Talking with David Hunt, VP of Customer Support at HubSpot

July 28, 2020
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Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and Experience podcast from CloudApp, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am excited to have David Hunt with me today. David is the head of customer support at HubSpot, um, we're users of HubSpot over at CloudApp, and I've also just been a big fan of their top of funnel content, lead management, um, and just kind of how they do marketing. So I'm excited to have David on with me today, and we're going to talk a little bit about customer experience and kind of the modern workplace and other things that David sees on, on the front lines of customer support. So, David, if you wouldn't mind, uh, tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got to HubSpot. Uh, tell me, tell us a little bit about, um, you know, what you're doing there and, uh, we can go from there.

David: (01:01)
Awesome. Thank you for having me, Joe. Um, so I been at HubSpot for many years now. Um, I actually started as a temp, um, so I kind of stumbled into HubSpot. It wasn't really something I was planning on pursuing. I was working for a temp agency and I got, got a chance to work on the support team and, and help with some, some integration upgrades. Um, and ultimately I think what I, probably, the reason why I've stayed over all these years is I've gotten to see like the impact that we can have on small and medium sized businesses. And like from a very early stage, I was able to take some of my at the time, pretty limited tech skills and, you know, really help people, right. Be able to, to get their website up and running right. And help them with their marketing. And so I found a lot of satisfaction from that contribution. And then over time I've been able to, you know, work across pretty much every job in customer support, uh, to a point where I now lead the department. And, um, a lot of that, that sort of passion for contribution has shifted to how do I help people, you know, grow their careers and have, you know, uh, have remarkable opportunities like the ones that I've had. Um, and so that's kind of where I'm a bit of a bit of how I have approached my career over the past couple of years, um, outside of work, um, I'm a father, uh, and so working through this period of remote working and parenting has been a challenge, especially when running a large global support team. Um, and so there's, there's been that and, um, you know, but that's, that's, it's also been, there's been a lot of really amazing moments over the past couple of months of getting to see things that I would have, I might have missed otherwise. Um, and so that's been, I'm very grateful for that. Um, in that I work at the kind of company that's been able to sort of be flexible and, um, and, and just kind of make it work, we're all kind of making it work together. Um, so that's a little bit about me and, um, yeah, so I am looking forward to just sort of talking about whatever, um, aspects of customer support, what insights I have and anything else I can offer.

Joe: (03:07)
Awesome. Yeah, it's been pretty wild, definitely like have blending those two lives of, uh, being a parent and, um, you know, taking on leadership roles and I'm sure that's, uh, you've, you've experienced similar things to me.

David: (03:22)
Yeah. My daughter is pretty much running the department now, so, you know,

Joe: (03:28)
Um, I love, I love it. I'm sure it's, you know, I'm excited to dig in on a few things about customer support. Um, a lot of, a lot of things I've been thinking about leading up to this conversation, uh, you know, as, as kind of the front lines of, um, customer support, you know, in a digital space, chances are pretty high that people have probably Googled how to do something. They've probably gone through your, uh, help docs. They've probably, uh, reached out to your support team and they probably complained about you on social, um, how, when they get to an agent, you know, what is really the DNA of a good customer experience? How do you kind of manage that someone when they finally get to your team is probably pretty fired up about fixing something. Um, obviously there's people that are just, you know, cordial, but, uh, how do you kind of make that a good experience? How do you help them come away feeling good that they were able to connect with someone on your team?

David: (04:30)
Yeah, I think that, you know, one of the things that's really important in a customer experience, or, you know, are if you're in a customer facing role, right. Is to always have that empathy and recognize that like you're dealing with a person like we're, we're B to B, or we're dealing with people who are running in their businesses. It's obviously a stressful time, um, to, to, to be navigating that for many people. Um, and you're helping them with their livelihood. You're helping them with their day to day to get through their week. Right. I think that that's really critical. And with that, I think comes to the recognition of just like how valuable customer time is, or just time for any of us, right? Like time is one of those things where it's like, you're, um, we, we have more, we have, we're doing more than we probably ever have, right. In terms of our commitments, both personal and professional. So, so I think that one of the things that's really important that DNA is like that the speed at which we can help somebody. Right. And that doesn't just mean the speed at which an agent can solve a problem, but also like all, you, you, you referenced all those other stages along the way, right. Getting help from, by Googling something, finding something on your knowledge base, you know, finding a video that walks you through something very quickly, right. Time is such an important commodity in the customer experience. Right. But I also think like part of it is, is that human connection right. Is recognizing that like you're helping somebody. Right. And you're able to actually hopefully contribute something to their day, contribute something to their, their, their livelihood in the case of, of B2B. Um, and that's, that's, I think really important as part of that, that DNA makes a

