Six leaders join me to talk about the future of Support Leadership – which I’m whimsically calling Support Leadership 2.0. Welcome to Zeni Bandy and Ethan Walfish, who join me for the first time. Watch out for them later in the series, and their stories on the site shortly!
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 105 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week we have another panel talking about support leadership 2.0.
Today I’d like to welcome to the panel, Ethan Walfish, Zeni Bandy, Matt Dale, Craig Stoss. Josh Magsam and Greg Skirving. Let’s get straight to it. Hello, fellow support leaders. Thank you all for joining me again, or indeed some for the first time on this panel. Our topic this week is what I’ve somewhat enigmatically called support leadership. too, and I want us to talk about the evolution of support leadership as a practice and profession. I think that’s becoming increasingly recognised in its own right in the same way that we’ve seen support as a practice evolved in recent years. So I’ve got a very open question for us to throw around and see how we feel about this. To get us going get warmed up thinking about the future I want to talk about past. What are the lessons of our past when it comes to support leadership where where have things gone wrong historically for us, do you think
Zeni Bandy 1:37
I would say one place that things have gone wrong in the past is that customer support leaders have often not focused on the business goals of the company and have been very siloed and what happens when support teams don’t focus on this business goals is that they, they become less relevant and their voice stops mattering in the company. And so one way to really stay aligned and have a seat at the table is to make sure that whatever objectives you’re working on in your department, it actually matches what the company is trying to achieve that quarter that year.
Ethan Walfish 2:24
I think that’s a great one. I think that similar that I think that we need to consider customer outcomes more than we have in the past, at that it’s not just an individual interaction that we’re having, and that really teaching and coaching for thinking about how do we make sure that we’re aligning with company goals, but also with customer goals? I think it’s something important that, that maybe we haven’t necessarily considered as much in the past as sort of considering point issues with individual customers.
Craig Stoss 2:54
And I think combining both Zeni and Ethan’s points, one thing that we focus on as leaders too much is is deflection, like stopping tickets entirely. When really if we start focusing on serving the customers in a better or more effective way, or providing better resources to our support teams, you know, we can have those we can achieve those customer outcomes and achieve the business needs. But But do so from a from a standpoint of not focusing on how can we get ready rid of as many tickets as possible? Because I feel like that that leads us down the cost centre path which support I don’t think should be considered.
Zeni Bandy 3:35
Yeah, that’s a good point I may actually have spoken with about with Charlotte is the idea of profitability with customer support. And one of the things that happens is if you if you focus on customer support being a cost centre or focus on deflection, then you forget that actually, these interactions these relationships that your team is building with your customers actually are part of the experience that they’re having. adds value and increases their loyalty and increases retention. It’s something also a lot of teams don’t really track or pay attention to. I’m glad you
Greg Skirving 4:10
brought up deflection, a deflection, I think is a four letter word. I think really, really what we’re talking about is self help. And I think I think it’s important that as an organisation, we allow customers to service themselves but more importantly, provide the guidance to the people on the front line as to what we will support and what we won’t support I’ve seen in recent years, everything from system administration level zero troubleshooting, to full blown professional services being provided off the off the help desk and that’s perfectly okay if that’s what you want to do as a company, but providing the right guidance to the people so that they’re not just saying no or, you know, giving away the farm when they shouldn’t be. That guidance is is is critically important for the frontline folks.
Ethan Walfish 5:03
I think one of the things I’ve seen is that having ambiguity as a frontline support person is, is one of the most difficult things. So the following along with that is that if you really aren’t sure what the scope of your support is, how far can I go? Should I go with this particular customer at this particular issue? It’s something that creates friction and stress. It’s something that’s really unpleasant. And I think it’s one of those ways that we think about how do we retain top talent among support teams. And that’s one of the ways is to really make the job clear. What are the expectations of the job and make sure that that’s something that doesn’t create stress or frustration for the for our agents?
Unknown Speaker 5:41
Yeah, that’s a good point. I think it also goes into another issue of lessons from our past is the issue of customers of customer support turnover, and not enough focus and making those fulfilling and rich roles for the team members.
Ethan Walfish 6:00
How do you guys do? How do you guys think about and sort of broad terms capacity modelling these days? One of the big things I frequently hear is people budgeting for 120% capacity. Do you guys think about that in similar terms?
Charlotte Ward 6:15
I actually think that a model that I encountered a little while ago for call centres is is quite a good one which is just considering your team in terms of customer facing occupancy and how there is this kind of ideal band below which you’re at risk of bore out for once a better word I’m not entirely convinced by that phrase, but above which your your risk of burnout and being too stretched and that band is sort of 70 to 80% it’s it’s some somewhat of a Nirvana isn’t it? But that that I think is the place that I always strive for now. Achieve is a different issue. That’s where I’m aiming for and
Matt Dale 6:59
I think That’s sort of stuff when we start talking about, you know, capacity modelling and stuff, things that work at one company may not work at other companies. I think Jenny made the point earlier where I have to understand the needs of the business and the business goals. I’ve watched our business goals change drastically over the last eight years, as we’ve gone from a kind of an early stage startup to a much more mature company with, you know, private equity backers that are looking at different different things and different metrics of success. Then, then, I think we were looking at at the beginning. And so being able to, you know, we talked about lessons of the past, I think, applying the same framework today to today’s problems, as we applied successfully to last year’s problems. I don’t or that applied successfully in another company. I don’t think that works. I think we need to be looking at our leadership responsibilities as leaders in support to say, hey, what makes sense right now for our company for our customer base, you know, for our industry and what are the best practices that I can learn what are the great things I can get from communities like support driven or from a podcast like this one But then how does it make sense in my goals and my team’s goals, my company’s goals so that we can be successful today rather than what we’ve always done it this way. I think that’s really hard. Like I look at myself and I think I fall into that quite often with my team and I have to constantly be like, how do we how do we go forward for forget, kind of almost forget the past but or learn from it, but but will make sense from now and moving forward there?
