Talking Customer Support with Ed Yealu - Support Lead at Hubspot

May 13, 2020
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Speaker 1: 0:00Welcome to the DNA of and experience podcast from cloud app 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.Speaker 2: 0:20

Okay. Welcome this morning everyone. I'm excited to have ed with me from HubSpot. Ed is a customer support lead at a HubSpot and has been leading a remote customer support team. I thought it'd be really interesting to bring it in first of all, cause I love HubSpot. Um, we use it over here at cloud app and I'm a big fan of, of what they do with content and uh, you know, love the HubSpot blog and all this stuff going on, uh, as, as and them as a company and ed has some really interesting, um, background based off of, uh, you know, I got connected with him from a blog post that I did with a customer suppor

t blog at HubSpot and I thought it'd be great to bring him on and talk about customer support and onboarding. So ed, if you wouldn't mind just giving us a little bit of background on yourself. Um, and then we'll kind of go into a couple of questions and, and see how you're doing.

Speaker 3: 1:21

Yeah, sure. I think, thanks for, thanks for having me. Obviously. Um, so yeah, I've been at HubSpot for a little bit over two years now. Um, so I started in March of 2018 and I've been working in frontline technical support for about, I'd say about six years now, which is kind of hard to believe, Campbell, it's gone by really fast. So I started in a customer support at a company called live stream, which is actually now owned by Vimeo. I started there in a frontline support role, um, and then I eventually was promoted to team lead and then I eventually became the frontline support manager for that team. Um, we had about, I wanna say about 15 and office workers and maybe about six or seven, um, remote workers, uh, maybe one that was located domestically in the States and then the rest of the room at were actually located in the Ukraine and India.

Speaker 3: 2:06

Um, so that was a really, really cool experience. And then, um, after being in that management role for about three years, um, you know, I was looking for the next step in my career and the opportunity came up that HubSpot, I was looking to hire a book, actually looking to hire their first, uh, fully remote support manager to manage their first fully remote support team. Um, and I couldn't really pass up the opportunity. You know, HubSpot support is, is pretty legendary in the tech support world. Uh, if you work in tech, you've heard of HubSpot support and obviously the company in general is just incredibly forward thinking and then just has this incredible culture, not just internally to our own employees, but also to the way that we engage with our customers as well. So, um, I couldn't really pass it the opportunity to, to apply for the role. And then obviously, thankfully I was hired and it's been two years. It's been crazy. Um, you know, we started with about eight folks in the team. We've had as many as 27, uh, within our team. And, and about now I think we have around five across 23 different States, three different times zones, 22 cities. Um, so it's just been amazing to see how much it seems has grown in the past few years.

Speaker 2: 3:08

Yeah, that's, that's crazy. It's definitely hard to one, manage that many people and to, especially when there's time zone issues. I know when I, I had a global team so it was even sometimes a little harder, um, at Adobe and we, I had people in a lot of people in India and like Singapore and it was like no one was ever really happy on the phone call. Right. It's always like, or like late at night when you could actually like connect and be together as a group. Um, yeah. So I'd love to kind of hear though, you've been in support for such a long time and, and I'm sure have a lot of good battle stories. Um, what is kind of like the, the core or like the DNA of a good experience? Uh, what do you guys try and do at HubSpot when you know, someone comes in and maybe is like a zero on a NPS and you wanna, you know, turn them from a detractor to a really loyal customer. What are some steps that you really try and do there?

Speaker 3: 4:09

Yeah. One of the things that I, I try to, I definitely try to live by when I engage with customers and definitely think I try to manage and coach the teams that I'm lucky enough to work with. It's, you know, you want to be a culture, you want to have a culture in your team where every frontline specialist is committed to understanding and relaying solutions, not just copying and pasting answers. Right. And I think that that's like the biggest mistake that I oftentimes get in frontline support. And obviously whenever I'm a customer and I have what I consider to be a poor support experience, I'm like, okay, this person isn't really taking the time to understand what my goal is, what my intent is, why I'm stuck, where my confusion point is like identifying like, Hey, maybe I'm super technical with this product or maybe this is my first day using it.

