Bill Thompson is head of Customer Happiness and was employee #3 @Olark. At Olark, Customer Success is way more than a department of a distinct function; it truly is part of the company customer success culture.
Bill joined very early in Olark’s history, when the company shifted from a team of co-founders to a structured company. He now works with and leads a team of 12, scattered across the globe, doing customer support by chat (and not surprisingly only by chat …).
Involve all employees in customer success culture
At Olark, each and every one of the 37 employees talks to customers. It’s what they call “all-hands support”. From the CEO who spends 3 hours every two weeks, to engineers spending half a day every two weeks: everyone is expected to be in touch with customers, while managing the distraction it implies.
One of the greatest benefits of doing ‘all-hands support’ is that it makes product development a lot easier. For example, Olark just released a new “Shortcuts” feature. There was little need from the Customer Success team to push for this feature, because everyone in the company had been in contact with customers asking for it. So roadmap prioritization happens more naturally and more cohesively.
What’s the downside? Besides the distraction, getting the whole team ready to handle customer requests requires some serious training. A developer may get questions on billing or micro-features he or she’s never heard about – and s/he must give the best possible answer to the customer.
How does Olark manage that? The main answer is chat itself. Olark’s multi-states and countries employees rely on their internal chat for their day-to-day work. So, while doing customer support, anyone can share a question and get an answer fast.
However, Bill recognizes that making sure all employees are up-to-speed on the different features is one of the biggest challenges, even especially for those who are not participating to the weekly CS team meetings.
Hire every employee as a customer success guy
Olark has a “cultural” interview as a part of each hiring process. Bill remembers doing this interview some time ago for a very bright engineer. He argued he wasn’t keen on spending a few hours a week chatting with customers, to avoid being distracted… and wasn’t hired.
Involving all employees in a task that’s, according to Bill, half technical and half sales, requires to hire not only the best technical skills but interpersonal and communication skills as well. Which in turn fosters a culture of the customer in the whole company.
Always make customer support personal
According to Bill, the worst customer success practice is primarily the lack of personalization. Using robots or A.I. to extract keywords and answer to a request with several “possible” solutions kills the image you convey to customers. He sometimes gets the question “Are you a robot?” and enjoys finding funny answers like :“If I’m a robot, this cup of coffee is going to short me out.”
In the end, worst case scenario for a customer success team is one customer feeling like s/he is treated as a general case, not a particular, one-to-one conversation. There’s no better way to lose all his or her trust right away!
As Olark launched its Shortcuts feature, they realized the risk of “automating” answers.Thus, they dedicated training time to make sure the team keeps on customizing their answers to the customer’s actual request, even canned ones.
Indeed,, delivering a personalized, memorable customer attention truly adds considerable value to the brand. Here are 2 key pieces of advice from Bill on this:
- Rest easy. Take whatever time it takes, for every customer. Even if they’re not big. It will pay off. Do not rush.
- Create a one-to-one relationship. Their most valuable feedbacks are messages like “Can I talk to Barbara?” or “You’re Bill? So great to talk to you again!” That means you’ve created a bond with the customer and you’ve added a personal note to the trust in the company’s brand.
Over to you! How do you handle customer success as a company?