Craig Stoss 8:23
That’s a great point, Matt. I think I think the the big lesson that that I’ve learned recently is that support demands from from customers, you know, you know, in this nebulous aggregate of customers change, you know, five years ago, I don’t think anyone would have had in mobile app chat. And now you can see that as a trend that you don’t want people to context switch to your website, or, you know, phone, phone and a phone number. You know, five plus years ago, we didn’t have smart devices where you could embed support on a thermostat or a lot more, you know, the needs of our kids. Customers are changing. And we have to adapt support to those new demands to support our customers where they are and how they want to be supported. Right, right, in the in the context that they’re in.
Matt Dale 9:12
Do you provide support on lawnmowers? I’m just checking, Craig that that really I did. But I do people do that, I think, is that a thing?
Craig Stoss 9:21
Well, I mean, they have displays on it, they can tell you error codes and things that can help you guys support but I think ideally, yes, if I were creating smart devices, the support should be provided on the device like like, what, why makes someone I I use an example of my thermostat, where my thermostat was doing something wrong. I played with a bit, couldn’t figure it out. And I had to go and get a laptop and I had to, you know, go to their support page and figure out what it was and then go back course they can’t provide support until I find a serial number. Well, I had to go back to my thermostat and figure out my serial number. Like why couldn’t I just hit a button that said, you know, here’s my support ticket. They have keyboards
Matt Dale 10:02
to help. It’s not working. Call them yeah, like do something so that we can work here. Yeah.
Craig Stoss 10:05
And you know everything about me already? Why do I have to tell you my name, my email address my location because you want the thermostat knows that about me by definition of what it’s supposed to services provide. So I’m not saying that that exists. Well, today, I’m just saying it should exist, because that’s what customers want. They want to be able to get support where they are in the context that they are working.
Josh Magsam 10:28
For me, I think that highlights a lesson that maybe we’re still learning, which is that and I see this I mean with with, with our org, we work with a number of companies because we’re VPS or providing service to you know, 70 plus partners and climbing and so, you look at this and you go some some places understand that technology can expedite the support process and actually make connections and support the customers need. Whether that’s in the service of a deflection, the name of cost cutting, or in deflection, the name of customer effort reduction and higher satisfaction support. And I think there’s still some corners, though, where it’s like, all I just have to do is get people into live contact with another person, all I have to do is just the only thing that’s going to make customers happy is knowing that they’re talking to a live person. And that’s in chat or on the phone. And technology is in the way and I want to remove those barriers. And rather than thinking about the ways that technology itself actually removes those barriers and expedites so there’s kind of a resistance to, to getting involved in technology at that level of, you know, yeah, I can just interact with the screen of the refrigerator and figure out why the ice cube maker isn’t working. Versus Okay, let me go get my phone, find the website, etc, etc. It’s I think for those who Those of us who are working in the field and thinking about these questions on a daily basis, more and more, this seems obvious. But I think it goes back to Danny’s main point of like, if you can articulate that in the service of the business goals, you don’t get the traction for it. And so I think the resistance at a high level comes down to our inability to make that connection. Clear.
Ethan Walfish 12:24
This, there’s something else that’s interesting point raised there, which is sort of customer effort, right? That by having the additional context from the thermostat, right, we have more information about that customer, we can make that an easier experience for them and weaves into it. I think one of the trends that I’ve heard over the past few years, which I would frankly love to switch to, which is measuring customer effort score, because I think that’s a much more actionable metric. that I think has been something that we’ve really learned from if we’re talking about sort of things we’ve learned is that Sisa has diminishing returns. It’s pretty easy to get a really high customer satisfaction rating, but it’s very hard to To get a really high customer effort score, and I think that sort of tying in a bunch of these pieces is that we can only do that by getting the business to buy in to making that experience easier. In order to do that. We need to convince the business that creating that easy effort for our customers is in service of the business goals.
Charlotte Ward 13:23
I think Good Charlotte. Sorry, I was gonna say, um, I think that this transitions somewhat nicely to my second question, really my second discussion point, but I think just bringing some of this together, and particularly some of the metrics and data points that have been mentioned in in the last segment. Maybe that is a big lesson of the past, right in terms of leadership, is it the lesson is I think that that data doesn’t tell you one thing and that no single metric is enough of a story. No Single metric tells you all the things you need to know about your support team or your support provision. And I think that, historically is where I have found myself in support teams, certainly, in larger organisations going back a decade or more, is a really simplistic view of metrics. And I think that that is changing. And I think that we’re probably on the brink of quite an evolution in the way people handle those numbers and talk about those numbers, whatever those numbers may be, whether it’s CSAT, or whether it’s CES, or whether we’re talking quality or whatever. We’re seeing new metrics all the time. We’re even just seeing better ways of looking at old metrics. And I think for me, that’s been a big sort of lesson and evolution over the past decade or so that I’ve seen. So, going on to our second discussion point, then how do we take all of those things we just talked about and apply them to our future? How do we take the things that we know we’re one hand All very well weren’t necessarily great for our service great for our teams great for our, our, our own individual experiences as support leaders, how do we take all of those things, all of those lessons and apply them to our future? What does this this next version of support leadership look like?