Joe: (05:58)
Lot of sense. Yeah. I liked how you pointed out time. Um, you know, it can be frustrating when you're so reliant on a tool and it's especially like automation, you know, with HubSpot and if something breaks and you have either emails that aren't going sent out or, you know, things that aren't able to happen as a part of your marketing system, it can be really frustrating. I think it's important that you mentioned, you know, acknowledging that and, and the time that people are having to take to reach out to you and also fix the problem.

David: (06:31)
Yeah. And I think too, like, you know, if you're because you are taking that time, right. It's like, how can you add value? Right. How can you move from beyond, from just being about fixing a problem to really contributing something in that interaction. Right. Um, so I think like that's a lot of times what we're trying to instill across, you know, our team around the world is like, how do we move away from just being this sort of like, you know, having these transactional interactions to where we're really provide providing value. Um, and so somebody is walking away with maybe more than they, they, they initially came into that interaction expecting.

Joe: (07:03)
I really liked that. So, you know, as, um, customer support is really so important and you're kind of going in on this a little bit, but how can you really try and stand out when someone reaches out to you and you mentioned, um, you know, adding in elements that maybe they didn't know about before, uh, take us through that a little bit more and, and maybe share some experiences there.

David: (07:26)
Yeah, I think, um, I mean, I think part of it is like recognizing, like what, like what makes your team special, right. Not every customer support team is set up the same way and not every business is going to make sense, but I think like understanding what are those strengths? Like, what are those things that, that maybe set your team apart or set your experience apart, right. It's not all just about the, your, your, your human support, but also everything around your, you know, helping, helping your customers. Um, and I think really going after those strengths in doing even when that might be contrary to, um, some of, some of the kind of business metrics or business constraints. So, like for example, we, we, we make sure that, like we see support as central to our customer experience. And it's been a big point of investment, not just financially, but also in terms of like resources, innovation, making sure that we're, we're really growing the team in terms of their, um, the skills that they're developing. And I think like that's all a recognition of, like, we see this as like there's a world where we could be trying to do less for customers and we're trying to do more. Right. We're trying to, how do we like challenging ourselves that even within constraint, how can we reach more customers? How can we get, you know, drive more impact? Um, and so I think like that's kind of how I think about that problem is like, what are ways that we can once again, provide that incremental value versus just trying to be like, how do we stop, stop the tickets? Right. Um, we've seen even that, like, how are, um, how support interactions, impact retention, right. So customers who, um, you know, they, they buy HubSpot for a number of, one of the reasons they stay with HubSpot is because of the support. And so like, that's, once again, it's like really trying to, to lean into what we're good at versus trying to say like, well, we, we, we need to save on costs. We need to drive down our tickets. Like we want to work with customers. We want to work as many customers as possible, but we want those interactions to be valuable and not something that they're, you know, they're, they're frustrated, or they're forced to have to work with us on.

Joe: (09:17)
That makes a lot of sense. Do you, do you guys, um, you know, obviously tickets is hoping to get to ticket zero, you know, as, as frequently as possible, what are the, what are the things do you try and guys try and focus on? Is it like a NPS customer satisfaction scores? Uh, what are, what are some metrics that you try and lead your team with?

