This week I had the pleasure of chatting with the brilliant Hannah Baker!
Hannah is Senior Student Help Manager at Magoosh. Magoosh is an online test prep company, on a mission to create products that give students everywhere access to enjoyable, affordable, and effective test prep. Hannah has been at Magoosh for four years, and in leadership for about the same amount of time.
Hey Hannah! Thanks so much for joining me today. I’d love to talk more about your journey into Customer Support as a career, and how you made that leap into management.
I had several years of experience as a test prep tutor, and I was looking for a way to move into a more career-oriented role with that background. I was first hired at Magoosh 4 years ago as a full-time “test prep expert”, who would work directly with students and also manage the remote team of contractors who provided academic email support.
Within weeks I saw that I could be so much more effective in my role if I focused purely on managing and scaling the remote team, so I started doing that work, advocated to be moved to the manager track, and that’s where I’ve been growing ever since!
When I realized so soon after starting my role that I could make the biggest impact through management rather than as an individual contributor working with students, I pitched my ideas to my manager and got approval to shift my focus within the first few weeks. But I was still technically on an individual contributor track. I started the work of scaling the team, writing a playbook for academic support, and putting in place an underlying team structure with development opportunities.
A year into that work I started asking about a switch to the manager track, and another year after that I was officially made a manager. So in my case, the work preceded the title, and I advocated for that move to be considered.
What was particularly challenging in those early days?
Managing people who had been at the company longer than me (because I was brand new!)
It was hard to step in and be an authority figure when I was just finding my feet, but I was totally open to learning from the team, and they were all wonderful in welcoming me and sharing their institutional knowledge.
What sort of qualities make a good CS leader into a great one?
As a CS leader, you’re serving both your customers and your team. So to serve your team well, you need all the same skills you expect them to have in working with customers: empathy, excellent communication, and the ability to problem solve collaboratively.
And to serve customers, I think it’s important to have vision. You don’t just want to give them a good-but-standard experience. You want to wow them with support that goes above and beyond their expectations and experiences with other companies. What is it that they really want (or maybe didn’t even know they wanted), and how can you deliver on it?
And how do you measure that success?
We have a variety of metrics that we use, but the core questions we ask are:
Are our students happy with our support?
Are *we* happy with our support?
Are we contributing to the growth of the company?
I don’t think metrics for metrics’ sake are very useful. Like, what does it mean to have 97% CSAT vs. 98% CSAT? But if you can use them to answer questions you have about your support or your customers, then that’s great (“Are we making steady, incremental improvement?” “Are people less happy now than before we did [x]?” “Is our work on [y] last quarter paying off this quarter?”)
Do you think CS leadership is well understood in the industry?
I’ve come across the idea that customer service leadership just means monitoring each agent’s performance daily, making sure every target is hit and each call/email/chat is handled as it should be. But to me customer service leadership is laying a groundwork for success that enables each individual to make good decisions that are in line with your company values and mission.
Do you have any good or bad customer experiences to tell us about?
I always get frustrated by anything where I can tell that the person I’m talking to is being forced to stick to a script, and they wouldn’t be allowed to help me even if they wanted to. That’s the worst! It’s frustrating for me, and an absolute no-win for the support rep. I feel for them.
And my personal favourite – how do you sign off your emails?
Thanks Hannah! Vision is so important in a service role, you’re absolutely right. Vision defines the whole service, and without vision, there’s no obvious direction to drive in.
Watch this space for another CS Leaders interview next week!