Matt Dale 15:23
I think a good place to start as anytime we’re looking at changes to kind of build into ourselves a kind of a growth mindset. So instead of saying, hey, like, this is the way it is, is the way there’s all we’ll ever be able to do approaching and saying, hey, how can we get a little bit better at this? How can we get a little bit better at that and and really doing that self reflection and that reflection on our team, reflection on our customers, their customer experience, like kind of looking at all those and going, What has changed? Where are we moving toward? Where do we want to be going going to and what is it going to take to get there? What is valuable that we can hold on to things that we’ve built that are really strong? Because we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but but also So what are the things that don’t make sense anymore? And how can we how can we, you know, take this new data or take this new process and understanding of our customers and use that to move us individually as leaders, our teams, our peers, and the rest the organisation and our customers and help help them get to where they need to be in this this area that we’re just kind of starting out right now.
Zeni Bandy 16:22
I like what you said there, Matt, about being dynamic and continuing to evolve. Because anytime you solve a problem or a launch initiative, and it works, and they’re a success, it can be so hard to let that go and move forward and possibly, you know, throw that out with the bathwater. And it’s, I think it’s really important to not get too attached to our past successes because when you do that it does create that mindset of not been able to keep moving forward.
Matt Dale 16:58
It’s kind of that too attached is really good, too. read an article and I think it was talking about Steve Jobs. It was basically a kid, he’s very strongly held views, or he had these very strong views, but they’re held very loosely, that is like, this is the right thing to do until it’s clear that this is not the right thing to do. And then I’m 100%. That’s not where we need to be, we need to be at this new thing. And the example I think, was with the g4 cube, when that was announced, it was like, this is the best device we’ve ever built. This is amazing. In a lot of ways, it was from a thermal management perspective and a bunch of stuff. But the marketplace didn’t appreciate it. It wasn’t it wasn’t something that sold well. And he was able to look at that and go, we did good stuff. But this isn’t where we wanted to go. This is the direction we need to go and holding that that strong opinion holding it loosely was really a key to the success. I think that’s that’s what you’re trying to say or that’s what you were saying. And you know, to put it a little differently. Exactly.
Greg Skirving 17:48
Yeah, I think I think that’s easily achieved if you separate the wheat from the how, I mean, I think we know what we want to achieve. And but I mean every year, whatever. Obviously Do you need to grow? Like you said, Matt, you need to you, you, you you can’t stay stagnant. And you you have to look at the things that did work. And are they working? I mean, it’s always easy to look at the things that don’t work, but it’s just still working and do we need to tweak it? And also, for me, I think consistency across your organisation, you know, especially vertically, you know, what, what we want to achieve as an organisation. And, you know, to win, I’ll go back to customer effort, self service. And, and like I say, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, you, you, whatever you want to do whatever level of support you want to provide. That’s got to be consistent. And I think, I think maybe we move so fast, and things are growing so quickly, and things are changing. We’re looking at the future and we’re going to, we’re going to implement this system. I think, you know, slowing down a little does this work? Do we really need to do this, I think I think that’s important and then You know, whatever we’re discussing in terms of planning, whatever we think we want to change, and then it’s got to be communicated throughout the organisation so that so that people know people know how to react, how to act with customers how to act interdepartmental II. So
Josh Magsam 19:18
for me part of the process of delivering that consistency is and a lot of companies are facing this right now as they are five to 710 years old, right coming out of the the startup boom and is understand that maturing as an org doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon some of that scrappy, inventive nature that might have got you there, but you do need to, you know, as as Matthew said, you do need to sort of not develop an attachment to your ideas or your structures or your plans and sort of realise it’s okay to, quote unquote, grow up in a couple of corners and you can still take trips stay true to your culture, your brand The team structure, the programme, the application, whatever that that you sunk a lot of work into, it’s okay to say, you know, we’ve outgrown that. And that doesn’t work for us any longer. And in order for us to achieve growth, maybe we need to go get an out of the box solution, or maybe we need to look elsewhere and just not worry about some costs, worry about personal investment in it. Someone else may have come up with a better idea. Just speaking as my personal experience, you know, working in a startup type company previously, and with some others, there tends to be a sense of like, we’ve come up with a better idea than anyone else, we came up with the best mousetrap on the face of the planet. And then you know, sort of realising that, how you’ve evolved that and the way you’re supporting that and particularly someone else might have had a good idea. You can add that to yours. It doesn’t make your your idea worse. It doesn’t make your product weaker. A matter of fact, it’s a strength to realise that you can go out and lean on something that was developed for million people instead of just 10,000 people, and and it’s gonna work for you.
