Customer Support: Is It Actually Everyone’s Job? #Custserv

Customer Support: Image is the words themselves.

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: Image is Words Listen, Understand, Act

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™

Related Post:
Social Media Insights Bound to Change Your Customer Support

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

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.

6 Responses to “Customer Support: Is It Actually Everyone’s Job? #Custserv”

  1. Khalid says:

    Freshdesk is too good to be true compared to my organization 🙂 we still don’t have a common catalog of what IT applications we are serving to our users community. Help desk some times get calls from users complaining about an application which HelpDesk never heard of because tech support installs things without informing them! Lack of communication (though there is a formal change management!). We end up in incidents being passed to multiple layers until it gets resolved. Management looks for number of pending incidents per day to note down the performance of the department so the last hour of the day people try to get rid of pending incidents by passing them to other groups as much as possible! It is like saying to our customers, “I can’t help you because of stupid management flag!”

    My best customer focused place I’ve seen was a hotel in Dubai called Rotana. It’s a five star hotel and staff there are amazing when offering help. We stayed with a resorptionist for 10 mins when she was telling us how to get the best SIM card possible that matches our stay! She was absolutely AMAZING. She tried answering all of our queries and she was referring to other sections within the hotel to provide us with directions of a product that is not being sold in the hotel!!!! She left a great first impression of staff within that hotel.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Aah… Khalid once again your examples create vivid pictures. In the case of your company, the potential growth. In the case of the hotel Rotana, the model of a customer’s utopia!

      Many thanks for your contribution,

  2. Vijay says:

    Hey Khalid

    My 2 Cents here

    Although the Freshdesk approach might not work well for all the companies/orgs like yours, but atleast pointing the customer in the right direction can help you gain Happy points from the customer.
    As someone who has handled Customer support for my whole career, I’ve felt that even if you don’t have the correct answer, helping the client reach the right dept can really help a lot. In your case, if this Incident belongs to some other Dept or Group, why not bring in the other Dept guys in loop and help out the customer by skipping a few email threads. Say, this turns out to be a Change request and even though it can be a Standard Change and needs no Approval, why not bring in the SysAdmin or NetAdmin or the Vendor in Loop to solve out the query faster.
    One more thing I’ve learnt from our customers, First Impression makes the Best impression. We maintain this in Freshdesk a lot, we ensure that when a Free client or a Paid client calls up/emails, we ensure that the first Human response or acknowledgement with a proper fix ETA or a callback ETA is given to the client. This gives a bit of confidence that atleast,a Human has picked up the Ticket and is about to help me.

    I know, not all companies following ITIL best practices can implement such turn-around but my suggestions is mainly for SMBs, who can want their Devs/Marketing/Sales or CEO to get involved in support 🙂

    Just my thought

    Simple neighbourhood Support guy!!!!

  3. Chase says:

    Great interview! We take a similar approach with everyone on our team at 37signals doing a support stint. It helps remind us that there’s an actual customer using our product, which people can sometimes forget in the rush to build the latest product or feature.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Chase. I am so glad you have offered what’s happening at your company. This is exactly the purpose of this post — to explore what is happening and expand the conversation!

      Warmest regards,

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