101: Panel: Return to Normality

101: Panel: Return to Normality

This week we return to a panel season, and ask six of my regular guests how normality will look in Support as we enter the “new normal”.


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 0:12
Hello and welcome to Episode 101 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week marks are returned to our panel seasons and today we’re talking about returning to normality. Today I’d like to welcome back a collection of guests your all previous podcast guests. So that’s Welcome to Simone Secci to Greg Skirving to Craig Stoss to Lauren Rose Eimers to Hillary Dudek and Ash Rhodes. Thanks so much for joining me today. Again, everyone on the podcast as we returned to a short season of panels And this is the first of that panel series, talking about returning to normality or indeed, returning to something of a new normal. And I think most of us are certainly some of us on this panel got together as we entered this COVID crisis several months ago. And I think the first thing I’d like us all to think about and talk about is how we saw the crisis as we went into it, and what our experiences were, and how reality differed from our expectations at that point.

Lauren Rose Eimers 1:33
So to talk about, you know, what my thoughts were, before we really started down this path at the beginning of the spring. I honestly, and I’m sure many of you have similar takes on this, but there really wasn’t a playbook from for any of us to pull from. There wasn’t even mentors in my life that had lived through something like this that I could reach out to and say like, hey, how is this gonna go House is going to play out. And truly, the data that we were using, at least in my country, I’m located in the United States was pulled back from, you know, the 1900s, early 1900s is what we were using to see like how we may be able to track this. And there weren’t a lot of computers back then. And there wasn’t a lot of customer support teams either. So, really, at the beginning of all of this, I really didn’t have any expectations. But I did know, being flexible and being open to drastic changes. I either be with the team as a whole, if people were going to be out sick for weeks on end. Luckily, we were a remote only team to begin with, but also how it would look with people needing to be, you know, more involved with childcare if they were parents, maybe shouldering more weight if their partner had lost their job or their partner became sick. So there were just so many boxes to check. I think, at least the way that I navigated it was I’ve got to stay open. And I got to stay flexible to how we’re going to kind of pivot and where we need to pivot, depending on what comes our way.

Greg Skirving 3:17
Yeah, I think, you know, there’s two sides to this coin. In many ways, the the jobs that we didn’t change didn’t do change, right. We still have customers, we still support them. Right when you get right down to it. Obviously being forced to do it from home, being separate from peers, and obviously people that we work with presented challenges. I found that working with external groups, that was that was a real challenge. You know, my folks have typically worked from home so we know how to do that. But if there was an issue with a system or something, and we needed to involve different groups, working with development where we could walk down the hall, that came a challenge that, that we didn’t really expect. And, you know, I think we got over it quickly. But, you know, to your point, Lauren, there’s, you know, there’s no playbook for this, there’s, you know, we we took issues as they came and tried to handle them as best as we could.

Simone Secci 4:18
Yeah, too, that’s a really good point about like, the, you know, the external teams like the themes of site support, because similar to what Greg just said, like my team is F fully remote and AF like always been almost like flexible. Even the people were working on the one office and we had a certain relationships with, you know, engineers and that we worked with directly in office and then rebuilding that relationship with people that are not used to work remotely. It was pretty complex in terms of like the when we communicate and Considering, you know, the, like, for example, like communicating when there were emergencies, like, they were immediate certain things like our soon they were needed. It was complex to explain I think, too, external people and then I would say from a human perspective, I did not envision like are involved I will be in in a role of like, being the only manager in the company. They had an experience with remote teams and sort of like, giving guidance to other managers, which I really felt unqualified for, in terms of like, just how to do remote management in general, because I knew how to manage my team, but I it was something that like, it was hard to all of a sudden teach other people so that this this, you know, this investment in this role, and this People reaching out to me in that sense, there was something that I didn’t put into account and then became, in the first month, the first two months of this crisis, like a solid engagement for me took like, pretty much half of my time. In our case,

Ash Rhodes 6:14
I won. I actually missed that podcast, I myself was sick. But I, we found that it was we were all fully remote as well. So it was no adjustment whatsoever as far as infrastructure or anything. But we had an enormous increase in customer signups and interactions and so on. And because we had such a huge, very quick influx, we were in no way prepared for it. We had to scale very, very fast and we did not do so as well as we could have. And so our customers were upset at us. And we would have, I would love to say that that you know, the everybody like, banded together and our customers would understand because everybody is struggling at this time and so on. But no, they weren’t just brutal. They were brutal at every point that like, they were stuck inside and they weren’t getting answers within five minutes. And so like even even a normal like SLA that people would expect to get of like an hour, no people were were writing in and then not getting an answer within 10 minutes. They were writing back again, with the kind of vitriol that you would never expect. And so that was what we experienced, and it was unpleasant. It was unexpected. So it felt like we were getting away. People punching across because they couldn’t punch experiences that they were having problems like what they were really mad at.

