This week, I spoke to the uber-personable Ulrike Pitzschke!
Ulrike is Lead Customer Care Manager at YAZIO, the health and fitness app, created in Germany and designed to help you easily monitor and evaluate your nutritional behaviour. She’s been with YAZIO about one and a half years, and in leadership for three.
Guten Tag, Ulrike! Thanks for taking the time to tell me your story! Where does your CS journey begin?
Well, I started working for YAZIO in October 2018, which was my first job in Customer Support. I started out being the only one doing support for 10 months before we finally found the perfect matches to build out the team 🙂 So in the beginning, I was basically working front line but at the same time trying to improve support strategically.
That’s often the case! Had you been in leadership before that?
Before starting at YAZIO, I worked for an IT-Company for 5 years where I managed a Pre-Sales team. When starting at YAZIO, my position was called Customer Care Manager from the beginning but due to the fact that we had a hard time finding employees for the front line, I did not get to manage a team at first. I just worked the queue most of the time instead. But now, we’ve already hired 2 people for the front line, which gives me more time for strategic considerations, networking etc.
In the end, I think it is very good that I worked front-line for nearly 1 year myself. I know what bothers agents who work with 1st level tickets all the time and I can relate to those challenges. Also, I still jump in, especially in high season, which is January for us. I still deal with most of the 2nd level issues and communication with developers myself.
Especially after being a one-woman-show for quite a while, it was a big change for me to involve other people in the process and to make sure that I delegated the right tasks. I also had to communicate more e.g. with internal notes or via Slack. I realised myself that working in support can be nerve-wracking at times, I wanted to ensure that everyone is happy and doing okay, not getting too emotionally involved with challenging or rude requests (we have quite a few, unfortunately). I had to make sure to combine quality and quantity. We receive about 1500 requests every week in “normal times”, so the process needs to be as efficient as possible. Which lead me to the point that I needed to create the content (help base articles, macros for support etc.), that the agents actually needed in order to work efficiently.
You’ve been a leader before, but now you’ve made the move into CS Leadership, what skills do you think are necessary in the role?
In my opinion, working front line themselves for some time plays a crucial role in being a good CS leader. Also, especially when working remotely as I do, reading between the lines is important. And the same goes for being a good listener, too. Your team members are the direct face to your customer, so you have to make sure that they are feeling ok and don’t get frustrated! A good CS leader should also be able to translate a developer’s statement to customer language. For me, being a good leader, in any industry, is mostly about soft skills.
How do you measure your team’s success?
Two ways! The hard facts: Customer Satisfaction, first response time, tickets solved. But there are the softer “measures”, too: asking them how they are feeling, double-checking on some of the tickets they solved, that kind of thing.
The fact is, that making things measurable is important especially when a team is growing; for budget discussions and reporting to the CEO. But metrics are not the most important thing to me.
How do you grow? And help your team to grow, too?
For my team, I love giving feedback on tickets they solved or were not able to solve. We talk tickets through if they are unsure of anything, and for me, it’s always important that they actually learn and understand instead of just solve the ticket. For 2nd level support, I involve them in discussions with the developers from time to time, so they learn “the language” and will be able to do 2nd level soon, too. I also love to share blog posts, podcasts or books that I find interesting!
For me, I love the Support Driven community, too. I get a lot of advice on a personal and technical note from the community and it inspires me in my daily work. And then, I also love networking in (mostly) online communities, podcasts and blog posts, too. For 2020, I would love to visit some conferences/workshops and attend meetups.
What are your current challenges as a leader?
Since I am still involved in 2nd Level, I am not having that much time for strategic development as I thought I would have. I spend a lot of time answering questions from the agents, which of course is a good thing, because I want them to ask and understand. However, I do not have enough time for my own tasks and topics yet.
I have found that it’s important to set boundaries in order to ensure a professional working environment. As much as I care about the person behind the role they are covering, I still have to watch out for the performance overall. So it has been quite hard for me to ask one of the agents why their performance has dropped and discuss it with them. I usually start reflecting myself and ask what I could have done better as a leader which, for me, is always a good start.
Do you have any memorable customer stories?
The best was a person who wrote: “Hello again! I’m sorry for sending my last mail without saying: Thanks for your help! Kind regards” + everyone getting back saying they are happy about the support 🙂
The worst… well, I’m sorry to say someone calling me/us a f***ing b**ch because we did not do a refund for her.
That kind of behaviour is tough on agents! And never, ever warranted. How do you stay sane in all this?
I take care of myself and my personal needs in the first place and I establish routines for my daily work. It’s the only way!
I have to ask, what’s your favourite way to sign off?
Thanks so much for your time, Ulrike! I hope you managed to maintain that distance you need under some trying circumstances!
Watch this space next week for another interview with another awesome CS Leader!
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