[Water Cooler Talk] B2B Support: Beyond the veil
“Hmm… so, what do you do?”
Probably one of the most dreaded questions, especially at family gatherings (I can see you vigorously doing the Noddy nod :P). The tough part here is not about telling people what you do. It’s about their expression that follows.
“Ah! It’s one of those computer things right?” ?
But does this problem exist only with relatively new professions? Not really. A lot of familiar professions have been traditionally misunderstood and are based on too many assumptions.
Let’s take the case of B2B support — a profession that has been around for a long time. Most of us think we know what it deals with. But do we really know what’s it all about? Let’s see!
We decided to ask our Head of Support, Freshcaller — Harish, who has worked with Freshworks for the last 4 years, from when the company grew from a startup to what it currently is. We asked him about his work, B2B customer support as a profession and superheros 😉
Hoping that he might help us break the umpteen assumptions, speculations and what-not that we’ve been unsure about B2B support as a job.
Time to clear my throat, hopefully with it… all our crazy assumptions too!
Hi Harish. 8 long years in B2B customer support, right?
Woah, that’s some serious stuff then. You must probably like talking a lot right? And hoping you’ll have a lot to say too today then!
Haha. Already an assumption 😛 I do get that a lot but I’ll leave it to you to find out if being in support actually equals talking a lot 🙂
Haha… Well, then… Let’s get started. So, what is the first thing that you do the moment you reach your desk in the morning?
So, once I come in, I place my headphones, connect my monitor, open the support tool and open the other tools that I use. It’s important for me to set my tools right. And I’ll also probably have a cup of coffee.
Nice! And what about the couple of hours before you head home?
I’ll check if I’ve replied to all the last minute emails, tickets and if there are any missed calls that I’d be able to get back to. Also, I’ll do a little bit of scheduling for the next day — a customer call that has to be scheduled or if there is an internal meeting and probably email customers for confirmation on the call for the next day. Apart from these, ideally I’d like to relax a little bit. I’ll also mostly check my team’s ticket responses, pull out reports if needed to see how the day was, the number of tickets that we received and make note of things that I need to check with the devs. and engineering team the next day. And obviously it’s not the same every single day. It depends. Some days I’ll have calls till the very end of the day, until I leave.
Now that we’ve touched upon ‘The beginning’ and ‘The end’, let’s find out about all the drama that happens in between while dealing with a thousand emotions, customers each different in their own way — the no-nonsense type (all calm and composed), the overly curious, the too much love, the too much hate and, the impatient, amongst the huge list. That too all this in zen mode!
Some days a call center agent needs superpowers or at the least a jetpack to swift through the ‘series of unexpected events’ that’ll test their limits.
So let’s hear what has made Harish the person he is at present and how these eight years have shaped him up for the better.
I am guessing, just like any newbie stepping into work, you’d have heard some ridiculous myths on what to expect from your job? What were some of those myths that were busted upfront?
So one myth that everyone kept mentioning was that customer support is repetitive, that I’ll easily get bored and I might not have a proper career out of it. These were downright the most frequent comments that I got in the initial few months of joining B2B support — be it friends, relatives, even some colleagues. But for some reason I had faith in it because I knew my strengths and where they lie, so I trusted this job profile. And luckily for me, till date this most common misconception has stayed and still stays a myth.
So, how is customer support different? What lies beyond handling angry customers?
Support is not exactly like what others think from outside, it’s different in many ways. You have full control of what you want out of it and how you want your career to shape up. Because B2B support is not just about answering tickets and handling customer calls, it’s also about upselling, sometimes pre-sales as well. You can bring the customers’ problem to the product team’s notice and help fix some really pressing product issues then and there. You can help the marketing team with getting in touch with customers for case studies and customer stories, testimonials and so much more. Once I found foothold on where my career was going there was no turning back.
Is there something people take for granted with respect to customer support — something that is not as easy as it’s assumed to be?
For B2B support especially, apart from skills, experience and training, something that’s extremely important is patience. This is a tricky one because, it can’t be acquired that easily. A lot depends on the person you are and your nature too. It’s something that comes from within. As a support person, you’ll see a 100 different customers on a day. Each one is different and needs to be a handled in a different way. Some customers might be angry, some might be frustrated, or by nature short-tempered and some might just hate the product. To handle each one of these emotions you need a lot of patience and of course, emotional intelligence. This can’t be merely got through experience. With experience it gets better, yes. But you also need to believe that the customer has nothing personal against you.
Ah! That was something that a lot us take granted in general too. So, let’s say you’ll have to explain your job to a kid next door. How would you go about it?
Haha… to a kid, I’d say a superhero. Saving the day. So, a customer might have a problem that’s probably forced their work to pause. Annoyed, unhappy but not knowing what to do, they are just clueless when they contact support. And the situation is similar to a superhero like Spiderman, Batman coming to their rescue. This way you are making their life better. In some way support agents are their superheros.
That’s really interesting! Since being in support demands you to communicate with customers of different age groups and countries, what are the channels that you generally use for communication?
So mostly it’s tickets. And obviously calls. Not just phone calls, we do video calls as well. So more than the customer themselves, the kind of channel we go with depends on the complexity of the problem and discussion. Opting for an email to solve a complex issue ends up in multiple rounds of back and forth with tens and tens of reply threads. Instead, a single phone call would help us communicate best. But let’s say, the issue is simple enough to be sorted with the help of a solution article. A call in this context makes no sense. An email would do well. We are yet to use chat, a relatively newer platform on an extensive degree. It’s used more for internal communication for now.
What’s the one channel that’s most productive for you… to be a superhero?
Obviously I’d say tickets. Then comes calls. With calls it’s not exactly the quantity but more to do with the quality of the support that we can provide. For smaller issues, emails will help. But for bigger issues like troubleshooting, calls (voice and video) are the go to channel.
Now, that’s new! In times when there is a general assumption that channels like email and phones are old-fashioned, here you are, someone who’s heading support for an entire product telling me that you prefer phone and video calls to sort the complex and bigger issues.
I’d surely love to hear more on these channels Harish. Also, I’d want to try and understand the skills that’d help a agent handling calls in a call center set-up too.
Sure, that’d be an interesting topic to discuss on 🙂
With this, the first part of our discussion came to a pause. We’ll be starting off our next discussion in sometime, talking more on the effective skills that should be on a call center agent’s list — the art and science of a good phone call, from Harish’s experience so far.
And that’s how we had most of our assumptions about support busted.
P.S: And… I didn’t know why support and coffee breaks were always synonymous. But only until I saw three empty cups of coffee at the end of a 13 min interview.
After all, some assumptions do turn out to be true 😛 To be continued!
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