Dulce Ramirez is the Head of Support at Switch Communications Inc. She takes care of two products: UberConference and Switch.
Nine people strong, the support team is spread over San Jose, CA, Raleigh, NC, and Hawaii. They offer support over email, chat, telephone and SMS, and they handle about 100 support queries a day.
We managed to catch up with Dulce and chat with her about life and customer support.
Tell us how your career in customer support came about to be.
My background is in IT support. My first job was with HP. I love technology and I enjoy educating people. There’s something so gratifying in teaching people new ways of making their lives easier.
True! What does a typical day look like for the Head of Support?
Most of my day consists of answering questions about the service’s functionality and QA. I hate attending meetings; they take away from my productivity. Which is why I only schedule 2 per week. One with my team and another with my boss. So, I just answer emails and take phone calls.
I understand that the support team works remotely; one lucky agent works out of Hawaii, if I’m not mistaken. What do you think are the pros and cons of a remote team?
The pro is that it allow us to provide 24/5 support for our products and provide work for the local community. As for cons, remote members may not always feel like they’re in the loop or included on some company activities 🙁
I go visit them every other month for a week. We do team building activities and 1:1 activities.
Managing a remote team is hard. How do you motivate yourself (and your team) day in and day out?
I’m generally happy to come to work and I think this reflects in my actions and attitude. I’m their biggest cheerleader and do my best to give them all the necessary resources to provide stellar support.
I often remind them that we’re the face of the company and word of mouth is our biggest ongoing marketing campaign!
I truly value their input when it comes to department decisions. Listening to their feedback and implementing their idea really makes for a happy team.
What do you look for in your support reps? And how do you test for those traits?
I look for personable reps, people who have the same passion for technology as we (the team) do and communication skills. This I test by throwing out a question like: Give me instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
How much training do you provide your team? And what kind?
Training and team education is always ongoing. Everyday, you learn something. We’re lucky in that our engineering team is constantly adding features and making changes. We’re constantly doing QA, so keeping documentation up to date is vital to our success.
What, in your opinion, is the most important metric that a support rep should keep an eye on?
Satisfaction rating! We allow users to provide feedback at the end of each case. Why? Because keeping our users happy is always our goal!
Tell us about your social media strategy. How do you handle queries that come in through Facebook or Twitter?
When people report issues via social media, we generally direct them to support chat/email/phone. It’s hard to provide good support through a social media channel. You have limited room to work with and I don’t feel it’s an appropriate place for ongoing support. Nice way to keep users informed, not so much for support.
What’s your most memorable customer interaction?
I received an email from a merchant that we had a chargeback on one of our business accounts. I researched a little bit to make sure we did not have any outstanding emails with them, maybe we missed something, that caused them to take this measure. I went ahead and downgraded their account anyway.
A few days later, we got a call from the Admin of the account wondering why the account was no longer active. So, we explained to her why it was done. Turns out, the admin’s daughter had stolen her credit card and pretty much racked up several hundreds of dollars in Uber (the cab company). So, she contacted her credit card company and had them file chargebacks on all transactions with Uber. Us being one of them!
That’s a great and tragic story. I’m not sure how I should react. Anyway, how do you scale support while keeping the culture and core values intact AND making sure customers end up happy? When you add a remote team to the equation, the complexity just trebles.
Customers happiness is always our #1 priority! I scaled by hiring people I’ve worked with in the past. People who were willing to follow me on this venture! They understood my expectation and for the most part, have the same work ethics. That goes a long way.
What is your biggest challenge in providing great support?
Unfortunately, you can’t always fix everyone’s problem. The service we provide has so many variables. Say, a user has an older computer or slow network. It can be hard to present them with a great product which is innovative when they’re attempting to use it on an old device.
What is the best part about working for Switch Communications Inc.?
Being able to work alongside my CEO and engineering team. Hands down!
Tell us about a really tough call and how you handled it.
Oh, it had to be with this person who wasn’t a user. He called in and wanted me to guarantee that he would not face any problems with our service, problems that he was facing with their current conference provider. Not knowing what that issue was, he wanted me to guarantee it would not happen with UberConference. He kept going on about how he works with very important people and that he can’t be bothered with troubleshooting problems. Luckily the issue they were facing was related to pins. UberConference offers NO PINS! Score for us.
What do you do when you’ve had a rough customer call? How do you get back into your happy place?
Usually, I just let them talk and get whatever issue they’re having allowing them to get it off their chest. I reassure them that I’m an advocate for them and that I’m here to help them.
I get back to my happy place by putting on music! Thinking of friends and family works too.
We’re going to throw some situations at you. Tell us how you’d handle them.
a) A customer requests a feature that’s in the works but it’s complicated and you don’t have an ETA. How do you usually handle these requests?
Always thank the user for taking the time to send us their feedback.
If they are requesting a feature that is in the works but currently has no date of implementation, I’d say:
We appreciate your feedback and will share it with our product team. We’ve heard this request before and we’ll be sure to send in your vote to move it up in priority. This feature is something that is on the roadmap, but unfortunately, we have no date of its availability.
b) What if it’s a feature you have no intention of building?
Thank you for the feedback. Unfortunately, that is a feature that is not on the roadmap. However, we’ll be sure to share your interest with our product team for future consideration.
c) How do you deal with requests for features that are not on the plan they’re [customers] subscribed to? Do you categorically deny these requests or do you make some exceptions every now and then?
Every week, I have a meeting with the product team. I share every request with them. Sometimes they’re good. Others, not so much. Nonetheless, I share them with the team.
What is the key thing that makes your customer support so great?
Loving the place you work and who you work for. Makes a world of difference! Keeping it light, allowing your team to have some freedom. I’m not big on micromanaging people.
What’s your biggest time saving trick?
There’s such a thing? Kidding! I’d say, working from home. No time wasted in getting ready and commuting into the office. Just roll out of bed and start cranking!
Haha. Sounds like a dream come true. What do you find most rewarding about being a customer support agent?
When you turn an angry user into a happy one and they recognize that you are on their side. That’s really rewarding.
What makes everything worth it?
Sounds cheesy but my CEO makes all worth it! His passion for what we do is invigorating!
Tell us about a customer who always makes your day.
John Morton 🙂 small business guy, who always has useful feedback. We’ve made lots of awesome improvements, thanks to him.
What’s your support playlist like? What kind of music do you like to listen to while supporting?
Really depends on the day, I listen to a lot of soul house. I stream a long mix from one of my favorite DJs and just start getting to it!
What kind of advice would you give someone who’s building a new custserv team?
Find members that are dependable, self motivated and need little leadership. Oh! And be sure they use proper grammar. 🙂
What are the biggest challenges ahead for your customer support team?
We’re always up for challenges. However, I can honestly say that we haven’t had many. We’re fortunate to have an awesome engineering team that really cares about the product and over user experience. I’m sure they’ll come with time, but as of now…nothing. This is still fun and in its early stages of becoming an amazing team.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt at Switch Comm Inc.?
I learned that things change fast, and with change, there’s growth. What I believe to be an awesome product got even better with time. You have to be ready to face challenges and change head on.
What do you think is the secret sauce to customer happiness?
I think the secret sauce for customer happiness is meeting their needs and being available when they’re in need of assistance.
Really value their feedback when they take the time to give it to you. Always be available when needed and DO NOT BE PUSHY if they want to cancel. Gather information as to what would want to make them leave and improve on it – if possible. 🙂
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
Zappos has pretty great customer service.
What’s your favorite GIF?
Ugh, I have so many GIFs but right now: http://i.imgur.com/fUyfn8a.gif
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.