This week, I’m thrilled to have spoken to the remarkable Mike Redbord!
Mike is the General Manager of the Service Hub at HubSpot. HubSpot is a leading growth platform, comprised of Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Service Hub, and a powerful free CRM.
Mike has been with HubSpot for nine years, and in leadership for seven.
Hey Mike! So pleased to get to talk with you about CS leadership this week. Thanks for making the time!
As always, I like to start with understanding more about the early stages of your career in Customer Support.
Can you tell me how you got into it?
My first job out of college was as a client-facing analyst at a data startup, Compete.com. I spent my time building datasets, reports, and then flying around presenting them to our clients! I was way over my skis, just out of school, but loved building that business.
That said, my service start began well before — running eco-friendly daycamps for kids in high school, for instance. So, I view my roots in support as going back much farther than my traditional “service” experience, and think a lot of support professionals do, too.
Like a lot of people, I also kind of fell into Customer Support, to be honest. It turned out I was empathetic, outcome-oriented, and solution-aware enough to be good at it. Nowadays, I’m happy building a career in CS!
And how did you get into leadership?
I was working at HubSpot with customers all day doing onboarding, which was basically a support function at the time. That day-to-day consisted of more than a dozen customer calls a day, and I burned out pretty hard at that pace after a few years. I got together with my boss at the time, explained my predicament – that I love our company but needed a change.
We were growing, and there was an opening to run a small team doing one-to-many onboarding. I jumped at it! It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but it was close enough, and got me the change that was most important to me at the time: mixing up my day-to-day and learning new skills.
Were those early stages challenging?
I took over a team with 3 people, all of whom I’d worked with in the past. So I had these pre-existing 1:1 relationships, but all as peers/friends. Changing that into being “the boss” was difficult: I had to self-actualize my new role, and then, in some ways, sacrifice the existing relationships in service of where I wanted to take the team.
What I’ve learned is that leadership is less about motivating speeches to large groups, and more about incredible clarity in 1:1 settings. That’s where the rubber meets the road as a leader, and it’s how you build energy toward your goals.
What’s your approach to metrics?
Metrics are the way we measure where we clearly define where we to go.
Mission is the way we talk about where we want to get to.
Choosing the right metrics, and wrapping them in the right mission, is the way we can win. So, metrics are critical — without them, you’re not being specific enough about your goals to actually achieve them.
Have you learned any particularly tough lessons?
Yes, to solve for the company when it’s contrary to the interests or the will of the team. Sometimes teams can get overly focused on their goals and miss the ultimate aim of the business, and course correcting that as a leader is one of the hardest tasks we do.
Do you think Customer Support is well understood by other leaders?
I think people think that customer service leadership is primarily about answering customer questions quickly.
Getting answers to customers is part of the day-to-day, but there’s an incredible amount of delicate work that goes into creating that outcome. Setting mission, defining goals and metrics, hiring, training, innovation, and more. These are “general leadership” types of work and great CS leaders are great at them, in service of getting customers what they need.
Do you have any great resources that you can recommend?
Yes, it’s simple – work for amazing people! Join companies with CEOs that you think “get it” and you can watch and learn from. You’ll spend more time at work, and working on your work, than reading any book or attending any class. Use your time wisely: be unreasonably picky about who you work for.
What was your best customer experience?
We had a kind of “perfect storm” in support that lasted a month or two once. We ran really long phone wait times during this era. While on hold with us one day, a customer of ours tweeted that our hold music sounded like what they hear while getting a massage!
I, in some kind of moment of clarity (or not), looked up this customer in our CRM and sent her a gift certificate for a massage near her office. So far, not so crazy.
But I’ve been telling this story for a few years…and one time, when telling this story in front of around 1000 people at a conference, I hear a “that’s me” from the back!
I turn beet red, realize the world is tiny, and have met up with this customer of ours each year at that conference since!
And there’s always a worst… what’s yours?
The worst customer experiences I’ve created are often about “overservicing” something.
We apply a solution for a customer, or a set of customers, and that moment of “overservice” sets us up for a long, painful, unsupportable road. I’ve learned to say “no” and save myself, my team, my customers a bunch of pain.
You said I should ask this, so I will… what do new CS leaders get wrong
I’ve seen a lot of new CS leaders, especially those who come up through the team, solve for their team first. It’s not unreasonable to do so — the team is there, in front of you every day, and issues like leveling, compensation, and performance are important. But at the end of the day, it’s the customer’s experience that CS leaders are hired to architect, not their teams.
New CS leaders often solve for their team’s experience first and their customers second, when they should be solving for the customer’s experience first and molding the team to best serve their customers.
The funny thing is, when you focus on the customer and make that experience amazing, your team’s life gets so much better, too! Happy customers are a joy to work with, after all. I’d encourage all new CS leaders to take the hard way, focus on the customer first, and trust that the team experience will come together as the customer experience improves.
And my perennial favourite… how do you sign off an email?
I don’t think I’ve written an email sign-off in years!
Thanks, Mike! I love the idea that we should all craft for the customer first, and trust everything will follow. That’s probably something we should all bear in mind, new leader or old hand!
Thanks for your time!
Watch this space next week for more CS leadership wisdom!