41: Careers in Support with Matt Dale

41: Careers in Support with Matt Dale

Matt Dale works to build the skills and processes in his team that allow them to move around in the organisation.


I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!

Charlotte Ward  0:13  

Hello, and welcome to Episode 41 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is career progression in support, so stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. Today I’d like to welcome back Matt Dale. Matt the topic for this week is career progression in support and I’d love to know how you manage that.

Matt Dale  0:42  

I think this is a it’s a topic that comes up regularly on our team. People are always asking what does what does, you know, support trajectory look like? Basically, we kind of have a couple different paths. The first is to progress in support moving up as an individual contributor to kind of an expert level. One of our products is a Special Ed product, mostly used in the state of Michigan and the the support person we have on that team. She’s amazing. She handles all the all the support issues. And she’s actually she wrote a lot of the stuff that ended up being used in our system. So she’s an expert in that area. She’s a team of one and she’s completely self sufficient. And so for some people, they could say, hey, I want to be, I want to be like she, she is and I want to I want to grow and become an expert. I don’t want to lead people. And I don’t want to leave support, like I want to be on support, but I just want to be like an expert in my field. And so that’s, that’s one one path, the second path would be to move into to leadership. And then the final path is kind of actually off support. So in our company support is kind of one of the farm teams. That is we bring people in, we train them and then after a year or two, there’s, they know our products they know our customers. And they’re a great transition into a role in QA or to help our customer satisfaction team. You know, or doing some back end stuff, we’re even out in front of the customers. And so we’ve had a lot of people that have grown and moved into some of those other fields. It’s less of a Hey, if you do x y&z, then you can move here in a year and a half, it’s more of a, you know, learn your stuff and be the right kind of person that, you know, if you’re interested in sales, make friends with the sales team and connect with them. And how active Are you in that process? If someone expresses an interest in being a salesperson or moving to QA or whatever, it varies a little bit, typically, we say have have a conversation, your team leads so when we were smaller, and I was having the one on ones with with all the frontline agents, I was very active in the sense that hey, we had one person who wanted to be a developer really bad and it’s like okay, like let’s see if we can connect you some development people let’s see if we can get you like, let’s cherry pick some the tickets and support your actions so that you’re dealing with some gnarlier stuff. And we even had a couple guys on development said hey, let’s let’s, here’s some coursework that we’d love you to take. And you know, over the course of about a year and a half, he worked really hard to progress in that area. In his case ultimately it didn’t work out. He ended up getting married, got life got got busy as it is, it sometimes does, but because of the things that he’d done, when we were starting up QA team and looking for people like hey, we’d really like him. It was a perfect transition point moved from support to QA. And it worked really well. We always encourage people in the one on ones to say, Hey, this is where I’d like to go, or this is what I’m interested in, and then work with them to, you know, kind of guide their guide their path, right. So it’s a little bit of both like more to make sure that we’re open to that. We want to make sure that they have what they need to succeed, but if they’re not putting the effort in, then if they’re not taking advantage of the opportunities that are available, they’re not making those connections with people and developing the skills that are needed then it’s not a guaranteed like, Oh, well, I’ve been here for five years. So I get to move to this role. 

Charlotte Ward  3:37  

You described support as a farm team there for the rest of the organisation. That’s pretty common, right? 

Matt Dale  3:42  

I think so

Charlotte Ward  3:43  

I mean, sometimes intentionally support is really entry level in some organisations and I think a lot depends on geography and culture and and industry and everything. There are a lot of variables at play there, but certainly I have been in organisations where It was a real fight to keep people, particularly when you have a big learning curve for a product set that’s quite disheartening to see people want to move on, as soon as they’ve learned the product. So how do you view that? Do you try and retain good people that have had, frankly, significant investment? And, and I mean, there is I’ve always struggled with that balance of wanting to keep the good people but also allow them to grow. I find that a really difficult internal battle every time I I come up into that situation, how do you deal with that?

Matt Dale  4:31  

We are one of those companies that has a pretty steep learning curve. We kind of joke that for the first six months as a new support agent, you’re basically useless and we’re okay with that. And so in our interview process, we always go through and talk and say, Look, you know, you know, where do you see yourself in five years, and also have a frank conversation like, Look, this is a complex product. The first year we’re investing in you the second year, we kind of expect you to be reinvesting in the team. So that’s when you’re giving back and when you’re helping the next group of people come on board. So really, you know, if you’re, if you’re saying Hey I’m, I’m getting this to open the door to a new job in the company. Like that’s not really going to happen for at least the first year and likely, you know, at least probably the second year as well through that time we’ll help coach you we’ll help get you plugged in so you can be positioned well when the jobs open up with the other teams, you know, helping people up front go, Hey, this is what you’re kind of signing up for. And this is what we’re expecting has been really helpful for us. The other thing you kind of mentioned there was no losing good people. When I first started out in this role, it was really hard because you know, you get this awesome person and then they get pulled off by someone else and now they’re over on development. Darn it like they were doing great work 

Charlotte Ward  5:33  

kind of heartbreaking, isn’t it? 

Matt Dale  5:34  

Yeah, it was heartbreaking and and I kind of had to come to grips with this is my role. This is the role in the company. We’ve set this team up in such a way that we can provide really, really qualified candidates to some other teams and so on product management, who’s going to know the product better than someone that’s been supporting it for a couple of years and has done a really great job of that. I need to be okay with that. And I need to have my processes as a manager of a support team set up so that I’ve got a healthy flow of people coming in every year. I’ve got a good process to onboard and train them as quickly as efficiently as possible. I’ve got good ways to do quality assurance as they’re going through the process so that I know that they’re doing good work and I can help them improve in their abilities quickly, and then I need to be ready when they’re ready to move on whenever they hit their shelf life. If they want to stay here forever, I’m good with that. But if they’re like, Hey, I’m ready to move on in a couple years. I want to honour them and and honour the time they spent with our team to help them move into an appropriate role, but also not cut our team off at the knees. And so I think that takes some planning and as a leader just going okay, like I’m okay with that now. For a while, I used to struggle Oh man they just took this person and now I’m like, that’s how we set it up.

Charlotte Ward  6:40  

That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/41 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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