What I learned as a marketer from roleplaying as a customer support agent for 5 months

I’ve been into marketing for about 10 years and have always been a martech and startup enthusiast. Until recently, my major focus in marketing was always on demand generation, product positioning, content marketing, and so on.

But after I joined Freshchat (a product of Freshworks) six months ago, my perspectives on marketing have broadened in a big way. It is a product that has grown and continues to grow way faster than any of the startups or enterprises I previously worked or consulted for.

Can marketing be any different? Well, the thought process can be…

Our top priority has been to ensure that the marketing has its ears to the ground. And for that purpose, we decided that every marketer has to spend at least a few hours on customer support every week.

We decided so because:

  • Customer support folks are the ones that are closest to our customers
  • For marketers, it is not about how smart we sound but how relevant we are to our customers

If a marketer has to be relevant to the customer, they have to understand their customers better. Taking up customer support chats or answering support tickets can go a long way in helping you understand the actual pain points of the customer.

So we thought — with this understanding, marketers can improve the value proposition of the product. In fact, you can build your marketing story based on that real-time knowledge than building your story based on assumptions.

It wasn’t going to be rosy though…

While the idea was great, it wasn’t going to be easy. Practically speaking, you need to respect the customer support agent’s time, right? You cannot demand them to regularly take the time out to school you on how to answer your customers better, how to reduce the first response time, how to improve CSAT (customer satisfaction score) and so on.

We had to solve this piece of the puzzle first. And, as we got started, we had quite a few support representatives who took the time to help us out. As we were learning the ropes, we started to collate the learnings as a knowledge repository not only for us as marketers but also in a way that it would serve as a ready reckoner for anyone joining the customer support team. That’s how the idea of building Customer Support Learning Centre began.

Our learnings from the customer support experience

As we started spending time on customer support, we learnt that regardless of how many customers love your product, there will always be one who is unhappy with you. So, dealing with difficult situations and answering tough questions were a few key things to learn on the go.

Another aspect was the depth of product knowledge. A customer question need not always be at a functional level. Sometimes it can get too technical too quickly. So, we had to take the help of our engineers from time to time. But we got a good perspective into the kind of questions and the kind of issues they were looking to resolve.

Also, customers were reaching out to us across channels such as social media, chats, emails, help desks and so on. Being a small team, it was important to learn how to juggle between channels and yet keep the first response time as low as possible.

More importantly, it was important to understand how to prioritize support requests, how to segment customers, how to personalize the experience at scale, and so on.

We started documenting our experiences and we knew that the list of topics we would have to cover under the Customer Support Learning Centre was going to be huge.

Building and launching the Customer Support Learning Centre

We began building the learning centre by consolidating our learnings into two categories:

  • Startups
  • Enterprises

Under startups, we cover every topic from basics such as how to hire a customer support representative, to best practices, to establishing customer self-service and more.

Under enterprises, we cover topics around building the right support structure, offering multilingual support, offering a single-point customer experience and more.

We want the entire customer support community and marketing community to benefit from the learning centre. And thus, we went about launching the learning centre.

Kevin William David from AngelList, and the #1 hunter on Product Hunt was excited about what we had built and decided to hunt our learning centre.

And voila, in 23 hours, our learning centre was one of the top products of the day!

customer service

It is already resonating with peer marketers in the industry. Here’s an example of some validation I’ve been hearing from yesterday.

customer support learning centre

While the number of upvotes and people beginning to adopt the learning centre is motivating, our biggest learning and takeaway is how important the knowledge of the customer is for marketing. It gives meaning to everything a marketer would do as a professional.

Feel free to share your views here on what you think or connect with me on LinkedIn to chat up.