David: (09:36)
Yeah, I think on the ticket zero one, like, we're, we're really trying to make sure that like, we're like, like once again though that like, we, we want to be mindful of what our incident rate is, right. That like customers are, you know, interacting with us because they want to be interacting with us versus because they have to. Um, but then we're also tracking things like customer support, MPS, we're tracking things around resolution time, a number of other kinds of like industry standard metrics. Um, but I think a lot of it too is making sure that like, we're then using those metrics as like an objective starting point of a conversation to make our experience better. Right. It's not just about, you know, MPS on, in an, in a vacuum is interesting directionally, but it's, it's more about, okay, what are we learning from those insights and those friction points in the experience and what are we doing to sort of eliminate them upstream. Um, and that's a lot of, a lot of where we spend our time kind of operationally is trying to refine the things that will, will help all customers and drive more value.

Joe: (10:37)
Um, it makes a lot of sense. You know, I, I think, uh, HubSpot is really excellent with, um, onboarding videos, how to tutorials, uh, product videos and other things. And we have a lot of people that use cloud app on customer support teams, um, to kind of, you know, close tickets, faster, uh, use videos and visuals. I'm not sure if you guys are doing that now, but how do you think visuals and videos and not just kind of pushing someone to like an FAQ page or whatever can be helpful to, um,

David: (11:09)
Yeah, I think they're like from a, one of the things I think that's really important about, um, creating a good customer experience is, is being contextual right. And understanding how do I like, yes, the customer has a question, but that cost, that question is very much, you know, not going to always be able to be answered by the generic or, or the sort of high level doc. Um, they have specific use cases. They're trying to get you to help them design solutions and video can really speed up that communication. Um, text-based communication is misunderstood like 50% of the time, right. So we spend a lot of time trying to write these long emails and then, you know, the answer is an email, but it just gets missed. Right. Um, and so that's so much of that I think comes down to like, how can you very quickly and visually communicate some of these concepts? How can you, it, um, I think that that's one of the great things about, you know, capture, screen capture software, like, like cloud app, where you can create this video that can be personalized and somebody, you know, in their app and their instance, right. With their information. And they can really see then, okay. Like that's how I do the thing versus maybe having to explain that over the course of five or six emails.

Joe: (12:14)
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think there is a connection that can happen, like you said, and that, that personality, um, especially, you know, automation is awesome and we all believe in it, but it also can sometimes feel like it's automated. So finding ways to create that, like one-to-one connection is really important.

David: (12:36)
Yeah. And like, I think it's also, uh, I mean, it could be a bit of like a creative expression too. Right. It allows you to communicate in a different way. Um, and I think that, that, that it'll be exciting to see how that evolves over time, right. To, to be able to, you know, we're all communicating through, through different, um, teleconference software right now. And we're all communicating like there, there's going to be, I think a lot of evolution of how we communicate in this sort of digital video world. So I think it's a really cool space to kind of explore and think about, you know, how do we continue to, to push the envelope there

Joe: (13:11)
For sure. What are some of the, you know, you talked a lot about, uh, people coming into HubSpot and, you know, trying to add value and other things, um, what are some strategies as a whole, at HubSpot looking at the entire customer journey where you really try and create a loyal customer, someone who is going to go out there and gonna stick with you and really push for you when they move companies and, you know, be a, be a real champion for HubSpot.

David: (13:41)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think a big part of that right. Is, is that they're sort of one of the things I like about, you know, where we're positioned in terms of the market who we're trying to sell it to and how we're, you know, we're really trying to equip marketers and salespeople and service people with a ton of power, but make it easy. Right. And, and that's sort of fundamental to trying to help everybody be successful. Right. You don't need to be a, an admin with a ton of technical experience to get your marketing campaign off the ground. Right. Um, so I think about it is sort of, you know, someone said recently, you know, we're in the business of selling careers, right. Not just software. Um, and I think like that's kind of part of how we think about it, right? How do we help that marketer look good, good look good for their, to their boss, with I, you know, proving the value of this campaign or how do we help, you know, a sales person who's starting out become more productive? How do we level the playing field? And so I think about that a little bit. It's like, that's part of how you create promoters is like, you're actually, you're impacting the people at the end of the day. Um, and that's, I think a big part of kind of like what we set out to do is like, you should, like, everyone should be able to do some of this stuff and like yes, where there's still a ton of complexity and it's, you know, it's dense software, that's powerful, but at the same time, there's a lot of things that like, it shouldn't require, you know, a web developer to be able to get your work off the ground. And that, that's kind of like where we're, what we're pushing towards.

