One part of my role at SitePoint is to manage our Customer Support team. I often refer to this team as being “on the dance floor” with our visitors and customers, while as managers we’re just “sitting on the balcony”.
I use this analogy because, as anyone who’s been to a nightclub knows, on that dance floor you have a very precise view of a small area. On the balcony, your field of vision is wider, but it’s much less detailed.
It’s important to appreciate this different perspective when working with your team to develop customer service strategies. Remember, your customer support team members will bring a very precise picture of what’s happening in their place on the dance floor, so listen to what they say. If you’re a manager, it’s your job to take a broader view of the situation and make decisions and changes that benefit the entire group.
Don’t question what your support team tells you — listen, research, and take action!
One of the best initiatives I’ve seen to ensure that people on the balcony don’t forget just how real things are on the front line is exactly what goes on here at SitePoint.
Now, I can’t take full credit as this initiative wasn’t my own idea (hat tip to Luke, our General Manager), but here’s how it works: we have a policy that every single employee of SitePoint must do a full day of Customer Support about one day a month. This includes our Co-founders, our Managing Editors, Programmers, Designers, and even me.
Having the whole team involved in customer support on a regular basis ensures that every single person in the company understands just what sort of impact an error or a flawed process has on our customers, regardless of whether they are directly involved in the customer-facing parts of our business or not.
It’s one thing to show an employee or a manager a report listing ten customers who haven’t received their books on time — it’s another thing entirely to ask that person to personally respond to each and every one of those customers. I bet the next time our customer support team mentions “we might have a shipping issue,” they’ll have a vocal ally to help champion their cause.
In virtually any role, in any company, your customers are your lifeblood. Even if you never get close to having a conversation with them, it’s important to never forget that what you do does have an impact. And while you might not hear it directly from your customers, if your support team tells you that there’s a problem, it’s a pretty safe bet that there is!
So should you ever find yourself forgetting about your customers, regardless of whether your business sells a product or service, consider getting back on the dance floor and checking out the action for yourself.
Photo credit: Brian Barnett