The Intricacies of Building a Well-Rounded Support Team

I read a fantastic blog post on the Intercom blog yesterday talking about how Great Support Takes More Than Tech Skills.

It’s something that I’ve believed for a long time, but the way they phrased it really resonated with me. The author, Sharon, talks about how every person on the support team has a very diverse background. One used to be a high school history teacher. Another, a TV Editor. Their support staff all come from very different walks of life, that gives them unique perspective.

In the WP Site Care Year in Review post  yesterday, I mentioned how I loved that our support team was so well-rounded, and how their different points of view play into providing truly stellar support. I hadn’t even read the Intercom post at the time. Talk about living on the same wavelength.

As I thought more about what makes up a great support team, I came up with a few ideas from our own staff.

Every Member is an Individual

On our team we have a licensed social worker, a public radio DJ, a cosmetologist, a legal staffer for Starbucks, and a Brookstone sales associate. They all come from varied backgrounds and bring something unique to the table.

It’s been incredible to watch opinions evolve and empathy rise as everyone brings their own history to the table and presents it to the rest of the team. Some of the early members of the team glean more from my style of support, which is a very “let’s get stuff done” attitude, but I really appreciate some of the styles that have been introduced to our team in the last year.

A bit slower, but more methodical. Not necessarily racing to close tickets, but working on truly understanding the issue before jumping into the dashboard or logging into a server. An approach that, ironically, results in closing tickets faster…

Can you imagine the reaction of a customer who gets a bad haircut?

Or the stress level of working in a corporate entity the size of Starbucks?

WordPress Support seems like child’s play when you have that type of background.

They Give a Damn

I can teach someone how to migrate a website, or code a theme template, but as far as I can tell it’s pretty much impossible to teach someone to care.

And my team cares. I’ve always prided myself in going above and beyond for clients, even when it “isn’t in our best interest,” but some of the actions of my team members put me to shame. They go the extra mile every single day.

When we’re trialing with a potential hire there are a few key things I look at, and none of them have to do with code.

  • How are they at communicating with the rest of the team? Are they using language that encourages collaboration or are they worried about how everything is going to impact them personally? When they log into slack, do all of the green lights go black (yes, I’ve really seen this before)?
  • When do they clock out? Do they walk away for the night with a huge queue of pending tickets, or will they stick with it a bit longer just to let customers know that we’re at least looking into things? Support staff who walk away from helping out clients trigger a definite red flag for me.
  • Where are their loyalties? In the past it’s become clear with a few individuals that Site Care was simply a springboard into other opportunities. To be totally clear, I don’t even have a problem with that. But I do have a problem if one thing is being said and another is being executed. Employees who are clear with where their loyalties always tend to have an above average volume of give-a-damn.

They Know How to Laugh

I can’t overstate the importance of this when working in a support environment. People who take things too seriously are really going to struggle. There are plenty of days that aren’t fun, and the only recourse is to learn to laugh about it, or at ourselves.

No amount of technical knowledge will ever replace the ability to laugh when stress is the highest.

We crack jokes all the time and we’ll be sharing more of them on our company instagram, so check us out there if you’re into cheesy tech jokes about cats or Rick Rolls.

It really upsets me to admit this, but I’m pretty sure I’m the least funny person on our team now. Seriously, I’m not happy about it at all. But what am I supposed to do? I either have to get funnier or fire everyone, and the latter is never gonna happen with a staff that’s this well-rounded.

Any thoughts you have to share about putting together a well-rounded staff? Hit me up in the comments.

1 Comment

  1. Jasper

    I think that no amount of care and enthusiasm can make up for a lack of willingness to learn. “I want to help and I am here but I don’t know what to do and refuse to learn” has been something I have struggled with working with my team.

    Burning yourself out because you are overloaded at the end of the day is counterproductive, there must be a balance – building a culture of presenteeism outside of your core hours might make you feel like you are giving more, but it also assumes your time is worth nothing, especially if the time spent is unproductive and you are just hanging around – this time would be better spent learning.

    Going the extra mile is commendable, but if it is at the expense of quality and the information provided is inaccurate just because you needed to say at least something, then it is just plain damaging.

    Drawing clear boundaries of scope and support hours, and managing client expectations is key to maintaining a healthy team. Receiving relevant training and filling in the gaps should be met with the same enthusiasm as being present with partial knowledge. If an agent actually cares about the client then they will take the initiative to upskill and better themselves for their role.

    Reply

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