Why everyone here does customer support
As a small startup within Buffer, we’ve been working to craft our processes autonomously, from how we sync, to how decisions get made, to when (and how) advice is sought. The best part is, we don’t have to hide any of it behind a veil.
In light of transparency, as we go and learn, we’d love to share what we find works, what doesn’t, and how we iterate. One of those processes we’re crafting now is how we handle support as a small team.
Today we’d love to share how that looks for us, and the takeaways thus far.
All hands on deck
Our team consists of two Engineers, a Product Designer, and a Happiness Hero. Now, working on a startup within Buffer, these roles are a lot more loose.
Currently, we’re working as a flat team, with an “everyone does everything” generalist mindset — it’s how we’re able to move quickest. The result is an engineer is jumping in and chatting with customers in Intercom, a product designer taking sales calls, or a hero writing blog content (like this!).
One example of this “everyone does everything” mindset is everyone does customer service.
Whole company support
To start, let’s define what this is; having the whole team on support. Our friends at HelpScout call it Whole Company Support, describing it as:
Whole Company Support makes every team member an active participant in loving customers. Through this method, team members understand their customers’ needs firsthand and are empowered to make daily decisions that meet those needs.
There are countless benefits of everyone doing support but the key ones for us are everyone feeling the burn when something goes wrong and equally everyone celebrating when things go right. Best of all, it means we all get to listen to our customers; to learn from them; to better empathize with their thoughts.
Buffer is an entirely remote company in part because of support coverage. When you can have team members in Sydney working alongside, San Francisco, New York, and London, tickets are always getting answered, and support coverage expands dramatically (possibly even 24 hours).
This leads to decreased response times, anytime coverage for when something breaks, and potentially an even more diverse team.
Being a smaller team, we do not quite have that 24-hour coverage, but we do still enjoy the benefits with coverage from the west coast to Europe!
Taking action quicker
Getting a report of an issue from a team member is entirely different than speaking with a customer directly about it.
As a culture that embraces the value of defaulting to positivity, even the most severe bugs still end up being reported with (at least) four smilies, a gif, and about three please-and-thank-yous. A customer-facing that issue, however, might’ve emailed with sad faces, angry explanations, and a plea for help — and for good reason, something’s broken!
It’d surely be a whole lot easier to have an "I’ll get around to it" mindset when a bug is shared by a teammate. Not so much when you’re feeling a customer’s pain directly.
Our customers are the reason we exist as a company — the reason we get to do the work we love and take home a paycheck for it. That can be easy to forget if you never interact with them. — Emily Triplett Lentz
Being able to see and interact with this customer helps us embrace empathy, to hear that client, and to better act on the issue they see with the priority it deserves.
And as a bonus, think about how awesome of an experience it is for the customer to see an engineer jump in right away and get a fix out — that’s a triumphal moment!
Learning a ton
The thing is, customer service is a bridge between you and the customer. And they’re doing most of the work for you, bringing the issue front and center, and offering a way for you to dive in with them, learn about their frustration, and make it better.
The best signals about what’s wrong come from customer support. ― Cindy Alvarez, Lean Customer Development
On our team, we don’t have a Customer Researcher role. Instead, it is on all of us to learn from our customers, empathize with their pain, talk with them, and at the end of the day, make it better. This could be as simple as updating our website copy (done that), to building an entirely new feature (doing that).
Over to you
We’ve certainly not masters this, and our processes are always evolving based on needs. We’d love to learn from you on how you and your company tackle Whole Customer Support. Let us know what’s working for you over on Twitter @GetRespond — We’ll be replying from Buffer 😀