Hilary Dudek 8:10
We had a very similar situation to you ash. And we saw a huge increase in our volume as far as patients are concerned because patients were now stuck at home, trying to upload their data to their doctor. What saved us from scaling, and having to do so, so quickly was the fact that our partner volume and our volume dropped dramatically. So it balanced out. We just had patients. But our situation was very much the same in every other way they were writing in and if they didn’t get a response, within 510 minutes, they were calling and texting and emailing again. There’s a lot of anger in the interactions and for my agents who are also dealing with all of the uncertainty on their own personal lives. With their spouses or some people being sick or you know, loss of jobs trying to home school, it was very overwhelming for them to have to deal with in this anger from people stuck at home.

Ash Rhodes 9:14
Right? Yeah. And and I don’t know about you, Hillary but I, I can imagine that I found myself playing, not just suffer with the angry customers quite a lot but also a very, very amateur psychiatrist to my my representatives. And so on a personal level that was that was my big problem was trying to make sure that the mental and emotional health of my representatives was taken care of, and that was, was an issue.

Hilary Dudek 9:48
Yes, it’s very draining and I experienced the same as well, and I mean, it is part of the job and it can be very rewarding but in a pandemic, when you don’t know why to expect it all, and it is very, very draining

Craig Stoss 10:05
was also not just the COVID situation, but then with the kind of the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movements that also increased. No need for checking in mental health of everyone. You know, it was it was, there was a lot of things that piled up. And I think that caused a lot of change on our side as well. As far as change specifically to COVID. And to deal with the anger as ash and Hillary talked about, we actually altered our channels. We were having hold times that were 10 x 20 x of what the averages were before COVID. And, and we decided to go fully to callbacks only. So we turned our telephone into into an IVR which would just allow you to input your number and a time for callback and we actually saw our Are cset take a huge dive and then go right back. Not all the way. Because people still were angry, they couldn’t get us directly on the phone immediately. But the feedback we got was was incredibly positive that they’d rather take two minutes to fill out a form online basically, or through the,

Ash Rhodes 11:18
through the IVR. than

Craig Stoss 11:22
than wait for two, three hours on a phone call.

Unknown Speaker 11:25
I did not have that same reaction from people they were overflowing the phone line so much that I had to change the IVR let them know like, unfortunately, we do have to triage through email first. were not able to call back right away. So please don’t leave a message please, you know, submit an email and our cset took a hit and people were not happy with it at all. So that was another struggle as well back down to everything else that was going on. Also, I don’t know about anybody else, but the Volume Two was very hit or miss and I still Not sure why but so volume leaked dramatically in April for us. And which I thought, okay, assigning with everyone stuck at home, that’s okay. It dropped dramatically. And Megan, now it’s kind of coming back. It’s very all over the place. So it makes forecasting incredibly difficult.

Charlotte Ward 12:20
I think that there’s two big things I’m taking away here. One is that you’re probably working practices changed for certainly for people who weren’t remote and for teams, you you weren’t used to working remotely, even even partially. That’s a huge change. But there’s also been a big change for us all in our, in our team infrastructure and working practices, even if we’re already remote. Right. I think that’s, that’s very clear. And I think that actually the last time around, we talked about this on the panel. However, many million years ago it was that we recorded, you know, the customer communications In a crisis, one of the things I very distinctly remember Sarah Betts saying who was on that panel, which was that this isn’t customer support from home, it’s customer support from quarantine. And that is a really different thing. So I think that the way we operate internally is changed. But the other thing you’re all saying is that the nature of the work itself has changed as well. Customers are behaving differently in terms of how they interact with us, customers are behaving differently and how they want to be supported by us. Right.

Simone Secci 13:33
Yeah, one thing that I think it might be a shared experience for everyone is that before this, you know, you you get called on the special cases, the exceptions, the edge cases, you get called for an OB Nian for L by agents, you know, and golden eggs and things like that. But like I felt in during this experience, that everything was an edge case. Everything was an exception to make money. Many people at like, specific and traumatic life events due to the, you know, the health situation or the economic situation. So people that maybe bought something and then lost their job or the company failed, or you know, all of this like, incredibly like difficult life events, and you want to, you know, the policies that they you plan that like wouldn’t apply applicable anymore. And you have to make decisions on the spot based on you know, empathy and and something that made sense for the business at the same time. And this decisions for me were like multiplying the level, I would say templayer compared to what it was before.

Craig Stoss 14:53
I mean, that to me is is the key point, right. I the one thing I hope comes out of this for the future is We realise that policies and hard, you know, hard coded responses don’t work in all situations, we need to be flexible, we need to focus on what is the right resolution. I was travelling when all this started, and I got, I just received my last refund that I was due two days ago. And that that was so that’s a period of what three or four months that I was out a lot of money and some people, you know, I was lucky, I could be able to carry that about a debt and I still have a job and I you know, I’m very privileged that way, but some people can’t. And so, as a company, you need to reevaluate, you know, you told me I was getting a refund, why did it take me three and a half months to get that from a company when it takes them a microsecond to take off my car in the first place? So these are things I think, I hope change where they can review all these policies. And then of course, there’s companies that weren’t giving refunds that probably should have been because their policy said no loss loss. I think that can be worked into a support department when it comes to empathy and process assessment. So a great point.