Speaker 3: 4:51

Like are they actually asking the quantifiable questions to really understand where I'm coming from and deliver a solution to me that's actually relevant to you know, where I'm stuck. And I think that's definitely, to me, that's always been the key to having good support experiences. Like actually understanding the product that you're working with, understanding the customers that you're working with and making sure that those two things merged together to deliver a solution that's actually applicable to that specific customer. Because again, like not every, you know, they say one size doesn't fit all or sometimes they say one size fits all. Sometimes they say it's, you know, different shoes for every person. And I think that understanding that difference as a frontline expense was, is key. Um, and so I think that when I look at the best support reps that I've worked with and the best support reps that I see, you know here at HubSpot that's a consistent DNA with all of them is consistency and they all have is like, it's not enough to just say you're asking me the question, I'm just going to find the answer and send it to you.

Speaker 3: 5:43

But it's to understand why this answer is relevant to the question you're asking. And then taking that extra step to not only give you that answer but to set you up for success moving forward so you don't have to call back again with the same question. So yeah, I would say understanding solutions and not just relaying answers.

Speaker 2: 6:00

That's, that's a really good point. Cause you, you know we live in a digital age and I don't remember the exact stat, like most people don't remember the exact stats right? But like it was something like 70 or 80% of people have already looked for an answer before they like reached out to you. Right. It's like they've already had some friction. They're already obviously frustrated cause they can't, your help docs are not kind of answering their question. It probably took them, you know, some time to get to an actual rep. So definitely like, uh, it helps to like, I, I think customer success and customer support are like the biggest knowledge base of the products. Right. Which is something you touched on. What, what is something that you guys try and do with like, uh, training and like, um, you know, making sure that that the people who are answering the questions are really well versed in the products.

Speaker 3: 6:57

Yeah, totally. So we always, uh, one of the things that I talked about a lot, um, with my team is really, it's, it's like always putting yourself in the position of the customer. Right? And so it's one of the things that you said that was actually really interesting, it was like, you know, most customers have actually done their due diligence. And I think what's really interesting about working in support is that most customers don't want to have to call into tech support, right. Because it's like if they're happy with your product, they don't want to have to call in. Like calling into support and sending an email is usually when they feel like they can't find the answer. And I think sometimes it's easy for us to forget that as a frontline team. And so like they're not calling in to support for you to take the same journey with them. They're calling you in support for you to provide the destination that they're looking for. Um, and so like, I definitely think with training we actually start like on a fundamental level of like,

Speaker 3: 7:47

it's not like you need to understand even, so one of the things that I say all the time, like in sort of with our team, it's like HubSpot is designed to be user-friendly, right? So the idea is that anyone, regardless of your background, you don't need to be a, you don't have to have a marketing degree or to be a web designer to be able to create a website instead of an inbound marketing campaign. The whole appeal of our product is that anyone can get a HubSpot account, set up, a more inbound marketing campaign, set up their website, um, and you know, for whatever the size of their businesses. And so our job as frontline support is not, you know, the challenge of what we do isn't so much supporting and providing solutions to all of the features and tools that are proprietary to hubs, but it's how do we support customers and all the variables that they don't understand.

Speaker 3: 8:32

Right. And I think that that oftentimes gets missed out. So like training on things like CSS and design and HTML and understanding tricky concepts like API APIs. Right. And how does that interact with customers and how do you actually integrate Google analytics with HubSpot analytics and what are you supposed to use those two analytics platforms for? And being able to pinpoint to customers like, well, you know, you're using Google analytics for this and you're using HubSpot for this and they're not supposed to be using conflict, but they're supposed to be used together. But together, you know, to tell a very specific story. And so I think we definitely put a lot of emphasis on what I like to call tertiary support, right? The things that you wouldn't feel like if you don't think about it. So if you're, if you're a HubSpot employee is working in support and you don't think that these are things you have to support, well then the customer definitely isn't thinking that these are things that they need to understand. And so I feel like making sure that we're well versed in not only our proprietary product, but also we're well versed in all of the things that HubSpot interacts with because the product is so vast and expensive. I think that's really the core to making sure that we're going above and beyond for our customers and making sure that our teams are technically adept enough to deal with the same blockers that our customers have. So yeah.

Speaker 2: 9:39

Yeah, that's a good point. Cause I mean, HubSpot definitely covers the full gamut of, you know, mom and pop shop to like enterprise companies. So you gotta have like re recognize that you're not always going to have the person who has, you know, 12 years technical experience. You're in sometimes have a founder, owner of a, I dunno, online shoe store that has been employees and 2 million in revenue or something and it doesn't have that knowledge. So it's really interesting that you kind of build off of that. Um, you know, w before we kind of jumped in and started recording, you were talking about, uh, how your team is fully remote. Uh, let's dig on that a little bit. How, how has that maybe helped, I mean this, first of all, the first thing I say about this experience right now is this is not remote work. Like this is Derek pandemic. Like it's totally different, but how do you feel like working remotely or managing remotely has, uh, kind of helped you build some experience leading up to this that you've been able to maybe draw from during all of this?

