Program Director, Supply at Preply
Customer Support is the team that keeps in touch with our clients. They deal with the requests and issues that connect our customers to the business — they are the bridge. Offering excellent customer support is as important as having a robust product. To lead this effort, Preply has recently hired a new Head of Support, Jean-Pascal Gribaudi. He used to manage a support team in Booking.com.
Managing coherent work
The processes in customer support have to be well-built and systematized. Employees should be trained on customer empathy, emotional intelligence and problem-solving. Proper training and onboarding are important for each team and more so for Customer Support.
You can keep these instructions and guidelines in Confluence, for example, or something as simple as Google Docs. It’s not important which tool you use, butthat you have the right 'settings' in your teams minds and hearts.
Our clients and customer support employees have one thing in common — they are passionate about learning languages. It’s the key to success.
We hire a lot of people from AIESEC, because they come from different backgrounds and cultures. Our HR team is professional and resourceful, as they manage to find people who speak 3 or 4 languages. In this respect, a candidate with a multicultural and broad outlook has a mindset which is aligned with our priorities and corporate vision.
Hiring humans vs. robots
It is my firm belief that businesses should prioritize automation, and manual processes should embrace technologies in the context of automating routine tasks. However, this should not be at the expense of authentic human connection. Due to the recent proliferation of chatbots and similar technologies, human to human interactions is more valuable now than ever before.
The majority of questions customer support deals with are human-related: people are upset about something, and the conversation between the customer support and a client demands more than a simple 'yes' or 'no' response. It is about acknowledging them as a human being by hearing their emotions and ultimately resolving their problems with immense care. My vision of flawless customer support involves acting as a consultant and advisor to the customer rather than robotic and transactional.
How to hire: searching for a perfect match
We have 16 people in our customer support team and they are all from different countries. The hiring process, as well as the required qualities of the employees differ depending on the type of customer support. The crucial and basic requirement for a candidate is a strong command of English language. We have developed a well-structured and robust test to evaluate a candidate's language proficiency in alignment with the expectations of the role their interviewing for at Preply
Robust customer support requires people who care about resolving problems — that means being able to hear the problem, understand the issue, and offer an adequate solution. Those tend to be excited people willing to learn. Before we reach a final decision, a candidate must pass through group interviews, a situational interview with the Head of Support, and an HR interview.
Motivate, appreciate and recognize
Recognizing an unmotivated employee or team to a great extent depends on the manager. Maintaining an open culture within the customer support team is vitally important because a job is not only about hitting KPIs and fulfilling the responsibilities of the role. How a person feels matters a lot too. An environment where people can speak openly, share their thoughts, ideas and their issues, and receive instant feedback helps to combat the lack of motivation.
Also, providing employees with the purpose of how their job contributes to the growth of the company as well as making a difference in clients’ lives is very important to keep them motivated. Lastly, giving employees autonomy to make decisions and trusting their judgment (after robust onboarding and training of course) is crucial to their success and further development.
One of the more innovative processes we have in place to boost motivation and shared empathy across the team is what we call ‘screw up’ nights on Thursdays. This is where we discuss different tough conversations with customers in detail, listen to each other's experiences, and learn what to do better next time. These meetings are not about the failures or mistakes, they are about learning something and making useful conclusions. Having an open and empathetic environment within the team is very important, thus, team building initiatives are equally vital processes. When an employee is happy, the entire company is sure to achieve intended objectives.
Elitsa Zaimova, Program Director, Supply and Enterprise at Preply, worldwide EdTech-marketplace for learning foreign languages, discussed the key aspects of creating a healthy and productive environment within the customer support team.