Craig Stoss 21:06
I just heard an interesting analogy A while ago, Josh that fits directly in what you said. And it was kind of was basically saying, you know, it depends how you frame thing. You know, so the analogy was train train companies in the US framed themselves as train companies. And so when people started using trains less, you know, their businesses took a downturn, if they had framed themselves as transportation companies, and started evolving to serve the transportation needs of the people, they would have been more successful and probably many of them would have pivoted into different businesses or multiple businesses. And I love that analogy to apply to to support because I think that we quite often get so hung up on things like channels, or that, you know, we provide chat support, and we provide email support or you know, and it’s like, okay, that’s, that’s great. Those are things that we can do, but is that really what you do with a sport department or if you have like a higher level need of providing some level of service, some some high touch, high context, whatever, whatever the buzzwords you want to use to your customers. And that service will evolve as, as your products change as you release new features, as new technologies exist, you know all those things, because if you frame yourself as well, we’re the best chat support team in you know, in the startup world, well, eventually chats not going to be a thing that you know, virtual reality support might be the next thing and we need to, you know, how do you adapt chat to that, right. So, it was just a really cool analogy, and I think it’s exactly what you were saying, Josh, that, that we need to be adaptable. We need to follow those trends. And so to me, at the speed we’re moving, you know, when you ask the question, how do we apply these lessons and what does the next version of support look like? That’s how I look at it is, is let’s follow the trends of what our what our customers are demanding.
Josh Magsam 22:59
Right? And then when I love that, I’ve got to go look that one up now, but I did. That’s a great example for me trains versus transportation, just thinking of we built one product, we build it well, and no one else can build it out in the weekend versus what’s the actual core of what we deliver? How is that important to people? And how do we iterate around that rather than just staying on a rail?
Zeni Bandy 23:20
Yeah, exactly. It’s taking it to almost more of a customer success viewpoint of what is the desired outcome of the customer? And how is our team enabling the customer to get there? Because that’s what’s really most important. Like the not, it’s not the how it’s the what?
Greg Skirving 23:42
Well, and especially when it comes to introducing maybe different support mediums, I mean, if you’re doing it just because, you know, you want to keep up with the Joneses, that’s one thing your customers might not want that so you have to really lead from their perspective as well.
Ethan Walfish 23:58
I don’t want my thermostat talking to me.
Matt Dale 24:02
I want my lawn mower talking to me. I mean seriously, like, that’s freaking me out, man.
Charlotte Ward 24:07
I think Zeni what you said though is interesting about this kind of increasingly blurred line between success and support. And I think that what we’re seeing in terms of this evolution is support leaders who are much more comfortable talking about the success sides of what they do. Right. And and being part of a wider customer office, I think is is the way that he lost a lot of us, particularly in larger organisations. And that doesn’t have to be very large. It just has to be more than two people right sometimes. But actually having a customer function even if those individuals are doing multiple roles. It’s, it’s about being part of the customer function rather than running a team that happens to answer chats or take phone calls or whatever it is, I think it I think it’s becoming a much more prolific experience from a leadership point of view.
Zeni Bandy 25:04
Yeah, and actually going back to what Ethan was asking earlier about capacity planning and and how he was asking about the 120%. And I’m sure that you were talking about the 70 80%. I think it actually this is gives a reason why going for a lower utilisation rate can be more beneficial because you give your team the space and time to think about the future instead of just reacting. You give them opportunities to be proactive and identify things that and with processes or systems that don’t really seem to be meeting needs and give them the the mental space to actually talk about it and then share because otherwise people are so burned out, it’s really difficult to or just not meet, they’re not burnt out. It’s just very difficult to really have a dynamic team that’s constantly moving forward.
Charlotte Ward 26:02
Absolutely, absolutely. So let’s think about them. I think we are kind of starting to almost use the language in this call that this this is a time of change feels like a time of change to me based on my experience the last few years and, and the conversations, maybe that I’m particularly privileged to have as part of this podcast with so many leaders. To me, it feels like we are in the middle of this evolution. So I think that what I would like to perhaps talk about next is, let’s consider that did do you all agree, first of all, that it is a time of change in support leadership, and, therefore going forward? What are the big factors at this moment we have to think about
Ethan Walfish 26:52
it’s a big change in business right now. I think that’s that’s, I mean, it’s kind of overarching everything. I don’t think it’s necessarily us. Support specific but I think that one of the biggest factors that we see at least in tech these days, is this push towards remote towards remote friendly. Because so many of us are in some sort of remote situation now that previously hadn’t been. And I think that’s driving a whole bunch of change. And, you know, I don’t necessarily know sort of where to take that. Right. But I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re seeing is that push towards your vote.
Josh Magsam 27:29
I think with that, there’s a big push for security protection. You know, maybe maybe my lawnmower is going to talk to me, but I darn sure want to make sure that I can make it forget who I am. And everything that it knows at a moment’s request, right. And, you know, depending on what your team is dealing with, if, if you’ve been used to working out of, you know, an office space and you’ve got some controls in place, for personal information, for example, that’s all happening in the living room or a bedroom now. And so how are you handling those sorts of things? How are you able to assure your customers that their, their data is just to safe if it’s now on a laptop that could be in someone’s, you know, kitchen counter versus may be an area in which they might have been more often locking it up at an office or something like that, you know, or working out of a workstation and office space. And those questions, at least in our line of business have certainly risen to the forefront. You know, programmes that we work with wants to know are those things being handled what happens? You know, two data points that might not have been out in the wild previously, but now have to live in the wild.
Ethan Walfish 28:49
I think about like credit card numbers. That’s a terrifying challenge to have to overcome. Yeah. Yeah.
Charlotte Ward 28:57
On your own name on the plus and have slightly amusing side in all of this is now that Josh you’ve surely implanted in mass had the the notion that there are not only lawn mowers who have all this information about him and wandering around but but now wandering around like in a zone below a zombie lawn mowers like having having an existential crisis forgetting what they do and who they belong to, but but they’re just out there.