Lauren Rose Eimers 16:07
Just to dovetail off of that, Craig, I think you bring up another point on top of your important point is that it was really interesting to see what companies were the companies that were worried about their interaction and how they left the customer feeling, depending on what was going on. And the companies that retracted and really started holding the cards closer to the vest, becoming less generous with things like refunds or grace periods. And I mean, I say this all the time people are, they’re not going to remember the lines in the email, but they’re going to remember how you made them feel. And they’re going to take that forward if they choose to interact with your product or your company again, or they’re going to tell their friends about it. More likely, if it was a negative experience, that nobody really shares when they had a bad experience. Those are few and far between and that’s okay. That’s just how people work. But people sharing that negative feeling and that negative experience are going to let those folks know. And so I’m interested to see the ripple effects of this down the road, maybe not this year, but in a few years to see which companies really rose to the company ethics and showed themselves to be full of empathy to human beings worried about their fellow human being. And then those that either remain silent, especially with Black Lives Matter movement, which is so important and the change that is so needed in the United States and in our world. And the ones that just decided to say, you know what, I’m going to sit this one out. So there are some positives, I think, not only as a person working for a company that I’m very proud of, and believe in our company ethics and ethos, but just to figure out the companies that I was still supporting. And now I’m like, Ooh, yeah, yuck, cancel. No, thank you. Let’s find somebody else. So there’s some there’s some good education that’s going on. Even though I feel It’s been a very difficult education path for many of us.

Charlotte Ward 18:03
Yeah, I think that evil segues very nicely into my second discussion point, which so often happens. Which, which is really what does that, that near future in support look like? we’ve, we’ve touched a little bit on now and some of the things that we’d like to see carry through in terms of our customers, how companies behave with their customers. What do you think is kind of near future looks like in support? What should companies take with them as we come out of this crisis?

Greg Skirving 18:34
I think I think the first thing is the whole work from home thing. There was such a stigma on working from home, you know, people can’t be managed, etc. And I think that that’s, that’s been proven to be a fallacy. I think that that opens up opportunities for both employees and employers for employment opportunities. You know, timezone notwithstanding. But I think, I think in I’ve had many conversations with people recently, with respect to to work from home. And, you know, to every person I talked to, people are more productive. I think that I think that for people that didn’t work from home, you know, I’m not quite sure they knew how to handle that. But, you know, I think people are starting to get into a routine. And, you know, I going into the office and bricks and mortar has hard timelines, you know, five o’clock, you know, I’m gone, right, which means 430 I’m starting to check out now. You know what, I mean? I got a half hour drive, but it’s quarter after five. Yeah, I can take I can take care of something fairly quickly. So I think I think people people’s mindsets from working from the actual people working from home has had a few months to understand what it really means. And of course, management. I never had this problem, but I think management generally has said yeah, you know, people can work remotely and and it’s it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing.

Ash Rhodes 20:15
I didn’t want to immediately jump to that because as a longtime remote work advocate, that’s always just the belt that I’m bringing. But yes, Greg, I completely I hope that’s the the lesson that everybody takes away is that this is a not just a legitimate thing, but but a good thing and I hope that people also start to actually put some, some codification behind it because frequently remote work, is this a morphus blob. And to kind of tack on to something that Greg was saying was that like at 430 in a brick and mortar thing, people are starting to kind of check out and so that they’re gone by five, but with remote work frequently, especially these companies that They’re just trying it out. They’re like, Oh, well, people are just working from home, let’s just set a meeting for ATM, because who cares? People, there’s, there’s someone that I mentor that was talking about how that that was not something I just pulled out of my ear. Like, literally she was having problems with meetings at 8pm that they were setting. And finally the the rest of the employees just stood up and said that this is not a good thing. companies are starting to realise some of their toxic business practices and put some boundaries in place and so on. And hopefully that’s the moving forward is that people are realising that, that remote work is a legitimate thing that has to have some good standard processes and practices and so on and they can they can actually work right for everybody, the world over.

