Customer Support: Everyone’s Job? Image via OneWayStock
We hear much about customer centricity. Yet when you look behind the words, it is often isolated to front line customer support and customer facing groups.
Sometimes it is applied to a few “tiers” beyond that. Yet true customer centricity is a culture and practice where everyone’s job is customer support!
I am doing a few posts featuring companies who are breaking the classic hierarchical customer support model to bring customer centricity to life. How do they do it? Why are they flattening the model?
For this post, I asked Vikram Bhaskaran, Director Marketing for customer support solution provider, Freshdesk, to tell me what is happening there.
Customer Support: Is it Everyone’s Job? Image by HigherSights.
Grateful for this image from HigherSights via Flickr Creative Commons License.
Grateful for top image by OneWayStock via Flickr Creative Commons License.
Customer Support: Should It Be Everyone’s Job?
Q: Vikram, when we first spoke you mentioned that Freshdesk believes every employee should do customer support. Do you mean they should all do rotations into a structured customer support center or they should all be thinking about supporting the customer in their respective areas of responsibility?
Customer support should ideally be horizontal, across the company. That means every single employee has a responsibility towards support. For example, at Freshdesk, you will find everyone – the marketers, product managers, developers, and sales guys actively supporting customers.
We believe customer support is a great place to learn and understand the product. And whichever function they are in, it is important that every employee know a fair deal of the products they are working with. Of course, not everyone would be able to jump into log files, or solve DB level issues, and not everyone would be able to answer all the same questions. But every employee must at least be able to pitch in and support customers in their areas of expertise.
Q: Do you think that this “holistic” approach is truly feasible in a very large global organization or only in small to mid size companies? Why/why not?
It is, of course, easier to have everyone on support in a smaller organization. That is really more the result of necessity than choice. When you just have 10 employees, each person has to play multiple roles and wear different hats.
But a customer-centric customer support approach — everyone on customer support strategy — is even more critical in a large organization. When you don’t do it, you end up with hierarchical incompetence.
It is far easier for those not on the front line to lose sight of customer problems in a larger organization. Having everyone on customer support is an ideal way to flatten the hierarchy and prevent hierarchical incompetence.
Q: What benefits do you see to the company and to the customer to have everyone involved in customer support?
Let me start with the easier answer: To the customer, doing businesses with an organization where everyone can support means faster more accurate responses. Moreover, it means reliable products/ services because everyone is listening in on the support channels. Feedback is not as filtered and it plays a pivotal role in almost every business decision.
To the business, the everyone on customer support strategy means happier customers. This translates to word-of-mouth, more referrals, and more repeat customers. I think Ritz-Carlton is a great example of this in action. Everyone, across ranks is encouraged to do what is right for the customer and the impact on the brand is obvious.
Q: How are you implementing this idea at Freshdesk? What challenges have you faced? What tangible benefits have you seen?
From the beginning at Freshdesk, we’ve had an “everyone on customer support” culture from the beginning. Even today you’ll find the CEO replying to a support query or our marketing folks taking support calls. In fact since we integrated game mechanics into Freshdesk and keeping scores for great replies, supporting customers has become an addiction and motivates the whole team to resolve a couple of issues every day!
We haven’t had a lot of serious challenges to overcome. We did bring in some support processes to make sure quality level stayed high as we increased our speed of response. The result? Today we’ve become a brand known for our support quality. We don’t charge customers for support. Every customer wants and gets priority support.
Q: We hear the phrase customer centric and many say “of course, what else?” Yet there are others, even high level leaders in companies, who say be customer focused yet profit centric. What are your thoughts on this?
Every business needs to focus on profits. The way to hit profits is not by seeking profits. In fact, I’m reminded of a classic HBR article that addresses this “What is a free customer worth?” Every business must be customer-centric. Do what is right for the customer and profits will flow in.
Q: What advice you would give to other companies similar to yours on how/why to get all employees involved in customer support?
Why? Having everyone on customer support is a great way to train employees into the product and about the customer. It also gets top managers’ feet on the street and ears to the ground!
How? Think customer first then profits. Align support goals with business goals and customer support becomes a company-wide objective.
Thank you Vikram for giving us a behind the scenes view of how to flatten the hierarchical often disjointed silo reality of customer support.
So tell Vikram and me what you think?
- What is the state of customer support in your company?
- Outside of your company — as a customer — where and when have you seen the results of true customer centricity?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™
Social Media Insights Bound to Change Your Customer Support
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Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.