Matt Dale 29:28
Just more worried it’s gonna be like Skynet and they’re gonna come after me and I can see like a thermostat like I’m not super worried about a thermostat coming after me but those lawn mowers they just got a lot of blades and it just it just sounds scary. So that’s where I’m at.
Ethan Walfish 29:40
No lawn mowers and crocs really not safe.
Matt Dale 29:43
They are not I’m getting my steel toed boots and we’ll be good to go. The cracks we’re gonna have to go with that when the when the zombie lawnmower apocalypse happens. Post COVID it’s Yeah, steel toed boots the whole way
Zeni Bandy 29:55
that actually speaks to another thing that’s happening is the mindset of our customers. And you’re talking about security. And honestly, like the fears of the lawnmower attacking, I think these kind of things are becoming more real for people because they never imagined something like a pandemic happening. And so also just the mindset of our customers during this time period is changing dramatically, along with what the business is projected and where it’s going. So yes, I think it was, it was already a time of change before COVID happened, but now it’s just it’s just grown significantly and other companies that aren’t moving quickly or are struggling.
Matt Dale 30:41
And I think you’ve got a good point there too. With the we have a lot of data about us that’s out there and I didn’t used to be as worried about it. And I’m, you know, I had I had an s camera that I use for my kids instead of having a nanny cam like dumb downstairs like, I had a nest I’m like, Oh, that’s super cool and techie and it’s like, oh, Google bought that and I’m not necessary. I totally trust Google with what they’re doing with information. And so this information that’s out there about me from the last couple years of that I assume, got deleted, but who the heck knows. Like, there’s a bunch of information about us. That’s not just as simple as, hey, they’ve got my phone number, my email address, which, let’s face it, that’s all out there. But there’s some really scary stuff with privacy that I think as support professionals, we need to be aware that this stuff exists. And we can’t be playing fast and loose like a lot of companies did when they were startups. And we’re seeing, you know, stuff with Facebook and some of the challenges that that organisation is having with the way that they’re impacting the world in ways they weren’t even expecting, let’s let’s assume, but like, there’s a lot of really big implications to the big data that we have on all sorts of people now it is a support professionals like, we need to make sure our teams are ready to treat that data carefully. And I think Ethan, you mentioned credit cards, I don’t actually care. Like I’m assuming my credit card number is going to get stolen all the time. And I’ve got a list of stuff that I go down and here’s where I replaced all my credit card numbers. But I am concerned about stuff that tells people a lot more about me than just my credit card number, you know that they can know that I’m, you know, I was reading articles Hey, they can predict if you’re pregnant before you even know it I’m like, I don’t know, maybe maybe I am pregnant. But, um, but like, there’s stuff like that there’s so much information about you and about your habits that’s out there that is just kind of scary. And I think we need to leaders set the right tone to treat that stuff securely and carefully and make sure that our organisations are treating it carefully. So I think that’s something turlet back to your point of how can we like, what does this all look like? Is there a change, like that’s something that we want to be, you know, aware of and taken care of.
Craig Stoss 32:40
And specifically, from a support perspective, the one I’ve been a big fan of proactive support for years and and the idea that we could predict when a problem will happen based on previous you know, use cases and monitor, you know, what people are doing inside your sass platform, for example. So you can you can Tell when when maybe your UX is bad because customers are going down a path you wouldn’t have anticipated or they’re consistently hitting error messages there. And I was explaining this to some people that aren’t in, in technology, like, like the people in this panel. And and, and they were actually a bit horrified. They’re like, Wait a second. So you’re saying that you know, you know, every button I click every page I visit how long I’m on that page, what browser I’m using, what time it was at, you know, I’m sitting there thinking I’m providing a cool service from supportive being able to say, Oh, you clicked 123 you probably want to click for now and here’s why, you know, that’s a cool helpful tip to some end user and they’re sitting there going like, Well, wait a second. You know, why are you are you met need to know that I clicked 123. You know, like, I’m already a customer of your app, like, just let me use the thing that I want I’m paying you to use or whatever. That that’s, that’s interesting because, well, that data probably is not near as harmful, or at least something that can have as much Impact is personal data like where you know where you drive or you know who you phone or what webpages you visit or all those things. It’s still personal data. I read in a cool article about cell phones where there was these companies that were randomised, or were anonymizing cell phone data, to be able to do different patterns of traffic and things. And and some reporters got ahold of a subset of this data and said, well, but it’s not anonymous, because there are very few people that travel from your house to your office every day. And so if you if you look at that one cell phone and watch it go back and forth. Yeah, it doesn’t have Matt Dale or Craig stars associated with it. But it’s pretty obvious who it is. And then all of a sudden, you can start extrapolating data from that. And they actually these reporters actually found who was visiting Johnny Depp’s house because they actually found Johnny Depp’s phone through all this anonymous data, and they could tell everyone who was visiting Johnny Depp over the course A couple of months. And it was a really fascinating article, I think was New York Times did it? And I was like, Yeah, because it’s it’s seems harmless, but it’s it’s, it’s not there’s a digital fingerprint on all of this data. So yeah, I totally agree that this is that this is something that has to be considered in the future of that balance between being great at support and being proactive and helping guide customers to success while not being creepy, for lack of a better word.