Simone Secci 21:57
And I think two things I think very The I hope that will be carried over as lessons. One is that, you know, certainly during a pandemic, that cause a global financial crisis. I think most companies are not, like look into sort of being in an offensive position, like launching new products, investing a lot in development, like a lot of that. Specifically during this time, then, you know, obviously, like, you have to get out of it at some point and look towards the future or like during this specific, I don’t know, three months, four months that we have behind us now, I think, more so than ever. Success teams support teams, like product feedback, became really like a central nervous system of companies that people had a lot to say. They were they had a lot of time at home. They had a lot of them. emotions, like a lot of extreme emotions, and they need people to listen to them. So I think there may be in companies where support their success wareness valued before because, you know, all their aspects were valued more, or they’re more offensive aspects. That’s a, I think the role of like support and success became Central and important in defending like important aspects of the business like retention, for example. And then yeah, I mean, I’ve been working from all my first time in 2008, you know, in different facets outside of tech, but I’ve been an advocate of this for a very long time. And I think they’re also technically speaking for a lot of companies maybe moving away from phones and discovering this aspect of like, videoconferencing, how to apply it to support How do you know to apply and to account management or sales stuff that they did maybe haven’t done as much before. Like how we are going to do this in the future apply it to our processes and not being just something that it was done as a reaction, but something that is done with like for process and a blame

Charlotte Ward 24:22
other any other aspects to this that then remote work though do you think? I think one one thing that he said seminar about this increased leaning on the support team, this increased realisation that support is a key part of the business that has come. This I get the sense is kind of certainly been magnified during this time of crisis that I think it could. I think that it really reinforces that your support team are the people who sit In that gap between the customers and the rest of your company, right. And that probably means they could stand a chance to take, take some advantage of this, if there is an advantage to be had, that that they can they can continue to embed that going forward and get involved in more parts of the business, get involved in more conversations, bring, bring that relationship to bear in in all sorts of ways across the business.

Ash Rhodes 25:29
There is a conversation that I had with someone recently, and I don’t know if the broad adoption of remote work will change it, but I hope that it will. There’s this practice that pay is very different within a company, depending on if they live in San Francisco, versus if they live in Moscow versus if they live in Berlin, etc. And some companies have Really strong practice of doesn’t matter where you live. If you are a CS rep, tier one, this is what you get paid. Whereas other companies are like, if you are a tier one rep and you live in a low cost of living city, you get paid X amount, but if you live in a high cost of living, you get paid y amount. And that’s always seemed very unfair to me. Because what if I start out in San Francisco but moved to, I don’t know, middle of nowhere Kansas? Are they going to downgrade my pay? As far as I’m aware? They don’t. So I just gave myself a huge raise. Or do just because I live in a high cost of living city compared to my co worker who lives and I don’t know. How do I Why do I get paid so much More. So I hope that there will, this will end up with a little bit of pay equality across the board. It’ll open people’s eyes up to the fact that that just because somebody lives in a different place, geographically doesn’t mean that they are worthless.

Lauren Rose Eimers 27:24
Also maybe looking at how the more caring services in the tech world like customer support and customer success, the way that we’re compensated in comparison to others who have harder skills, that people that are coding the people that are fixing bugs, versus the folks that are on the front line, and we’re answering phones or answering emails and doing the emotional labour that historically at least in the United States, has not been compensated well, or it isn’t even compensated at all in many cases. So I think that also if we could look at that and see the value, that customer support and success, do Bring to a company as a whole, and then be compensated for those soft skills as opposed to the harder skills that seemed to be seeing the, you know, their price tag go up, whereas our soft skills of empathy, care and concern, you know, all right, well, we’re just gonna pay half that.

Ash Rhodes 28:17
I mean, I don’t know if remote work is going to change that but it is like you’re reading my dream diary at this point. So

Charlotte Ward 28:24
I think some of the talk around pay quality is and like so many parts of this, I think is becoming more front of mind because we’re great getting greater insights given that we’re all remote at the moment into the lives of our co workers. I think there’s a an increased intimacy for want of a better word with our co workers. We are effectively in their home offices in the corner of a bedroom and on on one end of the sofa while their spouses at The other end of the sofa, or whatever, so we have this kind of increased familiarity perhaps is a better word. We have this increased familiarity with our co workers that historically we might not have had particularly for those teams who were office based where you park half of yourself before you walk in the office building and you presented it an entirely different you to do both different two different parts of your life. Right. Do you think that this situation has increased that familiarity, but maybe also given a greater transparency to the way we operate as individuals and, and as teams within a company?