Speaker 3: 10:49

Yeah, totally. Um, I mean, obviously the, the, the flexibility of remote workers is obviously massively important too to times like this, right? The ability to be able to find a way to work autonomously, right? And to work within your own environment and still be able to deliver solutions to our customers. So obviously that's the core principle that we try to hire on, right. Are people who are able to do this job like fully autonomously. Um, one of the things that I talk about a lot, like when we're doing recruiting and hiring is the biggest challenge of being a remote worker, especially in a role like frontline support is that you kind of have the absence of us, Moses and proximity. Right? And I think that we take for granted how much being around people that are doing the same job propels you in your career.

Speaker 3: 11:31

Um, one of the analogy I use with my team all the time is that, you know, learning technology is like learning a new language. You know, like you can get flashcards, you can get textbooks, you can watch movies, you can listen to TV shows, right? Like listen to music. But the only thing that's going to make you fluent as being immersed in it, right. And I think this applies to when you're learning a completely new job. Um, and so I think that's the biggest challenge is like how do we find ways to simulate immersion and remote, but also to making sure that we're hiring folks who were able to be proactive about seeking out that immersion in ways that it's not maybe necessarily handed to the way it is when you're working in office. Um, so I think that's really the biggest thing that's prepared us for that is that we have a group of people who have found ways to seek out knowledge and, and to really put an emphasis on the resource management and utilizing documentation and finding ways to say, read something on an sort of Wiki or read something on the knowledge base and make sense of it based on their own style of learning.

Speaker 3: 12:23

Right. And I think that the situation that a lot of folks have been maybe forced to write to be put in, uh, during this confinement. And I think that that's probably why maybe some folks are actually struggling right now is they're realizing, wow, I really took for granted how much of my day is dictated by, you know, asking a colleague a question or even like, you know, my time management is based on every day, you know, John or Jane, we go to lunch together at a very specific time and that breaks up the monotony of my day. You know, it gives me a sense of, of, you know, mental health and physical health that maybe I just didn't think about working remotely and how much that separation and commuting gives me a time to actually detach from work, right. To be prepared when I come in or when I end my day.

Speaker 3: 13:03

So obviously having your group that's been used to that is, uh, is, it's been great and I think that's probably the biggest upside that we have. But you pointed out something that's very relevant, which I always want to point out to everyone who is looking at where people who are working remotely pretty pandemic is. Um, again, working remotely is definitely drastically different than having a government mandated cartoon. And so many of our folks who are on our team now I think are actually going through very similar challenges of realizing like, Oh, you know, my son or my daughter was in kindergarten all day, you know, now they're home. You know, my, you know, my husband or wife was away at a job and I thought I had kind of the freedom of the house. So right now I'm kind of cordoned off to a certain section of the house. That's the work. So there's an adjustment made for everyone, but I definitely just think the ability to seek out information, process it and retain it completely autonomously is something that I think most remote workers were used to. Pretty quarantine. Sorry, I know that was along with Dan. Sorry.

Speaker 2: 13:58

No, that was great. That was great. Yeah, I, I, I've felt kind of, I've had similar answers from people who I talk to who are remote. It's like, yeah, I've got, I've got three little kids, you know, so they're all, they're home and two of them are my wife and are trying to homeschool and, and yeah, I'm like my first day in quarantine, I posted this on Twitter, like, you know, six weeks ago I had this like Ikea little kid table chair. I don't know if you know, like the just crappy like what off the ground chair that I was sitting on for like the first couple of days. And then I like found, you know, I went and grabbed the desk from my, from my office a couple of weeks after that and finally just decided to bring it home and, and you know, got a place in my bedroom.

Speaker 2: 14:44

But uh, yeah, it's, it's totally bizarre circumstances. It was thanks for kind of sharing how you've able to navigate that. Of course. Mmm. I think, you know, another unique, unique thing I've been thinking a lot about, um, my team is, isn't really looking to hire anyone currently and wasn't pre pandemic, but I've been thinking about like onboarding a new hire. I mean HubSpot's probably still hiring maybe slower but, or maybe like, you know, on hold for a little bit, but probably going to be hiring soon. Um, lots of companies are still hiring. Um, what is, you've had some experience onboarding remote people or you know, this is re onboarding quarantine people. Uh, what are some tips you might have on onboarding or even interviewing when you don't necessarily have that handshake, that energy in the same room? Um, but kind of osmosis that you mentioned earlier. Uh, what are some things that you're able to do there?

