Believing in your employees

Written by on March 21, 2014

Managing people is hard. A lot of times you have to take decisions that are not based on data or facts but based on your beliefs and values. I have always believed in being a coach and not being a manager. A coach always tries to find the best talent in a player and uses it in a way to benefit both the player and the team. My approach towards people management is simple – there are no bad employees, there are only bad fits (to their role). We have to find the role that matches the employee’s talent. Once that is done you can sit back and watch people take charge of their career and deliver spectacular results.

AnnapoornaEvery once in a while, things happen that reinforce your belief in your values. This is one such story. This is the story of Annapoorna – a Freshdesk employee since 2012.We hired her fresh out of college (as part of an off-campus drive at SASTRA University) to play a role in Marketing. I still remember her interview. She was smart, had good communication skills and we wanted to hire her. We were not sure where exactly we would fit her in. But I told her when handing over her offer letter that we would let her try her hand at different things to help discover what she really likes doing.

Initially, we had her in the Marcom department and she was learning the product and trying to write marketing content. As it turns out, even though her written communication was pretty good she wasn’t producing good marketing content. Things didn’t work out and eventually we had to give her a team change. This time we moved her to SEO writing and boy, she hated it even more. Obviously her manager wasn’t happy either. Things took a turn to the worse and she was literally in tears when I met her to discuss her career. She was barely 6-8 months in the company and was feeling really bad she wasn’t contributing.

I reminded her of my promise to her to help her discover what she is really good at. I asked her if she would be willing to try her hand at Customer Support. I talked to our Customer Support manager to let her try Support. He reluctantly agreed because those days our small Support team was all men and most of them were working in the night shift to help US customers. Anna started off in the day shift and started helping our customers in India and Europe.

Initially, it was hard for her as she was trying to learn more about the product (to be in tech support, you need to be far more knowledgeable about the product than in marketing) but had to face a flurry of Support tickets every morning and most of her team members were coming in towards the evening. But we discovered something during that process – she was writing great support emails and winning the love of lots of customers.

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Customers consistently thanked her for her detailed responses and patient help.

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One customer had this to tell her:

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 11.01.30 AM

She won the love of customers because she owned the customer problem, coordinated with developers to find resolutions to problems and ensured that customers were constantly kept updated on what was happening. She was their representative inside Freshdesk.

We were all seeing her career takeoff from an unsuccessful marketer to a top notch Customer Service Professional. Our own Support leaderboards showed this clearly as well.

Anna on our Support Leaderboard

Yesterday, we had a Customer Support Team meeting where we were discussing ideas on how to improve our Customer Support even further and take it to the next level. After the meeting, I called Anna and told her that she was doing an awesome job and I was really glad that finally Support was working out for her.

This morning, when I woke up I saw the news on Twitter where Anna had won the Customer Success Hero Award 2014 at CSSummit 2014! I am immensely proud of what she has achieved and I’m glad that she has kept the Freshdesk flag flying high in the world of Customer Support! Congratulations Anna, and a big thank you from all of us at Team Freshdesk!

P.S. – As a coach I now feel proud and satisfied at having discovered another star!

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  • Anand Sukumaran

    Awesome come back story!

  • Vaitheeswaran Krishna Subraman

    Girish – This is a great story about employees should be nurtured to fit into the right role. Also; this speaks about the right attitude, commitment and hard work shown by Annapoorna to arrive at where she is today – Excellent ! Kudos to the Freshdesk team.

  • ksenthil

    Brillinat Story girish. A good company always gives people room to grow and into something which leverages one’s strength to the best. Good to hear such stories and waiting to hear more of it! Congrats to Anna as well!

  • I love the transparency! This is an awesome story. I will bet my left arm that Anna will continue to surprise us all! Keep raising the bar Anna! #fan #goteamsupport #resilient

    • Anna

      Thanks a bunch, Zen. I must say that this post, all the comments and appreciation is very motivating. It wouldn’t have been possible without such a great team led by G, who has kept faith in me throughout and helped me mould myself! So yes, this has got me all pumped up now to keep raising the bar!

  • Rajagopalan C

    Bingo !. Awesome stuff. Coach is a lovely metaphor !

  • Congrats to Annapoorna for winning the award and being an amazing employee that customers like!

  • FaceMe

    Good piece.. Looking fwd to work in a dynamic group.. Really excited about my role at Fd..!!:):)

  • Fresh approach and great value for people you work with ! Im sure every employee of your company are very talented and lucky to be a part of this culture.

  • Dipak

    Now i understood that there is no need to fire anybody, only you have to change his role, thanks Girish and Anna