Simone Secci 29:38
Um, I don’t know about transparency, but like, I think that, like Ash made a good point about the factors. Like I would like to pick it to pick up on that like, the what factors determine how somebody is paid, like, Are we going to base that on location? Are we going to base that on a roll and experience? Are we going to look at like events of life like you were saying, like I started in a certain place and move to another place circumstances in my life change? Like, I don’t know, I get married I have four children like stuff like that, are we completely ignoring that? Because of like, whatever reason or is that becoming more fluid and included in the hour we would look at people’s career and you know, situations that are not necessarily their professional path, like this pandemic influence their career path, like what is our point of view from an HR perspective going to radically change because of like the events that we have seen? I can think of like the fact that you know, there have been many articles. So now people are leaving Silicon Valley and taking pay reductions. So what brought them there? You know, ultimately, it’s not, I guess, so strong to keep them there right now, that’s just an example or how companies, you know, are looking into filling pay gaps with between men and women that, you know, are looking into the Craig mentioned before, like, there was innovation in the US and in the rest of the world, where, you know, with the equality for people of all like race, and, and it needs these and, you know, like, look into putting more equality in the eye or places within a company at the sea level when it counts, you know. So I guess that’s a lot. There’s a large conversation about all of this, that maybe we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Craig Stoss 31:54
I mean, along those lines, what this actually brought to light for me was something I never considered is inequality and it’s your living space, you know, to the point you just made, you know, people get to Charlotte say, you know, people crammed on the couch with significant others because there’s nowhere else to go or sitting at the kitchen table. And so and they’re those all bring different problems, you know, we had a recent survey to check on the pulse of the company, and their their feeling and their mental health since the going fully remote. And one of the questions was, is, you know, do you have a room to work in where you can close the door? And, and I, what an incredible question to ask, right? Because, you know, it didn’t matter. When you were in the office, whether you had a room, you know, you you lived your life in a place that you could afford and you were hopefully comfortable in. And now it matters a little bit more of what your layout of your house is. And so that was a thing that I think really came to light For me as a leader, you know, when I, when I’m on these, these zoom calls with, with my co workers and peers, and seeing the different struggles of, you know, children running through the background or a partner trying to get a, you know, a snack while you’re sitting at the kitchen table and in the noise and the distraction and the disruption that that brings. So that was a really interesting thing that I had never considered as part of a professional leadership position.

Charlotte Ward 33:27
Yeah, that greater transparency is is an interesting one, that greater insight into people’s lives, I think is a really it can give us greater empathy for our co workers. But I think we have to be really honest that it could potentially open us up to biases that we might not have had, as well. I think if I’m being if I’m being really honest here, I think you know, there there are times when things become difficult and I’m I’ve just had to shoot a small child. out this room while on mute five, five seconds ago, but but I think, you know, we’re all in those types of situations, but I think it’s it’s going to be a really conscious effort to manage how we react to other people’s lives. Would you say?

Greg Skirving 34:16
I think so. I think one thing you originally brought up about getting different perspectives on people in in, you know, it’s obvious that we’re further apart in some ways being remote, but in other ways, it’s, we’re closer because of the fact that, you know, you’re sitting in somebody’s living room or, you know, somebody’s office. And obviously, with the whole, you know, pandemic, I mean, that there is a sense of, you know, us and, and, and being together. So, you know, while we are away from each other in many ways, we’re closer.

Hilary Dudek 34:53
It’s been very humanising to see it. I mean, my team was already fully distributed, and so on. It’s nothing new for us specifically, but being able to see you know, even sea level employees of the company in their living room or hearing their children in the background or you know, in one piece what has worked on the bedroom has been very humanising and humbling and lighting all at once.

Charlotte Ward 35:21
It’s a, I’ve watched some people go through some incredible moments of self control and focus on working from home. And we’ve seen evidence on it over on TV with, you know, reporters and scientific experts trying to give their opinion and advice on the news right, but I’ve seen some like you Hillary, I’ve seen CEOs with four year old children hang hanging around their necks speaking to an entire company. And I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve experienced here myself and I’ve definitely seen other people. launch from one call to the next with what is clearly just about time to attend to a small child in between both calls and not much else. And there is so much juggling going on right now and i think that i think that that that is as you rightly said, it’s an incredibly humanising experience

Simone Secci 36:19
one thing I think, you know to lead into your maybe a little bit of your next point Charlotte This is something that I think we talked about together before about how the even the idea of like either remote first companies and in office companies like this sort of like a one size fits all approach to remote work as changed into a more fluid idea where it’s more like or from anywhere. Because you know, from my perspective, I’m I work comfortably or more you know, I work remote before I have my specific chair. I you know, I I rented this place specifically because it was in a quieter spot. So I was prepared before I went there was a thought process that was connected to having a work environment where there will be comfortable working at. A lot of people didn’t do this at all. They got, you know, they have roommates or whatever, and, you know, whatever situation that might be, where they’re not comfortable working from home, or they’re not comfortable working from them all the time. And, you know, or, or they have, yeah, with their children, all of a sudden, they’re like at home all the time. What are they going to do an app people coming to me and be like someone I can’t concentrate. alone, I need to go to the office. And obviously the me it’s like when you want to go to the office, why you want to go but then you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes. That you know, they have not fought this, you know, for all before. They don’t have environments. When If you’re comfortable working at and you need to help them reach their comfort zone in terms of work, you know so that was a I think this idea of like putting yourself in other people’s shoes and and like understand like the fluidity of the situation like how are we going to do a little bit of both like our going to manage that also with like safe distancing and a new elf like policies that we’re going to have and dislike workplaces that some people are still going to use. You know, we are and the two things are to go exist at,

Charlotte Ward 38:40
they do. And I think that an appreciation of actually I think is somebody who’s very much like Asher remote advocate and like most of us on this podcast, I think quite used to working from home. I find it kind of odd that people do want to go into the office but I do completely get that there is an attraction sometimes To not attempting to have a serious, competent conversation while there while there are two small children on your desk or something like that. So there are attractions to go in and office for many people and you’re right that the, the shape of that in and of itself is going to change as we attempt to, to move back to whatever normality might bring. And there is an amount of leadership that there is a certain amount that leadership will need to do to ensure that that that happens safely. But it still happens in a respectful and supportive way for the whole of the team wherever they choose to work from. Right.

