Ashley Sachs joins me for the first time. We ponder the particular challenges of remote work in the communications between Support and Product.
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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 130 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. This week we’re talking about supports relationship to the product team. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome to the podcast today Ashley Sachs. Ashley, it’s lovely to have you for the first time on the podcast. First things first, would you like to introduce yourself?
Ashley Sachs 0:44
Yeah, great. Thanks for having me, by the way, but yeah, so I’m Ashley and I am currently the Director of support at whereby, and I am based in the US in a little town on the border of Tennessee and Georgia, right, nestled next to a mountain. So I like to spend my weekends hiking and soaking up the fall colours right now. Hopefully they’re about to set in. Oh, awesome.
Charlotte Ward 1:09
Lovely. sounds lovely park the world one I’ve never been to. But I hope too soon based on that description. Yeah. It’s a great. Yeah, that’s something in the mountains. It’s very poetic. I wonder, can you be as poetic about our topic this week? I guess we’ll find out over the next 10 minutes or so. It would be a good challenge challenging. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, well, let’s do it. So the topic this week, then is supports relationship to product. And for me, that can mean the product or the product team, which we talk about in terms of support and product.
Ashley Sachs 1:50
Uh, yeah, so I probably have a little bit of a well, not now in the state of the world that we’re in now. But I would say that I look through everything through the lens of a remote worker, because I was one of our first that was our first US based hired our company. So I was very remote compared to the rest of my team. So I really look at relationships with any team in the business and through that remote lens, and what does it look like to connect and intentionally to be cross functional with not only product, you know, but with sales marketing? So I think maybe we could talk a little bit about what does that look like for remote work? I know now that we’re all in some capacity remote, in some way, shape, or form? So that might be pretty relevant. Um,
Charlotte Ward 2:43
yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah, I think you said they’re really key word you said intentional? And I’m kind of interested Absolutely. And what that what that means to you. Because I think being intentional in communications, as you said, across the business is kind of really important, particularly when you’re remote. Do you do you think that in terms of like, how support relates to product or the product team, that there are, there’s a special approach? Are there special tools or, or special? You know, I don’t know, paradigms and ways of working that you think are particularly beneficial?
Ashley Sachs 3:20
Yeah. So I think it’s about learning each other’s language. That’s one aspect of intentionality there. And the way that product may digest information may be completely different from the way support digest information. So really being intentional in the sense of learning that right, I think that that’s key, just sitting down with your product leaders and having conversation of, hey, what’s your hypothesis? d? Is that based on you know, just a feeling, is it based on data? How can support contribute to that, and the way that we’ve done that with our team so far is we’ve had, every couple months, we’ve had meetings with our support, start with our product leaders. And we’ve really sat down to look at our customer conversations from a quantitative lens in a qualitative lens. So we do track volume of the things that our customers are saying, but we also take customer verbatims in kind of tell both sides of the story. But really, it’s about does that work for product? So it’s really about speaking each other’s language, just the I mean, it sounds like a simple concept, but there’s definitely work that needs to go into that and understanding these conversations that we’re having with our customers and how do we relate them back to the way that product can digest that information?
Unknown Speaker 4:47
Unknown Speaker 4:50
I think when it comes to
Charlotte Ward 4:54
like taking the conversations from customers, it’s really easily done. Just Just Going back to that remote aspect, again, I think particularly small in small startups, I think this is a relationship that often is just built on, you know, in the corner of an open plan office or in a in a side room somewhere. And feedback from customers is taken from your support folks and passed on to product in live conversations. It’s all very organic. And everybody goes, Yeah, that, that that’s a cool and groovy idea from that one customer or those two customers, let’s do that. And away product team goes and implement something customers want. Right? But I guess remote is kind of a challenge here, isn’t it in the same way as it is, I guess, with a lot of communications, and how they translate from, what the difference is between how you do that in the office and how you do that remote. But, but I think this is a particularly kind of naturally organic one when it’s in person. And in small organisations. Would you agree?
Ashley Sachs 6:01
Right, yeah. So I think, to kind of, so we’re in a unique situation where we’ve been able to come from a scrappy startup mode of like, just doing those slack conversations of Hey, our top spinning customer that’s been with us for, you know, two years has said x, right, but now, recently, with some growth, we’ve had to realise that’s not sustainable, let me get is for anybody. But really take that approach of Okay, we have to be intentional, again, there’s that word we have to be intentional about having a meeting the agenda on that meeting, and and is the customer feedback in the pain points that our customers are having right now? And what, what is the volume of that? And then also being able to see, does that fit in with our, you know, strategy? Or is this in line with where we’re wanting to take the tool as a whole? All those kinds of things. So it really does, it is very organic at the beginning. And it becomes very quickly not sustainable to track feedback in a in a slack message. Right. So you definitely have to have your, your tools in line. And I will say from our team’s perspective, I mean, managing a tool that gathers feedback and making sure that it is efficient for your team is a is a big task to take on. And actually it takes work on all fronts.
