This week, I got talking to the fantastic Valerie Figueroa!
Valerie is Customer Success Manager at Neosensory, the Bay Area startup which builds wearables that bring sensory augmentation to the masses. Valerie just started at Neosensory a month ago and has been in leadership around about ten years.
Hi Valerie! Thanks so much for joining me today! Let’s talk about your early days in CS… where did it all begin?
I’ve always been in customer-facing roles beginning way back in the early 2000s right out of high school working at Mervyn’s. My first “real” customer support job began in 2016 at a BPO called Voxpro doing tier 1 support for Nest (Google).
How did you make the move to leadership?
It really began when I was at Starbucks, I was trained for speciality roles like Barista Trainer and Coffee Master and then promoted a few times in and out of Supervisor roles. In the support world I moved up from Tier 1 to Quality Lead within my first 9 months of working there and just kept going.
Tier 1 to Quality was easy for me because I had always been in a mentor or trainer type role. I was training and preparing to move into a call center Manager role when I decided I wanted to try my hand at something different with a brand new startup contract we had. It was not necessarily a manager role but a leadership role where I would be training, overseeing the program, and monitoring quality for a new startup. I got to shape everything from the policies, workflow, tools, training, all of it.
That must have been a challenge!
Yes! in that new role my biggest challenge was walking the line between leader and manager because they had a manager. While I did have authority, I was not the authoritarian so it was a challenge for me to stay in my lane so to speak.
You’ve seen leadership in all sorts of organisations. Do you think there are common threads to be found in the good leaders?
I think above all else, willingness to get your hands dirty and shoulder the burden always makes for a good foundation for any leader. Transparency. Fairness. Empathy. Those are all very important skills and traits a leader should have.
How do you measure success?
Since I’m a team of one right now, I’m measuring my success by seeing positive outcomes for customers, retention, and growth for our product and revenue streams.
I love metrics, but they don’t always tell the story. It’s important to highlight KPIs but there is ALWAYS a story behind them and it’s important to communicate the how and why behind numbers, or else they are meaningless.
What’s your approach to personal development?
I get to know folks and their interests inside and outside of work and if I have wisdom to offer I do, or I find folks who they can connect with to continue to grow. I always ALWAYS share Support-Driven to the ones who express interest in developing themselves.
And for me, I ask for constant feedback from peers and actually take it to heart. Self-awareness is really important to me and when I am being the most self-aware is when I am able to grow the most personally.
What’s the biggest way you’ve had that personal growth?
For the longest time, I used to equate leadership with management. Learning the difference between the two has been mindblowing. It took many failures to understand that I could influence and lead without being a manager.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to do or learn?
The hardest thing I’ve ever learned is that I am not cut out for management, but I make a great leader. Learning how to separate the two for me was the most difficult thing of my career aside from learning how to be more palatable to broad audiences.
“The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead” is hands-down the best book I’ve ever read about navigating the corporate world as a strong woman who is promotion-minded. If you find yourself being passed up for promotions, or being blindsided by decisions your leadership team makes for you… read this book!
Do you have any stories of great customer experience?
CHEWY. I love them. I purchased a dog bed that ended up being way smaller than advertised and so when product rating time came around I gave it a solid 3. I never expected anything to come of this. Damn near the next day I get a heartfelt email from a CS rep saying how they stand by their products and were sad to learn I wasn’t happy. They had proactively refunded my order and advised me that instead of throwing it away, to donate it to a local shelter. Melted my heart. Later on I also got a handwritten birthday card for my pup.
Where is the worst customer experience to be found?
Comcast, pre 2019… California Unemployment Office… DMV…
My favourite one for last – how do you sign off an email?
Cheers, Valerie! Thanks so much for spending time telling me your story.
Watch this space for another leadership interview next week!