Ethan Walfish 35:31
Yeah, and I love photography. And as a as like a street photographer, right. One of the things you kind of talk about is what’s the difference between someone who’s being a creepy photographer and someone who’s out doing street photography, and the way we frequently talk about is intense, which is really hard. That’s something that in support, right, we have all the best intentions, but that’s still kind of a dangerous game to play with the level of information that we get. And you know, I’ve used platforms that are recording all the browser data that someone’s doing so you can watch along with the session of what they And it’s something that we don’t tell people we can do that it’s the kind of thing that there was a big blow up a number of years ago at one of the companies because people on retailer websites found out that they could watch in the redoing, and people were upset about this. So when we talk about this with our customers, we go well, from our logs, we were able to determine that actually it was this button click this most things it creates this kind of friction and what level of responsibility? Do we have a support leaders to make sure that we’re using that data? And what data are we collecting to be considerate and thoughtful and secure about that? I think that’s one of those things that I’ve heard a quote that privacy is the greatest commodity of the 21st century. And I think that might be true as we think about what information does Google have on us? What efficient is our cell phone provider have on us blood information, do random reporters are they able to, you know, Freedom of Information Act in the US in order to get access to all that’s kind of interesting how it intersects with sort of support as people who have all of that information or have access to a lot of information about our users.
Zeni Bandy 37:01
It makes me think when you talk about intent even it makes me think about with Facebook, and how they started. It’s just it’s far fetched to think that when Facebook was started when I was college students that they foresaw the impact they were going to have on US politics or politics around the world. And so it’s like with the data that we have, kind of thinking about, well, what are the possibilities of how this could be used in the future? And is it irresponsible? And it’s, it’s you can definitely go down that rabbit hole, and it maybe it’s a fruitless exercise, but I think it can be important in light of what’s been happening that of late in revelations that we’ve been seeing and how technology and data have really impacted and changed the world.
Charlotte Ward 37:51
And it isn’t, it’s a slow and creeping tide as well, isn’t it as you said, Those college kids could not have foreseen the impact that they would have What are we now? 16, like 15 years or something down the line? I don’t know exactly. But, but that sort of slow creep of influence and grip is is kind of something that you can’t foresee at the start of a lot of this. So someone were talking about the evolution of support. It’s something we’re experiencing all the time, and probably, therefore, perhaps it slightly negates the point of this panel, which is that we can’t define it because it’s happening right now. And in the same way that in that moment, they couldn’t have defined the evolution of that platform and where it would take them. The other thing that I think just on that kind of idea of evolution and the time it takes and how, as when you’re in the middle of it, it’s kind of not necessarily that noticeable, I think, I think we’re seeing an interesting context being played. out at the moment in the pandemic with a lot of the track and trace apps, right? I think they’re they’re obviously massive data privacy issues in a lot of the individual solutions that that different governments have brought out what what platforms they’re relying on and everything else. One thing that one statistic I heard which relates exactly to Facebook was the NHS or the British health services attempt to produce a track and trace app and why it probably was set to fail. And that is the reach work required for that to have any meaningful effect on the on the pandemic on the on the progression of the virus through society is that they needed an equivalent reach of Facebook’s current footprint in the UK, but they needed it within weeks. For it to be remotely effective. And and I just found that staggering that you know, when you think about the the kind of effect that something like Facebook has on our lives and indeed any of these other platforms, and the amount of data that’s out there on us, it’s kind of staggering. And then suddenly, there’s a situation where we need it and we need it now. We does not remote chance we’re going to get that right.
Zeni Bandy 40:27
That’s an interesting way Think about it, as well as that, like, yeah, like it as much as we might. People might be afraid of data. And it’s something that I battle with, too. As a woman. I want Google to always know where I’m at. You know, it gives me a sense of security. You know, if something happens, people can find me or at least find my phone. And so there’s that contrast of well, what actually is helping me What am I willing to give up for peace of mind or convenience
Charlotte Ward 41:00
Yeah or health in this case? Yeah. So let’s move on then to think about some of those individual relationships. I guess we’ve talked about data a lot. Maybe part of this discussion now is our individual relationships data but but specifically talking about changing times and changing attitudes and support and changing needs. How do we individually manage our approach to those how do we individually manage the way we lead a team and the way we respond to these changing times? And and as a kind of secondary questions that how do we bring new leaders with us?
Craig Stoss 41:45
I think one of the biggest trends that I’ve seen that’s different from even one year ago is a much especially in North America is a much higher focus on mental health. stress. No and protection. So, about a year about two years ago, I wrote my first kind of protection policy for what was women and people of colour on my team who were receiving abuse from our customers, specifically because they were women or people of colour. And it was, you know, as a white male, it wasn’t something that had really ever crossed my mind. And I think that, you know, we’ve seen some, a lot of stuff happen in the past few months, where, where those, those topics are becoming much more top of mind. And so, you know, when you talk about it, managing I think one of the biggest things that that really needs to be considered as a manager and for new managers especially, is to learn a lot about how to handle mental health situations, handle stress, leave, you know, be considerate of diverse opinions. You know, watch for the terminology that is non inclusive, that is pervasive in our society. Today and so, that is one thing that I think is absolutely a huge trend in our current changing environment.