Joe: (15:03)
That's a, yeah, that's really insightful. Uh, and I want to kind of dig in on that a teeny bit with, with you guys, you know, being spread across, uh, you mentioned kind of like someone being able to just really set something up pretty easily. Maybe that's like a small business or something. Um, certainly, you know, we're a small tech company that's using HubSpot and getting value out of it, but you also have, you know, many medium and, and uh, enterprise companies. Um, how do you kind of segment, you know, how to help different, uh, users and personas, um, at different size companies and, and, uh, do you see much differences there? Yeah,

David: (15:43)
I think like, you know, we, we've, we've experimented with a bunch of different strategies in the past, on, in that space. Right. And I think that, like, we've seen sort of like less, um, less differences than you might expect. Right. And part of that is because, I mean, if you're, if you're a more complex company, if you're, you know, an enterprise customer, if you're using more of a software, like you're going to have, you know, more complex needs, but even then I'd say that like, you know, in the startup space, you have some people who are, you know, using very basic products and really pushing the envelope. So some of it is less about like the subs, your subscription level and what you're paying, but also is about like your, your business context. So I think that, like for us, we, we try to add these first and foremost, get really clear on like, w like what's a really high base level of service we want to provide versus trying to be like, well, you know, with some exceptions, like we, you know, for our free CRM, we provide a community. We don't provide access to human support. Right. But for pretty much any other product, right. We're giving you, uh, you know, a really high level of service. And so that's sort of been our, our place to make sure that we're like we first and foremost have a really high baseline. And then we're sort of layering on additional, um, you know, behind the scenes offerings. Right. Cause it's not, I think one of the other challenges with when you're running a support team, as it comes really like, well, if you pay for this additional service, you get X and Y and like, and one of the things that I think we're trying to be as like fairly transparent, but also simple, right? Like if, if you need to layer on this whole additional services packages and all this other stuff, right. I think it just gets that much more, that's much more complex. So, um, it's always this balancing act of trying to make sure we're tailoring to meet the needs of different customer segments and recognizing that like, you know, a customer who's paying $50 probably, you know, from just an economic standpoint, we'll need to have a different level of service than somebody who's paying, you know, thousands of dollars every month. But like, we, we don't want it to feel like we won't, like, we're fundamentally committed to everybody having that sort of opportunity to grow and that access access to help when they need it.

Joe: (17:43)
Cool. Yeah. I think, uh, having elements, like you said, culturally, that are like, we're just going to provide good service regardless of if you're a free user or, you know, our top paying customer. Um, I think that really helps when it's integrated and then, um, you know, just providing, uh, a tailored customer service to someone who comes in, but the strategies are kind of the same. Yeah.

David: (18:08)
I think like, you know, on the sort of like in the free space, right. We spend a lot of time in our product and engineering, Oregon investing in like, how do we still create a remarkable experience, but that could be totally touchless, right? Like, ideally you're able to come in and do everything that you want to do within sort of a free suite or even a starter suite without having to talk to, you know, a support person, a bunch over the course of a month. Um, and so I think like that's another thing is like making sure you're, you're making investments in that freemium space to really create that, um, you know, that ease, that ease of use experience from, from day one.

Joe: (18:42)
Awesome. I like to ask, um, you know, what a recent experience that you've had as a consumer is, um, could be retail. It could be tech, could be, you know, really whatever. Um, what's, what's a brand that's really stood out to you, uh, recently with, with you as the customer.

