Meet Drew. He’s the manager of the awesome software support team at NextDocs. He’s been in some sort of support role since 2007 so he’s got some great things to share.
What’s your typical day like?
My typical day starts with a quick scan of my email and our ticketing system to make sure the world isn’t ending and then off to stand-up with the team where we discuss what’s going on and any blocking issues. After that I try to make a pass at my email and get responses back to anything that’s waiting for me. Then it’s on to the ticket queue where I’m checking to make sure that nothing has been waiting too long and grabbing any tickets from my clients that have come in.
Throughout the day I’m constantly looking at our support dashboard, this allows me to quickly and easily see how we’re doing as a team, things like whether our open tickets and survey scores are trending up or down in a given day and which clients have been sending in the most tickets. Sprinkle in a few meetings and the day gets full pretty quickly!
How did you get into customer support?
It was a complete accident! A friend was able to get me a job testing software and on my first day there they said “Oh yeah, you’re doing support too.” The first few weeks there was a lot of putting people on hold while I desperately searched for an answer but once I got the hang of it I found I really enjoyed helping people.
What’s one app that you couldn’t do without?
One? You’re kidding, right? I can’t pick just one. It’s also worth noting that I’m a (mostly) happy Windows 8 user so I can’t use all the cool Mac apps you’re constantly reviewing. 🙂 But for me if you hand me a new PC today these are some of the first things going on it.
- AutoHotkey– Because we all agree that text snippets are awesome.
- Dropbox / SkyDrive– Because having your files everywhere is a no brainer.
- Greenshot– Because screenshots are essential in support and having a built-in editor is pretty awesome.
- Notepad++– Because language formatting, pretty XML, tabs…
- Spotify– Because I’m a cranky panda without my music.
How do you handle feature requests that you know aren’t going to make it into your product?
This one is tough but I think our number one goal as support people is to make the customer feel like they’re being heard. That means lots of listening and making sure I actually understand what they’re asking for and why they want it. I like to shoot every suggestion we get (though admittedly it isn’t many) over to our product team just so that they have a sense of how people are using the product and what they’re trying to do. I think the customer likes knowing that even if it’s not likely that their feature will be included any time soon (if ever) that they’ve been heard and that we’re advocating on their behalf.
The flip side of this is that there’s almost always some other way to do what they’re looking for. My job in that case is to hear how they want to do things and then present them with how it can be done with their current configuration. Situations like this are when getting on the phone and firing up a screen share are necessary because I find it’s a lot easier to understand what the user is thinking if I can watch them try to do it. From there it’s usually a pretty quick trip to something that meets their needs.
Give us your best piece of advice for people who want to be a customer support pro.
Learn empathy. Seriously, the job is all about dealing with people. I don’t think customers are just looking for answers, they want to understand. They’ve bought or been issued this tool and they want to know the best way to use it. There’s a big difference between a hammer in the hands of a 10-year-old kid and a master carpenter and that difference comes from a lot of learning and being shown how to use it.
In the software world, a lot of that teaching falls to us in support. As good as our help sites and FAQs and wikis get, a lot of times that learning comes down to 2 people connecting for a few minutes and asking and answering questions till the breakthrough happens. Those are the moments that make the job fun.
Beyond that, just keep learning because there’s always going to be something new. Figure out what’s missing in your skill set and then go out and fill those gaps. There’s plenty of resources out there for people who are willing to put in the work.
Where can people find you on the Interwebs?
This is part of our new Customer Support Pros series. Know someone who’s a support pro? Drop me a line!