How to Successfully (& Gracefully) Settle Support Issues [Expert Interview]


Last week, our summer camp series took an inside look at the Pardot product. Today, we’re changing directions once again to learn a little bit more about Pardot’s Support Team: their team culture, the key to successful customer support, and the traits needed to succeed. Rachel Newcity, Technical Support Manager and self-proclaimed guacamole connoisseur, joins us today to tell us more about how her team ensures that the post-implementation customer experience is top notch. To all of our marketers out there, note the parallels between customer support and customer-centric marketing!

To learn more about our summer camp content series, please click here.

Alright, Rachel, let’s hear it!

Thanks for joining us, Rachel. Mind telling us a little bit about your role? What would you say is your favorite part about being on Pardot’s Support team?

The Support team is our customers’ go-to technical resource after the initial implementation phase. Our focus is on technical troubleshooting, but we also answer a lot of how-tos.

I think my role specifically boils down to two main buckets: keeping my team happy in their own roles, and keeping our customers happy with the support they receive. In my experience, they’re actually quite intertwined. As a support team, we’re able to give great service because we genuinely love and care about what we do. Likewise, our team’s able to stay happy and productive because we’re confident in the experience we provide for our customers.

There’s so much I love about my position, but our team’s culture has to top the list. We genuinely enjoy helping each other out, being around one another, and sending out ridiculous .gifs to keep each other laughing. I never leave work without a good belly laugh.

There’s nothing quite like a well-timed .gif! What would you say is the key to successfully solving a support issue? How would you define “great support”?

Great question! One of my favorite things about support is that it allows for a certain level of creativity. So, for example, each member of my team has his or her own style or approach to support, though we also have values and best practices that we share as a team. Each person on my team gives great support in a unique way, so I’ll share my personal spin on it.

For me, I’d say my top two customer service values are empathy and transparency. It’s a little cliche, but with empathy, it really does come down to placing yourself in your customer’s shoes. For example, a bug might be mission critical for one customer but negligible for others. Even if we’re not able to fix the issue right away for that one customer, I always try to match the level of urgency in terms of tone and update frequency. Another key piece of empathy is delivering an authentic apology, when it’s called for.

Transparency is more a matter of setting realistic expectations and also making sure we’re sharing what’s going on when issues arise, what we’re doing to fix things, and what we’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And one more thing! Keeping a conversational tone with a customer is huge to me. No one wants to talk to a robot.

I think those are great qualities to have across the board, and that’s probably why we see so many positive Tweets about Pardot Support! (You can check out a few below.) Now, what tips would you give to companies that are building out or looking to improve their support teams?

Start measuring CSAT (that’s Customer Satisfaction Score) early! We send a survey after each resolved case, which gives us really awesome data that we can equip our sales team with to show how we’re doing. Beyond that, we get great qualitative feedback in the comments section of the survey — feature feedback to pass along to our Product team, individual feedback we can use during coaching sessions with team members, and insight into how a customer views our team as a whole.

Another tip — and I can’t emphasize this one enough — is not to sacrifice candidate quality if you’re growing and hiring quickly. This is something we’ve (fortunately) done really well, and it’s so huge in allowing us to scale. One bad egg could quickly change the dynamic of your whole team. As a manager, I know my team, and I’ve learned what kind of candidate works for us. It’s not something I’m willing to compromise on.

Lastly, if you don’t have a Knowledge Base, absolutely take the time to invest in one. Building out a resource of self-service materials that are available in real time is the biggest thing you can do to scale your support team. We have a dedicated Documentation Wizard (yep, that’s her real title!) on my team, and she’s integral to our success.

Good point. As a content marketer, I totally understand the value of readily available content. Let’s move on to the people side of things. What traits would you say a customer support rep needs to have to be successful?

The first thing that comes to mind is a natural curiosity. The kind of person that’s always poking and prodding and Googling typically excels in this kind of work. If I had a dollar for every time one of our support reps said ‘investigate’ I’d be a rich lady, because that’s the core of what we do.

Time management skills are also key because as a support rep, you’re constantly having to weigh opportunity costs and decide how to prioritize between X number of customer requests. Who do you respond to first: the customer that’s having trouble with an email that needs to go out ASAP or the customer whose CRM integration hasn’t been working as expected for a day? That can be a tough decision, and a support rep is going to need to be able quickly and confidently make those kinds of game-time decisions everyday.

For our team specifically, a sense of humor also does worlds of good. Part of that comes from Pardot’s quirky culture, but I think it comes in handy in diffusing stress in any kind of support role.

One thing we see on the marketing side is that many marketers have a hard time measuring their success. How does this look on the Support side? How would you recommend that companies measure the success of their support teams, and the happiness of their customers?

Again, CSAT! Of all the data we collect, CSAT is what we monitor most closely and always make sure we’re setting aggressive goals for. We look at team CSAT scores, individual CSAT scores, and because we’re a global company, geo-specific CSAT scores.

Time to first response is another way we monitor our success, but I prefer to call it ‘time to meaningful first response.’ I say that because in order to make this metric significant, we have to make sure we’re sending meaningful, helpful first responses rather than just fluff. Most people will tell you speed is one of the top indicators of great service, and I agree. But if we’re not actually being helpful or solving any problems, what’s the point?

I definitely agree. Now to finish things off…where have you always wanted to travel?

So many places! Italy has always been top of mind for me internationally, but I’m also not as well-traveled as I’d like to be within the U.S. I’m a huge nature geek, so any national park is really attractive. I’m planning a visit to Yosemite soon — stoked!

Okay, and last one —TV or books, and why?

I enjoy both (Netflix, anyone?), but I’d probably say books. I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was little, and books definitely allow more room for that than TV.

If sports are on the table, though, then TV all the way. There’s nothing better than college football in the fall!

Good answer! You can check out a picture of Rachel in her toddler days below — and stay tuned for our next summer camp post, which will focus on making your B2B website more user-friendly and effective.