Speaker 3: 15:49

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I would definitely say there's like a bunch of things. I guess I could, could speak on to that, but I would, I would say like starting with maybe the big ones, that would be definitely getting your new hires involved in what their day to day is actually going to look like as soon as possible. Right. You know, and not spending as much time on like say processes and logistics and more about like, Hey, this is what your daily workload is going to look like. And I think it really, it implores your newer hires who are fully remote to find what their workflow is going to be as early as possible and like getting settled into what doing a job completely remotely is actually going to look like. So I think getting so excited and frontline support, getting them involved in casework, um, as soon as possible has always been a big issue for us.

Speaker 3: 16:31

And a big push for us is to make sure that they're getting involved as early as possible. They're doing cases as early as possible and finding out ways and, and, and I think it gives you as a manager insight into what the strengths and weaknesses are going to be of your new hires. Um, I'd say the next thing I'd definitely say is utilizing documentation maybe, which I think is super beneficial. That's something that we emphasize a lot. Um, I think utilizing documents and manager tools, it's been a great way for me to like streamline, not just my bandwidth, um, but also the bandwidth of our new hires. Um, I think the biggest challenge when you're fully remote and people are in different times zones is how do you make yourself as a manager, as available to the team as they need to be, especially when you're getting all of these different individual questions over the course of the day.

Speaker 3: 17:15

And you don't have like an in office ecosystem to kind of support that. Right? So it's kind of, you're doing a lot of things on a one to one basis. Um, so I definitely think that utilizing documentation is a great way to make communication with your new hires a lot more organized. Um, definitely. The next thing again is kind of what I just spoke to before about like that ecosystem being missing and remote is finding a way to create that ecosystem, you know, with, with your new hires. And I think definitely maybe using Slack channels that are just for your new hire class. Um, I always encourage you to hire class that makes a support channel that's unique to their cohort. Um, I think it's a great way for them to build confidence, um, since they kind of have like this judgment free zone to do sanity checks and build relationships and develop solid resource management skills.

Speaker 3: 18:01

Um, and it's, it's, I think this is also really beneficial for me because obviously with every new remote hire, not everyone learns the exact same way, right? Live. Some people can learn just by reading a book. Some people need to be taught, some people need to make the mistake. And I learn from that, right? So everyone has a different approach. And I think that when you create that new hire ecosystem where they have their own support channel or their own like, you know, just I guess channel of communication where it's just them as new hires, I think it's really beneficial and it helps give you a lot of insight into a manager about what you could be doing better in training or like, you know, is this something that only one person is getting stuck on? Is this something that's confusing to the whole group?

Speaker 3: 18:37

Um, so I think anything that you can do to make your communication more group based and less individual basis is super helpful. Um, then I would definitely say like if you're a manager who prefers to do individual one on one trainings, finding ways to transition one on one coaching into group coaching, you know, it's, I think it's a great way to get collective feedback. So I mean if you're realizing the theme here, it's like finding ways to get what could be 15 individual points of feedback. It's a one group point of feedback is a lot easier way to manage it when you're doing it remotely. Um, and then I would say the last thing I, and I think I mentioned this briefly, was that the importance of stressing to your new hires, how important resource management is, right? And like how, using documentation and knowing where to go to get specific answers and knowing who to escalate to and making sure that they fully understand processes.

Speaker 3: 19:27

Because again, what they don't have is that ability to be like, Hey, I've never done this before. I'll look to my left and look to my right. Just ask a coworker, right? Like you don't have that benefit when you're working remotely. You know, an example that I use all the time within my team is like, you know, we have a couple of different channels for resources. We have like our public facing KB articles, we have internal wikis, we have our community and then we have jurors and actually laying out for your new hires. Like what each of those resources are for and at what point in your troubleshooting steps or your ticket life cycle do you want to actually access those points? Um, like an example being like, if you want to know how something is supposed to work, you use the knowledge base. If you want to know why it's not working, you use the internal Wiki.

Speaker 3: 20:05

If you want to know if it's ever happy before you can use the community. And if you don't find the answer in any of those, you escalate to our product team. You know, like making sure you lay out, uh, like you really do streamline a productive workflow for your new hires. And make sure they know exactly what resources are used for what types of questions and how to relevant and how to make those, you know, relevant to the specific customers that they're speaking with. Um, so, and then the last thing, I think I said that already, so sorry. The, the actual last thing is definitely, you know, just making it, I mean this seems super obvious to anyone who manages remote, but obviously just maximizing FaceTime with your new hires, right? You know, making yourself as a manager, as available to them as possible and really trying your best to align yourself with the work that they're doing on a to day basis.

