Brad Patterson is Community Manager at Evercontact – an app that intelligently scans incoming emails and auto-updates contact details in your address book or CRM. Brad speaks five languages (English, French, Chinese, Spanish and Italian) and prefers to refer to himself as the glue between people and projects, rather than Community Manager.
Evercontact is available for Gmail, Google Apps, Salesforce, Outlook, Chrome, and does the job of automatically analyzing your email and bringing in details like phone numbers and addresses straight into your contacts so you don’t have to worry about those, day in and day out.
We managed to catch up with Brad and ask him about how he makes customers happy at Evercontact.
What’s your official title, Brad?
And how big is your team?
There are 9 of us full-time, and I’m the one that handles most of the B2C customer-facing interactions. From there we have five engineers (including CEO, CSO), two B2B sales guys & Head of Marketing.
And where do you guys operate out of?
I live in the French countryside and work from home, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I join the team in Paris. Like me, most of the team is spread out all over France. The fun part is that I’m answering people from all over the world, and all of that from a humble little office tucked away in the French countryside, or from a snazzy office in the capital, a stone’s throw from the highway that circles the city!
The snazzy Evercontact office in Paris, France
You’re basically living the dream! So, how many products do you support by yourself?
Our core product is Evercontact’s address book/CRM contact auto-enricher, but we have that for Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook, Salesforce, Highrise, Chrome, ConnectWise, and we also have other products like Flashback (update 100-1000s contacts overnight by analyzing past email exchanges) and AddMe (virtual business card), soon launching on iOS!
What channels do you support?
We have a help widget, and we support through email and Twitter.
Eighty percent of our client interactions are through email and they’re usually responses to our trigger/drip campaigns.
So, I tend to spend about 40 percent of my time on email (RescueTime gives me this heads up). My “golden rules” help me to do this efficiently so that I’m nearly at inbox zero every evening.
And how many queries do you receive everyday?
Tell us about the tools you use for customer support:
Text expansion, shortcuts, Boomerang, Rapportive, Gmail labs – undo send, auto-advance, send & archive – Mailbox, Hootsuite, our FAQ.
The Evercontact team hard at work
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you end up in customer support?
Came with the territory as a community manager for other startups since 2011. As our user base has expanded at Evercontact, it’s become 30-40% of what I do at this point.
What does a typical day look like for an Evercontact support rep?
9:00-10:30AM: I try to finish answering all the client requests from the previous evening as 75% of our customers are in the US (and we’re 6-9 hours ahead). Then, I work on internal projects, blog posts, marketing operations until mid-afternoon. Another hour of customer support and then, a final check in later in the evening to minimize the number of clients that will have to wait more than 9-12 hours as I nod off for the evening!
Keeping yourself motivated day in and day out must be hard, especially as it’s just you. How do you do it?
We use Yammer internally to keep each other up to date on what we’re working on, what’s challenging us or what we’re excited about having rocked out (sale, new feature, bug disposal.)
Tell us about your toughest day at work.
The day we pushed out a pretty nasty lil’ bug on our Outlook version where Evercontact stopped working for many of our clients. That day seemed to drag itself out for 48 hours until we found a solution and were able to push it out. It’s code. It happens, and what’s most important is an open discussion with your clients where they know that you’re doing your best, and that while you hope to get it right 99.9% of the time, that they know you’re human too and that they’re even happy to forgive you every now and again.
Taking time off must be near impossible.
I have a wonderful colleague who fills in for me when I take off for a weekend or a week a few times a year. Even though I’m hyper-connected online, it’s a lot of pressure to “always be on” because I’m responsible for a large number of wonderful clients all over the world. So, taking off time, and really getting a good digital break from time-to-time is important.
Most often, I hit the waves 🙂
What’s the biggest surprise you’ve received as a support agent?
I’ve gotten advice on how to handle sleepless nights with my newborn from our customers.
And believe it or not, it wasn’t just one client— but many! Parents love sharing their tips and when you can tell that a client is friendly and that they’re stepping towards you in a more social interaction type of way, it’s ok to share a bit of your personal life as well. This has amounted to fun interactions for me, and some GREAT advice as well! And, yes, my son sleeps wonderfully through the night now!
