Lose It! is an app that helps people shed those extra pounds in a fun, rewards-based way. Boasting over 45 million lost pounds across their entire user base, Lose It! finds a way to blend their extraordinary features with some stellar support. Raking in over 750 support queries every week, their 4-person support team keep themselves busy from their HQ in Boston. We got in touch with Whitney Klinkner, Marketing Manager of Content and Community, to talk about life in the support circuit and how she manages to gracefully juggle all these roles.
Whitney Klinkner, Marketing Manager, Content and Community at Lose It!
Tell us a little bit about Lose It! and how you got into the customer support circuit.
Lose It! launched in 2008 and until 2010, was developed and maintained by just our CEO and founder, Charles Teague. I joined in January of 2010. I was the third employee, the one who got to manage customer care. That’s right. Till my first day, all support queries went unanswered.
When I came into work, day one, I was greeted by an overflowing inbox of about 10,000 emails! I used to save commonly used responses in a Word doc to be more efficient in replying – there were so many!
What does a typical day at Lose It! look like?
My day starts with checking tweets or Facebook comments from the previous night. I get into office by 9-9:30 and tackle the premium support tickets. I check on any open/pending cases. After that, I start taking on the inquiries from our free members while still keeping an eye on the Premium ticket folder just to make sure nothing catches fire!
We have our own community team, headed by Andrea Malkowski. They’re responsible for working on projects related to marketing campaigns, content, and user experience.
Andrea Malkowski, Social and Community Manager at Lose It!
Sounds like quite the packed schedule! What kind of motivational strategies do you use to keep your support team engaged?
We celebrate all our great customer reviews and compliments. I think it’s important to keep our agents informed about how their contributions matter. It’s especially great when we get reviews like, “Andrea was AWESOME! I upgraded to Premium because of her help with my problem in the free app. Customer for life!”
That’s amazing! I’m pretty sure you don’t give your employees a chance to complain about their work, either! Could you tell us what you look for when you’re hiring support agents? What do you think makes for an ideal support rep?
Hands down, the three most important things for someone to be successful in a support role are a belief in the core product, creativity and compassion.
When a support rep cares about their company or product, they’re going to go the extra mile to give someone a better experience. They want the customer to succeed because they want the company to succeed.
The best support agents I’ve met are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who can solve challenging problems on their own. Especially in consumer technology, there are many instances when you have to be extremely articulate. For example, when you have to help a customer understand why a certain feature works the way it does. Not everyone interprets things the same way and that’s why being able to find new ways to communicate a concept is imperative to a great support agent.
Lastly, I’ve observed how compassionate people provide better customer support. They try to understand the issue the customer is facing completely because they genuinely want to make things better for the customer. Support reps who personally don’t care about the problem and the customer are the type of support reps you talk to at Comcast.
Touché. Every company has their own way of onboarding and training their new support hires. What strategy do you prefer?
I make sure support folks know our product inside-out. During the first few weeks of training, they’re expected to spend time studying our apps and getting familiar with its many different features. We then run through each product’s FAQ and common actions/behaviors.
Once an agent has a good idea about the product, we run them through basic cases and have them figure out the best way to answer an inquiry. They’ll work with an experienced support agent to make sure the language, tone and answers they’re providing are all accurate. There’s a lot of fine-tuning during those first few days, but it’s all a part of the learning process.
By week 3 or 4, they’re answering basic support inquiries on their own and are encouraged to use our Slack channel to ask anything they aren’t sure about.
After about 3-6 months, most agents will start tackling “pro” cases. These are basically just the more complicated issues that don’t generally have a straightforward answer.
That’s quite the comprehensive program! Tell us about your vacation policy. Do your agents work just from HQ?
Our team occasionally works remotely. Our open vacation policy makes this possible. Slack is the one tool that makes our remote working possible! I don’t think we’d be able to carry out this level of remote work without it.
About 2/3rd of the Lose It! team
Yup! With all the communication methods we have right now, that’s hardly a challenge anymore. But let’s talk about scaling. What do you think is the biggest challenge in scaling support while keeping the culture, core values AND customers in mind?
When you scale customer support, you’re going to be dealing with a bunch of newer agents who don’t completely understand the dynamics of your product team. Understanding why a particular feature or workflow isn’t going through gets harder for someone whose day-to-day life is tied to customer support. But I guess that is a challenge everyone has to overcome at some point to succeed!
Tell us about your favorite metric. What is that one metric to rule them all?
In 2012, we started using a tool that allowed us to track important metrics. Since then, we’ve always cared about average time to first response.
Our customers rely on our quick responses to their tickets. We find that this builds trust in a way that other product features cannot.
It also helps to humanize the company a little bit – it lets members know there are caring, hardworking people behind an app that’s helping them change their lives.