Zeni Bandy 43:11
I agree with you a lot, Craig, it really comes down to staying educated about these different issues that are coming up. And don’t assume that even as a woman, a woman of colour, it’s not safe for me to assume that I can understand other people’s perspectives. So to not to be humble enough to know that you need to keep learning and that it’s a it’s a process that has to continue and that you have to make time for and have to be intentional about
Josh Magsam 43:45
it I think you just struck on something there which is being intentional, leading with intentionality. It’s always one of those things that it seems like such a simple concept at first blush, but then you kind of realise like it It takes work, and it takes a lot of buy in and you do have to, you do have to lead it, you have to reinforce it constantly. And so when I think about evolving as a leader, you know, I mean, I left academia and started in support and started as a rep and you know, rose on up and at every stage I was either learning from someone or starting to learn with others, or then teach others and guide and coach and mentor. And one of the things I’ve worked with is to sort of say, Hey, you know, some things don’t become muscle memory, you have to always be intentional and approach it and ask yourself and do that gut check, right? You know, the, I don’t care how many times I repeat it, I have to stop and think about it. And as you’re learning along with people, which is another part of evolution of leadership, for me is it’s not like Well, I’ve attained some level of knowledge, understanding That means these things are already baked into me and I no longer need to examine them before it is to train the folks that are becoming leaders under me that I coach, mentor guide, that I struggle with these things to folks, and I’m gonna have to keep coming back to them. And I’m gonna have to keep reinforcing them. And I need to keep hearing you and listening. And that is the model of leadership that I think is evolving and gaining traction. You know, maybe this is part of customer support, but I think it’s just many institutions at any department have it is we’re here to solve a problem. How do we solve this problem? Right? How do we solve the problem of, you know, gender bias and organisation? You don’t, you don’t solve it, you work at it. You listen, it becomes something that you’re continuing to examine and work through and ask yourself with every hire position, you post every promotion, what are we doing here? Right And I think that’s, that’s the lesson that is maybe the hardest to learn is like we haven’t. We haven’t solved it. We haven’t gotten there. We haven’t got a process that has now eliminated this right that we have to keep working at it.
Ethan Walfish 46:19
I thought that was great. I love that. Josh, thank you for sharing that. This was really thoughtful to think about intention.
Charlotte Ward 46:30
And, and interesting that you drew the comparison there between that continual journey and that continual effort and our experiences support people who frankly want to solve something and close that ticket and move on to the next one. Yeah, yeah.
It’s such The final thing real quick, Charlotte on the topic of how do you bring others new leaders with us? If I think back to my experiences They’re much younger support leader. And one of the challenges that I found in my life was that I kind of had this really tight grip on certain parts of my job that I felt made me who I am, you know, like I had our I had her Zendesk system, and I was the guy that, set it all up, and I knew all the reporting, and I’m, you know, and I’m holding on to that, because I felt my, you know, experience that that was an important thing. If I, if I let that go. Or if I let someone else come along and help, then then it would diminish me in some way. And as I as I’ve gotten a little more experienced a little older, I realised that those opportunities to delegate those opportunities to see someone that’s interested in something like reporting, and then show them hey, here’s, here’s, here’s some some of the tools that we’ve used. Here’s some of the stuff that I built. Here’s some things to think about. Can you help me with this project? Can we work on this together and let’s build something that’s 80%. And we’ll we’ll polish it and in doing that, I actually magnified my influence, I was able to get more done, but I was also able to help that that person grow In his career and, and prepare him for his next role. And so it’s not this zero sum game where for for, you know, for me to win, you have to lose or for you to win that I have to lose like when we are as leaders are able to delegate when we’re able to see the folks around us and say, Hey, here’s something that seems like it’s a good fit based on what I know about you, would you be Would you be interested in this, let me let me help you do this. The whole team grows and wins and we are we are much better as an organisation and eliminate now than we were when I was the one that was trying to keep everything on my plate and, and be the guy with the answers. So I think that’s something that’s important for us as leaders to remember that the delegating that investing in people and seeing who they are, is really, really key to their growth, but also to the growth of us and to our organisation to
Zeni Bandy 48:49
I’m really glad you brought that up, Matt. I think that’s a really common insecurity that leaders have in all areas of the business of feeling that if they’re not the ones doing it, that they that’s the Worth and if they’re not doing it, then they have less worth. And I think it’s just like coming again with the approach of, of having the coach mindset instead of the authority mindset. Like you don’t you don’t see it the great coaches, they’re not they’re trying to shoot the three pointers and then on the court, they’re the ones there that are giving advice, giving guidance asking the right questions, and inspiring people.
Greg Skirving 49:28
Yes, definitely empowering when you do that. And then I mean, to your point, Matthew, the Zendesk, Zendesk expert, you climb that mountain, great, go climb another one.
Ethan Walfish 49:42
There’s something that one of things I read the other day was about. And I’ve been I’ve been looking at a lot of very technical roles, and one of the things was having technically competent managers. And I thought that was a really interesting point about having a manager that’s able to do that. job that you’re doing. And and that’s something that I think about now is something that really meant a lot to me when I was a younger support engineer, right? Is that is that having someone that was willing to jump in and answer things with me? And and sort of, you know, help me Show me how these things could be done better in many in many situations. And in that way was sort of like delegating some of these tasks to me, right, it was something that they could show me how to bring me along, or some of that opportunity. And I think that that’s one way to really lead by example, and really to inspire others to do to do great work.
