customers and listening to their pain points. When a designer works on a new feature, they’ll have that customer’s experience to draw on.

As for the process, we buddy up. Each person on the team has a Support Buddy for their day on support. This lets the non-support person have someone to turn to if they run into tricky cases or complex questions.

FD: What’s the secret sauce you look for in a support rep? Give us a little dope on your hiring strategy.

CC: Your support hire needs to be a jack of all trades. At the very core, they need to be able to interact with customers. They’ll be handling your emails, probably answering questions on Twitter, and taking care of fixing things for the customer. They’re also your company’s face. Every customer that talks with them will see and hear your company through them.

That means you’re looking for people that can actually talk with other people. They need to communicate well, be personable with others, and manage themselves so you’re not constantly watching over them like a babysitter. Look for people with backgrounds in restaurants, libraries, or even real estate. Anything that brings them into contact with other people on a regular basis.

When you find a potential hire, just call them. See how well they can have a conversation with you. Talk about their background, current job, favorite sports teams, anything that will let you have a conversation. Helping customers is all about having a natural conversation with them. If they can’t do that with you, there’s no way they can do it with your customers.

FD: Customer support can get boring at times. How important do you think it is to have fun supporting customers? How do you go about with a fun-culture in your support at 37 signals?

CC: I don’t think I’ve ever been bored with helping customers. When you think about customer support, it’s usually associated with lots of angry customers. But that’s totally not true! Sure, there are some angry customers. But the vast majority are people that want help with something. If you can deliver that help and have fun along the way, it’ll make both you and the customer smile.

For instance, when I hear from a customer that whatever was wrong is fixed, I reply back with a fun closing like this: “No worries! Just remember, we’re always an email away if you need help. (Well, 37signals help. We have no clue about vacation spots in the Arctic.)  🙂 “

They love it and it adds a touch of fun to the whole support experience.

Our team also has a ton of fun inside our Campfire room. Lots of emojis, GIFs, songs, etc. We make a big deal when someone gets a 100 on Smiley or does something else awesome.

FD: There are always days when things get you down –  a bad call, an angry customer… Personally what motivates you to keep chugging along on those “off days”?

CC: The team. We support each other and help each other. Everyone has down moments like a bad call or an angry customer. It happens in every job out there. It’s up to the team to help them shrug it off and keep going. Since we’re on Campfire all day, that usually involves lots of GIFs or songs.

Sometimes you need to take a break too. I’ll step away from support tickets to take a walk around the block. There’s also an ice cream place right up the block from me so it’s a great place to go when I have an angry customer. Things just seem better with some homemade ice cream in hand.

FD: In your view what’s the most important metric a support rep should aim for – call times, response rate, time-to-resolution, tickets resolved? And why.

CC: People get wrapped up in tracking all these metrics with support cases. It’s kind of a “TRACK ALL THE THINGS!” mindset. Ideally, we should track just two things – response times and tickets resolved. That’ll give you an idea of how busy you are and how quickly you can get to customers that need help. If you’re answering 300 cases a day with a four hour initial response time, you probably need to bring in more support reps.

Don’t get me wrong, you can always track those other things too if you want. But as far as the most important ones that you need to be watching today, it’s the response time and tickets resolved.

That’s all for now, but you can get more of Chase’s never-ending wisdom on Twitter (@chaseclemons), or get some of his work-cum-bedtime reading at SupportOps.