Ash Rhodes 39:39
There has to be support no matter what their personal, whatever remote work, looks like for them. And yes, absolutely. Finding I mean that’s a good part of remote work anyway, is as long as the work is getting done, whatever that looks like it’s still work. If It is from a coffeehouse, if it is from their living room. If it is from a dedicated office with 14 monitors, it doesn’t really matter to us, or it doesn’t matter to me what that looks like, as long as the work is getting done and is awesome.

Charlotte Ward 40:18
So longer term, then let’s think about the work again, rather than our own particular circumstances or the circumstances of the people in our teams. We’ve touched on this a little bit, we’ve talked about what support might look like as we go back and how support the nature of the work has changed for us over the last few months. Do you think from a point of view of the support service itself, there are longer term implications as we come out of this?

Greg Skirving 40:47
I think inherently our relationship with customers really won’t change because support inherently is remote. I mean, we’re answering phones and chatting and responding. So in In many ways that hasn’t changed at all, makes it maybe a little bit more difficult to collaborate. But the relationship with the customers is remote. I think we’re, we have a pretty good idea of how to interface with our peers, other departments that needs to vet itself out a little bit more. And as as, as those people have requirements as well, so I think I think we’re getting there. I think for the most part, you know, I’ve heard you know, a couple of companies a couple, a couple of folks say that their their customers went the other way and got upset, but you know, have rebounded I think everybody’s sort of settling in and understanding the finer nuances of of what to do. And like I said, I think for the most part, you know, safer salary, location, hours, etc. and some other things where we’re pretty close.

Ash Rhodes 41:57
Well, Greg just hit all of the points I was going to hit. So Thanks, man,

Greg Skirving 42:02
I gotta go first ash.

Ash Rhodes 42:04
I’ll be faster on though, pick up next.

Simone Secci 42:07
I think the things that are going to change long term are in I think in support, especially our, you know, ideas that were common and from a management and a leadership point of view. So anybody that was really attached to micromanaging people and like checking on them in a specific way that goes out completely out the window, like the idea of trust now, as to be you know, for whatever practice it before. I think there’ll be the people that like will shoulder this change better than others. Because you know, you are going to move into a completely task oriented environment where ours don’t matter anymore. You know, like ash was saying like, as long as the job is done, And you have to move into, I think, overall as in the business environment into a task oriented mentality, with support, especially like if you think about the classic, like ideas that people have of like call centres and things like that, that’s out, you know, you, I can see sometimes of like, very invasive privacy invasive ideas that people sometimes they’re like checkers and, and, and, and timers and things like that but i mean that those are in a way like security blankets that you bring with you from the office environment in a way you know, you have to develop a certain bond and trust with people and motivate them in a way where you don’t have to. You don’t need this this tools, you know, to monitor Damn.

Ash Rhodes 44:01
What do you, sorry Simona. But that actually was, what do you guys think about the, like, overwhelming spyware where it is not just screenshotting your screen, but you’ve got the taking photos of people, and so on and so forth. I mean, I personally find it to be horrifying in every possible way. But I’m curious what the rest of you guys think. And I just use my usual tinfoil hat self. And I’m like, No, that’s my personal liberty. You can’t have that. But,

Simone Secci 44:39
like applied to management, you mean or in general,

Ash Rhodes 44:41
just like I would never put that on my, my reps. Like I would never ever do that. I if I don’t express them. I wouldn’t hire them. So why would I put that on their computers? But, but what do i i’m just one guy. Anybody have any alternate opinion,

Lauren Rose Eimers 45:01
micro managers are gonna micromanage and it, I feel like this is regardless of Be it remote or in office because digging deeper to the micromanagement behaviour that’s really reflective on the manager or the higher up that is feeling not so solid in their own skills. But unfortunately, what we see is it as micromanagement of other teammates, so, I feel ash, just to echo what you said, If you aren’t able to trust your teammates, to all be grownups to all show up and get the work done. And you really feel the need to micromanage their work, be it either with you know, double, triple checking their work that they might already be doing, you know, bringing it up and slack making examples of people just to make sure they got the idea that you had and really drove at home or a correction that you may have had to like, you know, managing keystrokes and activities. time away or on a device. I mean that it just, it really, it doesn’t tell your teammates that you trust them in the least. And I don’t know a single person that would enjoy that kind of oversight that kind of intrusion in their lives. So when I did hear about some of these companies that were demanding that their workers who were now having to, you know, show up remotely instal these on their computers, especially during a time when jobs were very tenuous, I feel that was absolutely atrocious. And I think a lot of companies learn quickly and scaled back when people would still saying I’m going to take the exit door and allow you to impinge so much on you know, what kind of breaks I take away from my computer, or you know, when I log in or when I log off each day. So absolutely, I think if you aren’t able to try Trust your team, if you aren’t able to give them the autonomy to do their job that they wanted and they got hired for, then there is something wrong in the system. There’s something wrong there.