David: (19:01)
Yeah. I mean, um, I think like a lot of my, like were more, my head goes on that question is probably things with response, like, like different companies responding to the current coronavirus crisis and how they, you know, and there's like one end of the spectrum where people are taking like a very non, um, human approach. And on the other end, it's like, people are very empathetic. And, um, and I think that's been kind of our approach is trying to help customers, weather the storm and make it work, whether it's through, you know, discounting or some other means to just try to like help them, you know, with cashflow issues and get through it. Um, the, um, like for me, like, like on a more personal note, like even something like our rec reentry into daycare, right. The they've been very flexible about, Hey, we, we know that you, like, it's a weird time, right. We'll hold your spot for X until X date, that type of thing. And so like really giving that consumer, the, the flexibility there. And it's like, that's a kind of a more personal example where I feel much more like, you know, when we will definitely continue to, to work with that, that daycare provider. Um, I also think about like experiences that, you know, on more of a consumer level where it's just like, it's, it's very personalized and it's, um, where it's kind of like, you, I'm always amazed when, like you can, you know, if you do have to contact support, they have all the contexts. So like, and it's, it's, it's it's then like that whole interaction it's like, they've got, they basically know what you're calling about and they're able to solve it like super fast. So, um, you know, brands that you're working with where it's like, you're, you're, you're going in expecting to have like your traditional customer support experience. And then it's like, um, you, you, you go in there and you're just blown away. Right. Because they have so much information, they have access, they have really smart, talented people. Um, and, uh, like I think those are, those are the kinds of interactions where you're like, wow, like that's, that's how you get a promoter from a support experience.

Joe: (20:54)
That's really good point. I think it's just focusing on little things, not just giving the baseline experience. Um, I love that example of the daycare, you know, it's, it's been pretty cool, obviously small business and local businesses have been hit pretty hard everywhere. It's been cool to kind of see innovation, um, with like curbside pickup for food and, uh, you know, people like we have this like local bookstore that we love to go to. And they were like, um, they were wrapping up books and then writing like the plot on it. So it was like wrapped in this, um, paper bag type style, and then the plot was written. So it was like they were selling a mystery basically, like you were, you didn't know what you were buying, but it was like recommended by the editors or the people that worked there. Yeah. I thought that was kind of cool and just all kinds of innovation, um, with trying to connect with people and really, uh, that's been, you know, one good thing to come out of this, which has been kind of cool to see. Yeah.

David: (21:54)
I like transparency too, is another thing, like, I think that, like, it's, I'm always impressed when companies are willing to sort of say like, Hey, we're, um, we, we know like, we're like we have a backlog we've, we've had supply chain issues. We've had some of these things and like just like kind of leveling with, with customers and, and, and hopefully customers are understanding and those situations where it's like, you know, there's been an influx in demand in this new world and we're, and we're um, so I think also just kind of like transparency and communication, something I've been really impressed with various businesses around as they sort of like their, you know, the other end of the spectrum where they're getting totally hammered with demand. Um, and so it's always cool to see sort of how do people navigate that and be transparent and hopefully, um, you know, speak to sort of customers, um, you know, empathy of what they're going through.

Joe: (22:42)
One thing, one thing I got to got to know before we get to kind of our last question, this has been a great conversation. Really appreciate it, David. Um, what is onboarding been like? I'm sure, you know, customer support is one of those that may have higher churn, uh, kind of like sales and customer success. And, you know, marketing can have churn as well. As far as employee retention goes, what is it like onboarding remotely? And I'm sure you do this a lot already, but what are some tips and tricks for like, um, people that are hiring still right now, um, to make sure people are brought into the company, they feel comfortable, they feel ready and they're, they're moving day one without necessarily, uh, uh, you know, face to face.

David: (23:24)
Yeah. So like we started at least in support a couple of years ago, we started like hiring remote, which like we were the law, the company, most of the roles were in office roles and we started to at least build out kind of that remote team. And I think we probably missed a lot of opportunities early on or where we just kind of thought things would just transfer one-to-one it's like, okay, this structure of this thing that works in the office, right. Like we don't really need to be really mindful about that experience the same way, because it just happens. People just, you know, you come in with a new hire class and you get to know each other and you have like the coffee chats or whatever. Right. And I think, so I think part of it is like, you have to really look at it as like, what are those touch points that you lose along the way and how can you kind of recreate them in some way that's, that's fairly inclusive and engaging, um, because like there's a lot there where I think, yes, we can probably get up to speed and do a job. Um, but some of what you may be missing along the way is, is that connection or is the, um, you know, the, the, the feeling like you, you have access to other people for help. Right. Some of those things that maybe you take for granted, so it's important to look at like, well, how do you sort of recreate some of that in the remote context? Right. Little things, even like, you know, daily standups or, you know, you're using some kind of Slack or some other software to communicate throughout the day. Um, and that, I think also you're, you're really thinking about how do you make sure that people are getting the opportunity to, I think, get into the work as soon as possible, but then sort of apply and apply what they're learning. Right. Because I think it becomes that much even harder to be like here's three weeks of like video content to go through and now you're, then you're going to apply to a job it's like really adults learn through doing, and you need to make sure that like, you know, as, as, as quickly as possible, right. So we actually like redid our whole onboarding program to make it work for remote. And now that's kind of become the standard of for everybody. Um, so, and, and we found two people actually in that onboarding program were ramping up faster and they were becoming more productive, but it took a lot of like growing pains and iteration to make some of those changes. But I definitely would say like trying to give people the opportunity to apply what they're learning as quickly as possible, um, you know, is really, is really key there because otherwise I think it's like, you, you kind of lose people in terms of that engagement. And, um, yeah. And I think also just making sure you, you have, like I said, access to, to individuals, access to leaders, making sure you're creating that inclusive environment.