Charlotte Ward 7:31
Yes, a real investment, isn’t it? Because I think it’s something that you only really want to you only really want to kind of kick off that bit of the relationship once you really want to. You can evolve it, but I think like getting it getting the approach right early on. is is is worth front loading some investment there, isn’t it?
Ashley Sachs 7:54
Yeah, absolutely. And I think part of that is also trading support and having the conversation in support of what’s the what are the right questions to ask, right? Like, we’re not just, oh, this customer x wrote in about this specific, you know, product feature that they need. And we really dig in to say, Okay, why does this customer need that? What’s their use case? And are they in our demographic that we’re designing the tool for? Or is that a product as part of the product strategy overall? So the support team, knowing that really helps both the support team and product to be wearing kind of this the same glasses, if you will, of how to take good feedback and rich feedback, right? Because that’s how we’re going to be able to actually speak to a user base and have a good product at the end of the day.
Charlotte Ward 8:49
Yeah, yeah. The other thing that you said earlier about quantifying it, as well. So there’s the quality of it, but but how do you quantify it? do you do? Is it just account or do you? You know, in those early days, I think one one thing that you also said was, this is one of our top like customers, and let’s give a lot of weight and a lot of credence to this very conversational piece of feedback in the conversation you have with product, but but as you grow, you want a lot more quantification, don’t you around that, but you do. Wait for those top flight customers still.
Ashley Sachs 9:23
Yeah, I mean, I think I mean, I think that’s pretty much prescriptive across the board that if you have a customer that is carrying a lot of your revenue, right, like you absolutely want to listen to them still with that lens of, you know, is this the customer that we’re designing the product for? Are they using it the way that we’ve designed the product is that sustainable use as well. I mean, that’s also those are probably going to be a little bit more strategic conversations that you would want to hand off maybe to a user researcher or If you have that in your in your product team, but I think even just having a little piece of that, from the support side and being able to harvest those kinds of conversations and have that kind of curiosity, I think it really elevates the value of support to at the end of the day, right? We’re the ones talking to our customers, our customers are incredibly honest with us. So I think if we’re able to tell the story of the customer from where they’re coming, and how long they’ve been with us, and how much they pay us, I think that that’s equally a good part of the story. And don’t get me wrong, I think all customers are important, but there are aspects of the of like, whatever product you’re supporting, there’s going to be people that use it wrong. And there’s going to be people that are outside of your, you know, your target demographic. So I think it’s just important for support to understand this and be able to have a human conversation with those customers, if they are asking for a feature request outside of, you know, your
Charlotte Ward 11:04
Yeah, basic wheelhouse. So yeah, absolutely. And the other thing I think support can bring to this is a layer of sentiment beyond the data range with there’s quite a bit, that personal relationship we have with any customer sentiment is is another thing that is more difficult to quantify. But I think if you can layer that on some of those conversations with product, and that can really help evolution, right.
Unknown Speaker 11:30
Yeah, absolutely. I always say that, like,
Ashley Sachs 11:34
data isn’t, isn’t a story without, like, some context, right? And without actual words, so we always include customer verbatims with our data, right? Like, if we say 30 customers are wanting to feature, here’s some specific customer stories along with that feature. Right, like whether it’s from a teacher or or from a consultant, like these are the use cases. And these are what they’re telling us from their own words. Right. And these are the problems that they are having, and we need to solve if that’s part of our wheelhouse.
Charlotte Ward 12:10
Hmm, yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. So what’s your final piece of advice for the final? My final leader talking to this topic this week? What’s your final parting piece of inspiration for the week? Do you think?
Ashley Sachs 12:28
So for words of wisdom, and I think that it boils down to getting a common understanding of the way support approaches, conversations, and then what product is looking for in order to grow the tool. And that might be an attitude of curiosity, from the sport perspective, where it’s looking at features feature sets, what customers are saying, for new requests, or existing UI improvements or what have you. And then the product being able to leverage the being able to leverage supports position of being in front of the customer all day, every day, and actually just getting a getting insight to what they’re talking to users about. So I think it’s Yeah, just boiling down to it to a common, like, understanding and goal at the end of the day. And
Charlotte Ward 13:32
that’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/130 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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