With so many members coming to us for help on social media, time to first response remains our biggest priority. We have room to improve in this area and are currently taking steps to make us more efficient in managing support on our social accounts.
With all the feedback flowing in, how do you manage to integrate it all to the product roadmap? How does feedback from your customers trickle down to the rest of the company/to your product in the long run?
We’re trying to do a better job at this. In 2016, we’re introducing monthly community dashboards that let the company see major complaints, issues and compliments from each month. We’re calling it the good (things that went well, things people liked), the bad (where we screwed up and what we did to fix it) and the ugly (where we totally missed the mark and what we can do next time). This will also give other parts of the company insights into how something like a bug in an app release truly affects the lives of our customers and our support team.
Wow. So how do you deal with requests for features that you know are in the works, but might take a long time/you know you’re never going to build?
We’ve learned to never promise a feature ahead of launch. It’s a policy in our support team to never commit to a feature (even if we know it’s getting released tomorrow).
As for the other case, you know what they say… never say never! We try to get as much information about a feature request from a customer as we can. The better we can understand their use case, the better equipped the product team is to deliver on something that would best answer the customer’s need.
What’s the most rewarding thing about working the support circuit at Lose It!? What makes everything worth it?
I love being able to help people reach their health goals. When people email us after six months of using the product to let us know about how they reversed their type 2 diabetes, or about how they can finally roll around on the ground with their grandkids, you really feel like you’re a part of something special.
That sounds incredible! What’s your most memorable customer interaction?
It’s definitely when two of our Lose It! members met through the social features of our apps, struck a friendship and started supporting one another with their health goals. They ended up losing over 50 pounds each, and then getting married!
Wow, that’s the best customer story ever! Let’s talk about the flip side as well. Can you tell us about your most terrible experience with a customer?
There are tough calls every day.
In the end, if a customer is reasonable with their expectations we try our best to do right by them.
You can’t make everyone happy, but I’d say we have a success rate north of 90% (Woohoo!).
Recently a customer was upset because we didn’t have an ETA on a bug fix on their iOS app. Due to the tedious and complicated process involved in submitting and getting an app approval from Apple, we were unable to give him a solid ETA. We offered to give the customer a full refund because he said that his paid version was useless without this particular feature. In a surprising turn of events, he accused us of offering hush money and threatened to report us to the national and state-level authorities. Well, we’re still waiting to hear back on that one now…
Ouch. How do you deal with these unreasonable customers? Is there a tone guide that you consult?
Our agents do the best they can to appease frustrated customers. In the event that one of the agents can’t get to a resolution, they’ll talk to a manager and escalate for assistance. Sometimes, something as simple as resetting the conversation with a new face can help to ease a customer’s frustration.
What do you do after a tough call with a frustrated customer? How do you cool off?
I believe that whenever you’re overcome with a stressful scenario, you should go for a walk, relax and then get back to it, otherwise you turn emotional. No one wins when the customer support agent gets emotional.
That’s true. Is there something you wish customers would understand about support?
I wish I could undo the stigma about support agents and support teams being notoriously awful. So many times a customer will come to us with the expectation that they are going to have a bad experience. In cases like these, we have to do extra work to change that attitude and then get around to resolving the problem.
On the flip side, I do understand that the only way we can change these expectations is by putting more awesome support teams and agents out into the world. To do this, we need to have more business leaders who actually care for their customers.
What is something you’ve learned over the years as a support agent?
Don’t try to debug an issue for more than 5 minutes without talking to your team members to see if they’ve had any similar issues or if they have a theory on what could be causing a bug.
It seems unfair to ask you to single out one but, what’s the best part about coming in to work everyday?
The Lose It! management and team. We have such a fun group here; everyone is super talented and excited about making a product that helps people change their own lives. We have awesome benefits, fun company get-togethers and a great waterfront office in the Seaport district of Boston!
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
Amazon is obviously fantastic. I envy their support automation because I know that’s something that’s hard to do right. When you do talk to an agent, they’re polite, helpful and efficient.
I also like JetBlue’s commitment to customer satisfaction. They’ve always been great and their Twitter reps are pretty funny!
Let’s talk business. If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would you choose to be?
I would love to be one of the Jetson’s characters. I think it would be so cool to go to work in my own space ship car, not to mention the shower/hair and makeup/dressing machine they have! Talk about time saving.
Over to fictional animals, what mythical pet would you wish to own? And what would you call it?
I know this isn’t exactly a mythical pet but I would really love to have my own dog! We have a family dog, Harley, back in Michigan where I am from.
Right now I know that I don’t have the time to take care of a dog but, if I could have any dog it would be a Samoyed.
And as for the name, I think I’d have to meet the dog in person to be able to come up with a one.
In closing, what do you think is the secret sauce to customer happiness?
Treat your customers like real people; not just a number in an open inbox of tickets. When they feel real, you’ll always be able to give them a better experience.
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.