Charlotte Ward 50:42
Yeah, absolutely. I think that there are so many good pieces of advice and there, there were so many good snippets. I’m almost afraid to come to your for my last point, which is that one piece of advice now, we’ve talked, we’ve talked somewhat about Our own personal perspectives and kind of how we, how we approach this and how we, you know, like that the importance of constantly learning the importance of being a coach all of those things. And, and, and indeed touched on how that relates to bringing on other big other new leaders in our own teams. Maybe maybe the ankles take care is to think about our listeners, potentially people who we don’t know personally who we don’t have that long standing relationship with of being their leader, or, or, or mentor or whatever. And, but, and so having a personal investment in in their own journey to, to levelling up their leadership. Think about somebody you don’t know somebody out there who’s listening. What’s your one piece of advice for that person when it comes to levelling up their own leadership?
Zeni Bandy 51:55
I would say hit the classics and one person that comes to mind for me right now. Now, john Maxwell, he has this great book called a 21. Gosh, the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. It’s been out for quite a long time. But I think it’s a must read. And it really helps shift into more of a service, leader mind mindset and don’t always have to go to what’s newest, what are the newest things? Sometimes some of the things that have been out for quite a while are really important to make sure that you you understand. I think
Ethan Walfish 52:31
a cliche phrase that I’ve heard a few times is be the person you needed. And it’s something that for me, I try to think about when I’m working with people that are on my team, or even when I’m, you know, talking to people that are, you know, people that are managers that are maybe above me, I think about trying to provide whatever it is that I think that we’re in their position that they that they need, right and whether or not that’s coaching, whether or not that’s an ear whether or not that’s more compelling information to make a better decision, trying to really make sure that I’m Providing whatever I can for that individual or even for that customer, right, or maybe even to the rest of the business to provide the service that I can that I think is really needed at that time.
Craig Stoss 53:12
I’m going to extend Ethan’s advice and say provide what the customer needs to, you know, I think it sounds obvious listen to your customers, but I feel now more than ever, where they have social media outlets where it’s easy to broadcast, you know, disparaging remarks, you know, you have your, your jeetu crowd reviews, you know, it’s easy to spread, you know, bad situations. And but conversely, it’s also easy to to take advice, you know, social media is a cornucopia of, of feedback that you should be taking in and listening to and doing things with. So my advice for future is, I truly believe the companies that succeed are the ones that provide the best customer experience. Because right now that’s that’s a huge part of of the brand you’re building. And so, start a voice of customer programme, listen to your customers actually take action on the feedback. And and, and then to use Ethan’s words provide what they need. Because that that’s a path to success.
Matt Dale 54:17
I think, you know, trying to put myself in your shoes, I would, I would think, try to try to talk to your people and try to set them up for success, kind of like what Ethan said, you know, be what they need, but also be really clear with what you’re expecting from them and set them up in such a way that they have the tools that they need to get the job done, that they understand what success looks like, if they understand, you know, what you’re expecting of them because that ambiguity for you know, for someone who’s starting their career in support, or maybe reporting to you as a support leader, is like the worst thing ever. The more clarity you can provide, the more detail you can give them. It’s really easy to kind of have the the idea was read a book at one of the heath brothers I think it was, you talked about the curse of knowledge. As soon as you know something, then it’s impossible for you to really remember what it was like to not know that thing. And I think as leaders, it’s easy like a lot of us, especially if you’re new at this, you came up through the ranks, like many of us did, where you were a frontline support, you were the only support person in your organisation. You didn’t know anything. But once you did, it was like, well, this obviously makes sense. This is how we talk to a customer. And the situation is who we talk to on the development team when we need to get this fixed. And that information you have in your head, the people who report to you don’t necessarily so the more that you can put that out on paper and codified in a wiki or, or whatever, the more you can make that clear, the better time they’re going to have an easier it’s going to be for you to function. Well.
Greg Skirving 55:41
Yeah, and I think, for me some good advice that I got a long time ago, inspect what you expect. You know, from I mean, we talked about, you know, our systems and processes that we have, are they still working? Do we need to change them from our people? Are they doing Really happy? Are they getting burned out? You know, how do we make them proactive from our customers? Are they getting what they what they want so, you know, not just taking things for granted. truly understanding and seeking to understand and say inspect what you expect.
Charlotte Ward 56:18
Thank you so much. I think that this has been an unusually stuffed chock full panel of, of almost sound bites of advice. I think I could chop this up into one minute segments and an every piece would have a little golden droplet that people should take away and consider very carefully. I not that any of my panels have been any less stuffed full of wonderful advice and perspectives, but somehow this one just seems to have been extra full. Which I think as has made me feel a bit spoiled, so Normally, I can kind of sum up a couple of things that I think is is true of the whole panel discussion. But, but that we have touched on so many interesting things here. I think that one thing that I’m going to take away is that this is a time of change. And I think that we’re seeing changes and influences in all sorts of ways. And those are coming through because the business is changing, because technology is changing, because the world is changing. And I think that, you know, it’s not necessarily a time of revolutionary changes happening in a month or two, although it may be in while to those aspects. There are bigger influences, but that support is under constant evolution and support leadership, I think is under constant evolution. And there are always new things to think about. Always new ways to consider working always new things you you should inspect and think that the support that I stepped into two and a half decades ago is a lifetime away from the support ecosystem that I’m working in and I’m experiencing now. But I don’t think I love it any less for that. I think I still, I still find every day I you know, all my time on the frontline and all of my time in leadership. It’s still it’s still everyday is different support. I think that that is probably the story of the evolution. Thank you so much. That’s it for today. Go to customer support leaders.com/105 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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