Simone Secci 47:12
Okay, I think I have maybe some kind of a counterpoint Not quite, because like this obviously, has been always, you know, having Trust has been always one of my strongest ideas in terms of like how to manage the team. But I do think that, you know, in a situation where like, a lot of people that never worked from long before, and especially people that have to manage sensitive information, and in an office setting, they have the technical means to work, for example, within a VPN or certain security. You know, situation. I think there are there is a need. That was maybe before for education. In terms of like security, at the company level, I think companies need to promote a discourse on on how to do it correctly. And, yeah, and how do you there’s a big hurdle on IT teams? Like how do we implement security, for remote work for 80 people, 90 people to under people that didn’t work remotely before. It’s a new challenge. And I think it’s a challenge that needs to be shoulder by everyone through education, right, which is maybe a completely different point of view, then, like just trusting people, but I think there’s a need to do to say, okay, yes, you were, we should ask you, but you also need to be aware of like, the dangers, you know,

Ash Rhodes 48:49
that’s also though, just like really solid infosec training, and, and like, basic, maybe, maybe puddings. Some some guides on to the company computers or some basic lockdown procedures and stuff like that. As opposed to Valon screen recording at all times and stuff like that, I would argue I don’t know. Yeah, I definitely

Charlotte Ward 49:16
think I definitely think the security side is different from the micro-managing side and I think that ring fenced ring fencing from a security point of view is important whether you’re in office or at home and it’s just, it just has more challenges with when you’re at home. From from the kind of spyware you know, watching give it you know, watching whether your say your computer taking screenshots and all of that kind of thing. I think my my feeling about those is that they’re not terribly informative, either from a management point of view, all they’re doing is telling your leader that you are there. They don’t they don’t speak anything to the quality of work or the impact You’re having all your commitments that that roll, they just show that you’re out there and you’re in the right screen. So I fail. See, I think I think that that, that companies are leaders who attempt to put that kind of thing in place are the companies and leaders who only value your presence, not your work. And I think that they think that there is a very clear distinction from my mind, in my mind, between shadowing and watching someone for the sake of checking this sat there and doing something compared to what I think people are trying to get out when they put some of this kind of stuff in place. I mean, assuming good intentions, which is that they’re trying to somehow replicate management by walking around as a philosophy, which is not just watching people management by walking Round is more about having conversations with those people about what they’re doing about their lives about their, you know, their objectives and about their work. It’s not just watching them. And I think that that, that for me is the difference between spying and kind of doing whatever the remote equivalent is of management by walking around.

Greg Skirving 51:25
Yeah, it’s it’s really a management discussion. It’s not a it’s not a remote discussion. I don’t think people have changed and now want to micromanage people micromanage I know, in in my office, I’m 100 yards from my folks. I mean, I’m close when they need me, but I’m not, I’m not there. And that’s why they call it management, right? We we manage people, we, we manage the exceptions too. So I think that’s, that’s really the key point here.

Charlotte Ward 51:54
Okay, so let’s come round to my usual closing approach. on a panel, which is to ask food for your one piece of advice. So you’ve all had something like 45 minutes of discussion around this whole topic. I’m sure you’ve distilled your wisdom into that one or two sentences that I’m going to call you out on in a second or two. But this is your opportunity, you happen to have a little thing. But my last question is exactly that. What’s your one piece of advice for support teams as we hopefully pull out of this crisis over the next few months to a year, let’s cross our fingers, it’s at least that what what’s your advice for support teams and obviously very specifically for other support leaders,

Simone Secci 52:40
have to one for leaders one for agents. So for leaders, I will like say it as a slogan, delegating is liberating. to piggyback on what we’ve said so far. And for support agents, I would say, you can’t possibly know all the edge cases and exceptions to them. Until gamma gross and don’t feel bad if you make a mistake, because no one is amazing.

Ash Rhodes 53:06
I am going to also say a couple of things. One is to kind of hark back to a couple of things that we’ve talked about is that just because you’re remote and your computer is in your home doesn’t mean that you should be using your computer at all times. log off, enjoy your life, work life balance is a thing. Do that and that is for everybody. Um, and I can’t remember what the other thing was. So it’s just one thing so Never mind. Maybe Don’t let your kids into meetings where they’re being recorded. That’s good other option

Charlotte Ward 53:49
would do that. Who would do that?

Ash Rhodes 53:53
I don’t know people who make poor life choices.