Speaker 3: 20:47

I think it's such a huge deal when you're working remotely because again, the challenge of working remotely is the absence of osmosis and proximity. And then I think your job as a remote manager, as a remote team lead is to find a way to simulate that osmosis. Right? So it's created dynamic where even though they're physically by themselves in their own house, they don't feel like that every single day when they come to work, they never feel stuck. They know what the, they know, what the resources, whether it's a static resource, like a Wiki or a physical resource like their fellow team member and making sure that you've created a dynamic where they always know who they can go to for questions and answers. So yeah, those are some ideas there.

Speaker 2: 21:23

No, that's great. I think a couple of things that I liked that you mentioned was, um, being available. Uh, I think that's, that's key to, uh, I, I've had talked to a few people who said they have, so they can kind of like manage their calendar. It's not just full of one-on-ones and group one-on-one or group, you know, group meetings. They have like office hours or something and people can just jump in there, zoom, um, and talk if they need to. Uh, I thought that was pretty interesting. And then the other thing is the kind of term we'll call it like terms of engagement. You know, you, you mentioned like a very clear, like route to, for people to solve their own questions. Um, and then also like how, how to use different mediums to connect. Um, I think those are all really great examples.

Speaker 2: 22:17

Um, let's, I mean this has been a really fun convo. Uh, and I really appreciate your time today. Um, I'd love to get kind of parting thoughts on where you think the future of like customer experience might go. Might be going as, as a piece of, you know, support is a piece of that. Um, there's been surveys that like experience is more important than the product itself, uh, to a lot of customers and people are willing to pay more for a good customer experience, um, if, if it's included in the product. So I'd love to hear kind of where you, you know, looking into Ed's crystal ball. Where do you think we're heading out?

Speaker 3: 22:57

Yeah, totally. I think we're heading in a direction where the way technology works from a corporate standpoint and the way that we create solutions, whether it's software as a service like hardware, I think we're just going to have complete and total transparency with customers and customers are going to get just complete insight into the entire life cycle of where it goes from an idea to an actual deliberate product that they can use on their day to day. Um, you know, the example I used to use all the time was that it wasn't that long ago where a beta version was completely internal, right? Like betas were for the internal developers to test and then the full version was released to customers. I think where you see now, it's like customers are now using betas, right? Like we deliver beta to the customers, they test it and then we approve it based on that.

Speaker 3: 23:39

I think that's a really interesting way to look at it. And so, you know, I, I, I'm a huge film fan. I that the film industry is another great example of this where it's like, you know, everything about a movie from the day they start casting people. So when it's finally released in theaters, it's like full transparency into how movies are made. Um, and I think in your views it can be a little tragic cause maybe sometimes the magic of making movies has kind of been taken away from us. But I think when it comes to, you know, providing solutions to our customers to things that are actually, you know, directly impacting their ability to pay their bills and when their businesses and feel successful in their respective careers. I think transparency is key, right? And so I think being fully transparent with our customers, it's definitely a direction that I think customer experience is going. And I would love to, I, you know, as I say, that's a directive. It's going, a part of me feels like it's already there, you know, and, and maybe I just feel like that's, I work at a company like HubSpot, which is constantly in communication with his customers and we're constantly trying to be as transparent as possible. But I definitely think full transparency into the way technology works for respective company and how we deliver those solutions to our customers is definitely the direction that I think we're headed.

Speaker 2: 24:45

Yeah, well I mean, you know, we, the thought thought leadership has been going on digital transformation for the last probably five years. Like pretty heavy on like companies needs to embrace digital transformation and you know, get on board with digital and we've gone from five weeks, five years of talking about it to like five weeks of cramming it and like, okay, you know, we've been to, everyone's been telling you and now you're forced to make it happen when your entire company's remote now. Um, so that's, that's really interesting. Yeah, I agree. I think we're kind of, um, in the middle of the future right now and maybe hard to kind of see what the next step is. Um, and awesome conversation. Thanks for some time. Uh, stay, stay well, stay safe in New York and I appreciate, um, your time today.

Speaker 3: 25:39

Oh, my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me. Really appreciate it.

Speaker 2: 25:42

Cool.

Speaker 1: 25:43

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