Joe: (25:50)
Yeah. That's great. That's nice that you guys had already kind of been moving that way, so you could have some, you know, iterations of playbooks and see what was good and what was bad and, um, make some, make some choices there. Yeah.

David: (26:03)
It's been nice to it kind of leveled the playing field though, too, or is that everyone's remote, every manager has to manage remote. Right. So it's, it's just, it's actually, I think been in, in many ways it's been a challenge, but it's also kind of catalyzed probably the direction that we were going to head as a world in many, many situations. So I think that that's, um, that's definitely been a positive cause we're all trying to get better and to think more about like that experience of each person, you know, who's sitting all across the world.

Joe: (26:31)
Awesome. David, I just got one last question for you as we kind of close things up today. Um, what advice do you have for customer support leads out there? Um, you know, you, you, you said worked your way up from being attempt to lead, um, you know, the, of the, uh, one of the larger departments I'm sure at HubSpot, um, what, what are some tips and tricks? Um, some advice just kind of give your parting words of wisdom out there.

David: (26:59)
All right. I'll give it a shot. Um, so I think like for me, I never thought I would be running a customer support team. It wasn't really like what I aspire to or anything like that. Um, I think what, what it was always about is, you know, stepping outside my comfort zone for the sake of growth and where could I have impact. Right. So a lot of that was like, you know, that starts out when you're getting started. It's like taking the scary case, right. Or taking the thing. You, you have no idea what the, what the customer is talking about. Right. But you're going to get through it. And on the other side of that, you've learned something on the other side of that you've, you've helped somebody. Um, and I think about that kind of like is a consistent theme where it's like, I, when I got into managing people, right. That was really scary. And I probably had other opportunities. I could, could've gone a different route and taken a, um, you know, Ben maybe better from day one, but that was gonna challenge me. And the opportunity for impact was greater. So I think like that's kind of how I've approached it. It's like, I've never done most of the things that I've done in my career. And so then it's like always coming through, getting to the other side of that and to do that, you also need to surround yourself with people who are gonna kind of help you, right. Who are going to challenge you to be better, whether they're they're people who are working for you or that you're working for, or your peers. Um, I think like getting to work with really smart, interesting people who are pushing you to do your best work is, is critical. Um, and then I think like also just, um, the, I'm trying to think of other, other parting words of wisdom. Um, yeah, I think like, like for me too, it's about like, how do you always, you know, like how are you leaving things better than you found it? How are you helping others and giving others a voice? How are you being inclusive in your, like in your day to day? You know, um, I think that that's, this is like really important. It's like, if you want to work at the kind of organization where people can bring them their best selves and be authentic, right. Every single person I think plays a role in that. And you know, and it's even that much harder, I think, in the remote context and some of those things, but always, I think thinking about like, like who am I being for my team and how am I in inf for and for customers. Um, and, and how am I, how am I facilitating that kind of environment where people can do their best work.

Joe: (29:11)
Awesome. David. Yeah. We're, we're all making it up along the way. So it's always good to hear other leaders say that. So yeah. I appreciate your time today. I'm big fans of HubSpot and keep up the good work and look forward to talking again soon. Yeah. Thank you, Joe. I appreciate it. Thanks David. Bye bye. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.