Hilary Dudek 53:58
I would say piece of advice for everyone in support, but specifically for leaders in support would be to take time to decompress. I mean, everyone in support needs that. We’re all empathetic teachers giving all day long. But I think especially for leaders, right now you’re doing double, sometimes triple duty, because you’re absorbing not only from your users, you’re absorbing everything from your teams, sometimes even cross functionally across, you know, different verticals, you know, your peers or maybe even your manager depending on the relationship that you have. So, make sure that you have time to decompress and release all of that energy and stay safe.

Lauren Rose Eimers 54:46
I love that. I think self care of course, I think it’s just pertinent to all of our survival, especially during this really different time. I wanted to say that I think one of the most important things We can use this time, of amalgamation of change of transmuting things that once were into something better, I, I should hope that in remaining open and then remaining flexible, and being okay with making mistakes is that we are growing, to become more inclusive, to have more equity and equality across the board to see more people of colour in C suite positions to help leave the door open and lift people up and help people and advocate for people that aren’t in the space right now. I think we can use this opportunity since so many other things are shifting to try to get those things into place as well. So, being open, being receptive to new ideas and to you know, let yourself make those mistakes because we are all growing but don’t stagnate. Let’s, let’s use this opportunity to grow and then of course Like, log off and take care of you, and everything else going on, after you’re doing your good hard work,

Craig Stoss 56:08
I mean, maybe a little bit to the mental health side. But in general, one thing that I have seen a marked increase in is that video chats to Google meats, these type things have become so increasingly pervasive that every meeting is must be a video chat. And, I mean, I was in support as a rep and then a consultant when video chat wasn’t even a thing. And so you were, you know, phone calls work just as well in you know, significant percentages of situations, a significant percentage of situations. And so, a video calls are draining, it’s been, you know, proven that it’s hard to read people’s facial expressions, and the brain has to work harder to understand cues and, you know, we’ve tripped over ourselves in this very call. And this is meant to be kind of a one person speak discussion at a time. We’re in heated meetings that can change change. And so my advice and we didn’t touch on tooling is is to assess your tooling. I see the future holding remote work. tools are going to spike in general, you know, to facilitate all sorts of things to be part of a remote environment. And I think companies need to continually assess those those tools to make sure that they are helping their employees do their jobs, obviously, but also taking care of the mental health aspects. And so my advice to the companies is to do that assessment. Don’t just assume that because everyone is using zoom, you should know mandate zoom. You know, there are older practices or non remote practices that work just as well remote as they did in the office. And then on the flip side of that, I’d also say to the point we talked a little bit socialising in Charlotte, you mentioned tapping people on the shoulders and walking around the office. You need to use some tools for that fun as well because the socialists aspects of work are gone. And so I’d like to see it an increase in tools. And I tried to call those tools but things that enable a social aspect with it and office as well. So those are kind of the the pieces of ice that I think would help an organisation.

Greg Skirving 58:21
Um, I think, for me, stay focused, stay positive. Obviously, I’ll state the obvious, stay safe do the social distancing thing. I don’t think, you know, globally. We’ve been as diligent at that the better diligent we are at that the sooner this whole thing ends, and there will be an end to it. I think some companies will continue to to stay remote. I think, you know, other companies will go full scale back but there will be an end stay positive. You know, reach out for help. If you need it, and like I say just, you know, focus on focus on the job at hand, and, and there will be an end to this.

Charlotte Ward 59:11
Yeah, I agree. I was looking back a little earlier at the panel that we recorded on customer communications in a crisis, which was about 12 weeks ago, which seems like a lifetime ago when this all began. And I closed it by quoting some something that a British politician had said that very weak. And I wonder if it’s worth just re stating that now because I think it was, despite it being a British Conservative politician. I think it was a beautiful sentiment and I think it might be worth just reminding ourselves of that, because I think it still carries true. And I think that Greg, you’re absolutely right. This will The over. We don’t quite know when. But maybe the end is a little more insight than it was 12 weeks ago, we hope. But the quote that I gave, closing out that panel 12 weeks ago was from Rishi Suna, who is Chancellor of the Exchequer here. And he said back then he said, Now more than any time in our history, we will be judged by our capacity, our capacity for compassion. When this is over, and it will be over. We want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. And I really, I still love that sentiment. 12 weeks on and I think while we have spent a lot of this panel, rightly talking about the very operational aspects and changes that we have implemented or injured In one way or another, and how life has changed for all of us from a professional point of view, we have also touched on, I think, in an in and around all of that, how we have this, like this increased sense of familiarity with our teammates, and this increased sense of generosity towards them, I think maybe to our customers as well, to a degree, however angry they may be from one month to the next. And I just think that I think that sentiment is is worth remembering at this this side of three months, because it’s been a very long three months. But I do thank you for all your advice. And thank you for all your time. And thank you for taking part it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Great advice, great leaders, as always, thank you so much. That’s if today go to Customer Support leaders.com forward slash 101. That’s 101 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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