Let’s talk numbers. What, in your opinion, is the most important metric you think a support rep should aim for?
Quick responses matter the most to most of our customers, but at the end of the day, I think it’s making sure that each client that comes towards us leaves with a good experience.
While we don’t pay specific attention to the 180 turn arounds (ie “unhappy start” into a “satisfied conclusion”), those are almost always the moments that feel most rewarding.
How do you measure customer happiness?
I tend to estimate how happy our customers are with the tone of their responses.
Often, I’ll follow up with those clients who ran into issues a few days/week afterwards to make sure that they’ve come back to a “happy place”. As we’re still a small team, there’s not necessarily a need to “metrify” this. If we have 5 folks running support and needed more of an overview, I could see the value there, but for now the shop is run by me and I know our customers. So, I can tell how they’re reacting to the progress in their individual cases.
Juggling is a favorite pastime at the Evercontact office
I’m going to throw a couple of situations at you. Tell us how you’d react to them.
a) A customer requests a feature that’s in the works but you know it’s complicated so it’s going to take a while. What do you do?
Above all, it’s important to validate the person’s feedback and show appreciation for their having made the effort to share that feedback (9/10 people don’t and it’s very valuable to startups like us). From there, I avoid giving any kind of specific estimate as to when we could push a feature out. That’s just setting people up for disappointment if you don’t hit that mark.
b) A customer requests a feature that you’ll probably never build. How do you break it to him?
I often try to be transparent with the fact that we’d love to build a customized product for each client, but that unfortunately as a startup we have to stay lean and focus on improvements that our clients have continually requested. From there, what’s most important is to validate the exchange — thank them for their feedback and say that it’s an idea that you’ll share with the team.
c) A customer requests a feature that’s not on the plan he’s subscribed to. He’s willing to pay extra for the feature but he wants to stay on the current plan. What do you do?
Evercontact is a very affordable solution, so if they need the step up plan, then we encourage them to move forward with that higher plan.
d) We usually ask Heads of Support what they do when one of their reps makes a mistake but since it’s just you, what’s the protocol when a customer becomes seriously frustrated with one of your answers?
As I’m the one that’s handling almost all of the interactions, if I slip up, I tend to share it with our CEO. That being said, it doesn’t happen often at this point since I’ve been in this position for a long time, and because of my personality, I tend to read people well and give them an answer that will appease them at least to a certain extent, even if I can’t give them the exact answer they’re hoping to get from us.
What’s your refund policy like? Do you plug in a sales rep somewhere down the line to try to woo the customer back?
Our policy is to do our best to keep the person on board or to substitute the refund in another way — additional service, or a discount if nothing else. Most of the time, our clients are willing to rework their request, but that’s because of the way that we engage them — open, friendly and seeking an alternative solution.
It’s just you at the moment but you guys must have thought about hiring another rep as Evercontact grows. What qualities do you guys keep a look out for?
While we haven’t yet moved towards employing another person in a support role, we have considered doing so and have a feeling for what we’d be looking for — someone who likes solving problems, someone who stays pretty upbeat even when there’s a nasty bug buzzing around. Fast. Empathetic. Not afraid of digging into a bit of code (i.e looking at a log, writing an email in HTML). Fun. Likes languages (We’re a bunch of language geeks). A good writer, someone who can follow the flow of the type of client in front of them.
We want someone who knows that an email with more than 200 words isn’t productive for either party.
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
Zappos. I called once for a small issue and they were wonderful on the phone. The honest truth is you don’t expect that from big companies; you expect the opposite and they were amazingly cheerful and helpful. Leaves you with a great impression.
Oh, and finally: what would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
Garlic. I’d eat lots of garlic. I hear it keeps them away. 🙂
We started the Secret Sauce series to find out more about what makes the customer service of some great companies click. We get in touch with one awesome support representative and we pick their brains. We find out what a typical day is like for these support rockstars, their personal work-philosophy, support process and what inspires them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy. Know a customer support rep you’d like to see featured here? Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.