Get Out and Boogie on the Customer Service Dance Floor!

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

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  • tcertain

    I worked in the manufacturing sector for many years. I can’t tell you how many times I said “Customer Service people should have to work on the floor and know what they are talking about, and the people on the floor should have to do a stint in customer service to see what they go through on a day to day basis. Having worked on both sides of it, it is a real eye opener.

    Kudos to you for using your strategy.

  • AK

    This article was definitely needed. It’s important to understand what kind of impact your actions have on the company.

  • rizzi

    I manage a support team for a registrar as well

  • rizzi

    heyyy….I manage a support team for a registrar and this is something we can use….great post

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    Here’s a repeat customer telling you that he doesn’t like to be publicly branded as “0% trusted”. Spare me the reasons why you do this, I know them.

  • http://www.gen2net.net chris_fuel

    @Charles Sweeney

    I did a search for “0% trusted” on this page and only came up with your comment on the search, so I’m not sure what to infer from your quoted meaning. Really I don’t see anything in this article to suggest that customers are not trusted, but to the opposite extent of making sure they’re served in a more quality oriented fashion.

    While I may have a shiney Sitepoint badge thingy on, I’m fairly open to ideas. If you can show me where this inferred meaning is I’d be happy to discuss potential logic behind it with you. Also note that I am also a returning customer, be it personal purchases or ones of reimbursement through companies I’ve worked for.

    @The Article

    To the point of this article, the company I work for is fairly small, and this sort of thing comes up a lot. Guess who answers calls when the Sales people are tied up? The marketing team. When they get tied up, the IT team comes to help as well. What’s this done for us? As a team, from experiencing customer service first hand, we can realistically come up with more targeted ways of getting more customers.

    However, we do have our down days, in which the Sales folks pretty much have a handle on things. During these times we often have discussions on key phone calls. This can be anything from a great sale to a very unique customer situation. We, of course, hear about bad calls too, as what customers don’t like is an extremely critical part of our improvement process.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    @chris fuel. Hi chris. What’s it got to do with you?

  • http://www.gen2net.net chris_fuel

    @Charles Sweeney: Answer the question

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    @chris fuel. What question would that be? In the meantime you can answer my question. What’s it got to do with you?

  • http://www.gen2net.net chris_fuel

    Well, you’ve left a defensive comment to this post which really doesn’t make sense, refusing to state your logic behind it. I’m asking you to justify this, because you’re putting weird words in the mouth of the article writer, without justification, which really isn’t all that fair. That said, if you leave it as is, given my response, your comment will have no substance, leaving you in a pretty poor position if you want to be heard later on. Assuming these things, the question is not what’s it got to do with me, but what’s it worth to you to seem like a person with sound logic?