How to build a winning support team
Like many other tech companies, Shortcut started with a support team of none. Our engineers wrote the software, deployed it, and fixed any bugs created in the process after they were reported by a small group of users. As time went on and our user base expanded, it was clear that we needed to build a dedicated support team that would not just respond to bug reports but also take in product feedback and help new teams get on board.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or adding to your current roster, here are a few things to keep in mind to build and retain a strong, winning support team.
Define your core support values
Before you consider hiring for your team, make sure to define your fundamental support values. This is especially important when you’re still small, these values set your team up to deliver what you define as great service and part of your brand’s journey. Ask yourself, “What do we want to be known for? What’s the thing we want people to come away with after our interactions?”
At Zapier, their #1 value is “Default to Action”, and at FullStory is “Empathy at Scale”. At Shortcut support, we value:
These four values guide not only our customer interactions, but we make sure that every decision the team makes aligns with them too.
Getting to great
Finding the right person to add to your support team is tough. There is a core set of customer support skills one needs: problem solving, a strong sense of empathy and writing skills. But what else makes a great support teammate?
Excellent problem solvers
A great problem solver tries to correctly diagnose a user’s issue and ensure it’s resolved in the best (and in some cases, unexpected) manner. They also proactively find solutions to problems the customer didn’t even realize they had or even offer simple advice about your product.
You’ll want to find a person who is sincerely empathetic to your customers and makes them feel heard and satisfied. One could argue that it’s more important to take care of a customer’s emotional needs (how the customer wants to feel) than their rational needs (what they want done). This is a careful balancing act. By listening and asking the right questions at the right time, your team can take the opportunity to help, support and educate your customers.
Strong written and verbal communication skills
Your support team interacts with your customers on a daily basis through different channels, especially email and chat. They’re on the frontlines, and need to tease out ideas and problems over text. On top of using proper grammar and complete sentences, your team should strive to be friendly, positive, honest, and able to meet your customers where they are.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there’s often a language gap between your users, so excellent, clear communication helps bridge that. It’s also important when you’re writing documentation!
Independent and resourceful
You want someone who’s confident making decisions on their own for the good of the customer and can act without much regulation (at least, in terms of problem solving.) At Shortcut, we also value someone who learns quickly and independently, since many on our team are remote.
It’s important to build your team with those who understand the tech company world and your specific space. For example, we’re an Agile-based project management tool, so anyone who has experience working with other tools like Trello or Asana, or is well-versed in Agile methodology is a major boon to our team. Not only do they understand your customers better, they also can legitimately empathize with their frustrations.
So what are you missing?
Finding people who are interested in projects that add to your support team’s strengths is a surefire way to make you more successful. Are there gaps where you might be lacking?
New people also bring a fresh perspective to problems — review candidates’ experience and interests.
Here at Shortcut, we wanted to overhaul our Help Center and documentation, but knew we lacked the time and manpower to do it in the right way. Then Stephanie came along. During her interview, Stephanie mentioned that she was passionate about writing and maintaining documentation, both internally and customer-facing. Besides being a great culture add, those skills help better our support offering (and look for more doc improvements in the coming months.)
“But how do I find these people?” As with building out any team, it can be hard. Don’t reinvent the wheel; using your existing networks is the best way to find the perfect people. Reach out to your investors for recommendations within their portfolio. Ping other co-founders you know to see if they know anyone you can chat with about rounding out your support team.
At Shortcut support, we’ve found a great pool of candidates within Support Driven, which is a Slack-based support professional community. Besides being a place of sanity for support professionals, it’s been a big win for growing our team.
What does winning mean?
Building a winning support team is definitely hard work but 100% worth the effort. Being known for good support is great outside your own industry (see: Zappos, Warby Parker, etc.) As you strengthen your team, you’ll build a rapport and intimacy with your customers that can help you gather feedback moves your product forward and shapes your roadmap. Overall, though, you’ll be delivering on your support values and your customers will be happier.
Have you built a great tech support team at your company? We’d love to hear more about how you did it and what tips you have to share on Twitter!