My first guest on this Customer Support Leaders interview series is the marvelous Meredith Molloy!
Meredith is currently Director of Customer Experience at Purple Carrot, a Massachusetts-based meal delivery service on a mission to empower you to eat more plants. Purple Carrot offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options every week, sending subscribers pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions to create amazing plant-based recipes.
Meredith has been with Purple Carrot for almost two years, and in CS leadership for five.
Hey Meredith! Thanks so much for joining me in this series. First, I’d like to talk about the early stages of your career in Customer Support. Was it your first role?
Career-wise, I landed in customer support a few years out of college. I started fresh out of school in 2008 in an administrative role, followed by a feature writing role at a flash sale site. I craved a role that I could really grow in, and my mentor (the creative copy director at the company I was at, at the time), pointed me in the direction of an opening on the customer service team. Given my personality (outgoing, to say the least), she thought it might be a great fit.
That role opened my eyes to the importance of a stellar end to end customer experience – at that particular company, we partnered with a third party call center, and my role grew internally from handling escalations that bubbled up to the corporate level to cultivating and nurturing that relationship with our call center
I chose a career in CS & CX because it’s the leading department that breaks down silos within a company.
I’ve always loved that CS/CX is an area of a business that touches almost every other department, every single day.
And how long have you been in leadership?
I’ve been in mid-level management for 5 years; I was recently promoted to a director level.
Describe how you made that transition at first… Were you promoted internally? Did you move organisation?
I was promoted internally for the initial senior associate to manager jump. I found the need after a year or so to transition to another organization to start to round out my
There’s so much that goes into being a CS/CX manager – and it wouldn’t do the role or level justice to think it can all be mastered in one manager-level role at one organization.
Every role has challenges… What did you find particularly tough in the first few months?
Delegating! Going from an individual contributor to a manager and leader is challenging. I found that getting out of the weeds (the queue, granular tactical day to day tasks) and into heightened initiatives like strategy creation and bigger picture projects required a conscious effort to do
What makes CS leadership different
A heightened sense of balance and flexibility – often, with CS/CX being so cross-departmental in focus, a leader really needs to bend and flex with the needs of the business, other leaders, and customers. Additionally, being able to pull up and out of the weeds when those on your team are fully in the weediest of weeds, day to day brings a unique challenge to support, specifically.
What skills make a good CS leader?
- Empathy (I cannot stress the human factor of CS & CX enough – it simply cannot be taught!).
- An ability to balance multiple (and sometimes conflicting) goals/opinions – and to think bigger picture as well as recognize the smaller picture impact.
- Being an effective multi-tasker (on any given day, I have 4-5 different initiatives I’m simultaneously leading & driving)
How do you measure your team’s success?
I set a customer experience mantra early on, while developing my company’s customer experience strategy.
We aim to have every customer that connects with us feel as though they were assisted with a sense of urgency (immediacy), in a human way (empathy), and with all of the information they need (knowledgable).
For Customer Advocates on our front lines, their weekly KPIs are a balance of the above – with response times, CSAT, and volume of contacts answered measured. Not one metric is more important than another!
Company-wide, we use quarterly OKRs to prioritize projects from the top down. Supervisor-level contributors are measured based on those goals. For the customer experience as a whole, I look at qualitative, verbatim customer feedback, as well as NPS, Customer Effort Score, Customer Expectation Score, and CSAT. I gauge overall CTO (contact to order ratio) as a barometer of success as well.
Together, these all paint the picture for
And how do you feel about all those metrics…?
Love them, but not a single metric tells the full story. (And you can never ever forget the qualitative feedback as well!)
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to do or learn?
Customer Service & Experience leaders often find themselves adopting pre-established teams at organizations. Finding ways to break the status quo, be confident by taking initiative & create positive change for the customer experience was so challenging earlier in my career.
Innovation doesn’t happen when treading water – having conviction in my CS/CX vision was challenging as a novice leader, but was the most important thing to learn.
I often think CS leadership is misunderstood in a wider context. Do you think there’s a common myth around it?
Yes. That it’s only about Customer Service & Support. It’s not just about handle times and occupancy rates – it’s about the entire customer experience and journey.
Looking back, what do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
Back in 2010, that sooner rather than later, leaders across industries, will really recognize the importance of customers & their experience. I was lucky to start at customer-centric organizations from the get-go, and we certainly wouldn’t be the only ones that came to know that it’s what can and will set companies, products, and services apart.
What’s the best resource you can recommend?
There are countless books, webinars, and podcasts to choose from that focus on customer service and customer experience. Indulge in (literally) as many as you possibly can. You’re able to build your own customer experience philosophy based on what resonates with you and you feel the most passionate about. That’s a key component to being a leader – knowing what you specifically believe in when it comes to CS/CX the most!
I personally enjoy Repeat Customer from Relate by Zendesk as a podcast – their episode on Bark is one I always suggest to my team to listen to. And, of course, the Support Driven community!
What’s a great customer experience you’ve personally had?
I love being able to say that I’ve had so many great customer experiences. I love getting a great customer experience when I least expect it. One of my most recent ones, believe it or not, was with my health insurance company (!).
I called regarding some name change confusion (newlywed here!), and I called outside of normal business hours. Someone answered my call quickly, answered my questions, took care of my claim issue, foresaw another potential issue to get ahead of & resolve, and did so in the kindest tone and genuinely wanted to help. She recognized my recent life event, chatted with me about my wedding, and really took care of what I needed. 10/10 score when I anticipated a hassle.
And was there a correspondingly awful experience you dare tell us about?
I was a longtime devotee of a certain fitness tech brand and purchased a new tracker. It turned out, the model I purchased had some known issues with its’ software (and hardware) that made it essentially defunct. After multiple live chats with varying levels of support, I was told that because it’s a known issue, it was not under warranty and also could not be returned – leaving me with an unusable tracker. I received robotic responses, no estimated timeframe for the fix to occur, and no resolution whatsoever.
I went from a loyal brand advocate for nearly 5 years to a detractor in the span of 24 hours – all because of
And, since endings are always important, my
I tend to use, “Cheers” for slightly casual or “All the best” when a more professional closing is needed. (In general, email closings are awkward though – someone needs to develop a better
Well, then, “Cheers!”, Meredith! Thanks so much for your time!
I couldn’t agree more, I think empathy, flexibility and being an adept task juggler are really important skills in Customer Support leadership. What’s great, when you think about it, is they’re also great skills for anyone in any Customer Support role!
Watch this space for upcoming spotlights with CS Leaders!