How to help a Customer Support Team develop from great to exceptional
When did you start working at AMBOSS and what is your role?
I started working at AMBOSS as the Head of Customer Support in May 2020, so roughly 8 months ago. The hiring process actually started a few months before: I was told AMBOSS was planning to merge the existing support and research teams under one roof – a Global Customer and Insights Department. They were looking to fill the Head-of-positions for both teams during the time we first connected. At the time I was working in the role of Head of Customer Insights, but was really craving to go back more into operative business again. Hence Customer Support ended up being the more appealing role for me at the time: more people management and a more lively working environment (compared to deep dives into data) – so that is what I went for in the end and I do not regret my choice!
What was the situation when you joined and what problems did you have to solve?
Despite it being the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, an on-site onboarding at least in parts was still possible at the time, which was very beneficial in order to get to know the team as quickly as possible. Even before I joined, the AMBOSS Customer Support already delivered a great customer experience, specifically with US customers celebrating us by posting on reddit and highlighting our supporting and empathetic tone that they perceived as very empowering. That only further underlined how our Customer Service has always been one of our Unique Selling Points. So the real challenge was to create a scalable framework. I asked myself: How can we enable Customer Support to best handle the changes and growth of the user base?
Upon me joining, there was an English and a German team, both working well independently but without major collaboration between the two. While they did regularly meet up and exchange ideas, it wasn’t well organized yet and further alignment strategies needed to be implemented. The biggest challenge therefore was to create one united team and get everyone on board. At the time, we had two locations in Berlin (English and German teams were housed in separate places), one in Cologne and another one in the US (New York). Naturally, the easiest fix was to put the Berlin teams into one building, which – as expected – helped a great deal. Of course, we still had to be sensitive to the COVID situation, other time zones and to the schedule of the office in Cologne, but that proved to be a manageable task.
The next immediate goal on my list was to transform our Customer Support from great to excellent and further improve our USP´.
What were your first steps in your role at AMBOSS?
Coming in as the new Head of, opening up the metrics, looking closely into where we are at, where we want to go and constantly monitoring customer satisfaction was a huge change for the team. They were pretty much self-organized, so it was important to create a framework together. First, we evaluated lots of data, for example: What are the preferred service channels, what should we add, what makes our customer happy, what needs to be improved? We looked very closely into how to reliably predict when our customers are in need and kept repeating our credo of being 100% customer focused to ourselves every time we encountered a challenge.
Most changes in life don’t go over without resistance. The thing that did not earn me any praise in the beginning was the introduction of Saturday work. As you can imagine, people were not pleased and my manager’s feedback at three months in was frankly nothing to brag about. I’m happy to announce I did a full 180 by the next feedback round three months later, so there’s that.
How do you make sure your team maintains the current level of excellence?
Our Customer Support team consists of product experts, which really helps maintain our quality level when it comes to technical support. However, technical support is not all we provide here at AMBOSS – a good chunk is also psychological support. We’re usually dealing with students facing one of their crucial exams deciding their future, so you can imagine the stress-levels. It is important for us to take the time to listen to our customers during those times as well – this is our quality standard! We’re not a regular call-center and we obviously have the benefit of being a niche-product that can actually provide this kind of service. So we decided this is what we do: When you call in, AMBOSS is here for you.
For our team, the credo is: Our positive environment carries over to a very positive experience for our customers.
Basically, what we represent to the outside, we vowed to deliver on the inside as well: the team is always in the center. We’re having a comparably small team of twenty people and all of them are great hires! I believe in them and am happy to give them responsibilities. It is important to have a transparent and steady channel of communication. Creating an inclusive atmosphere that ensures we’re always on the same page and can react quickly should problems arise.
What have you learned over the course of your management career that could benefit junior managers?
As a young executive, I believed that everything could be fully explained with data. Experience has proven me wrong: The sum of all gathered data will not take making a decision out of your hands or always tell you what is actually going on. You can measure almost everything in Customer Support, but it may not reflect reality or the big picture.
Don’t get me wrong here: Data can be super helpful in supporting your decision-making process, but it nevers tells you everything. “We” cannot be fully described by numbers, we (the customers, the team, the company) are always more than that. This is something to always keep in mind and in the end also makes the difference between good and exceptional.
Any advice you’d give someone who’s interested to join your team?
We deliberately opted for an intensive onboarding phase. AMBOSS is a complex product and it takes time to become fully familiar with it. As a Customer Support Specialist you need to be an expert of our product and while you are the voice of the company to our customers; you are the voice of the customer on the inside.
In doing so, we rely on personal initiative and genuine interest. If you can identify yourself with our product and our approach to become better every single day, we can offer a great, supportive team with training and personal/career development opportunities.
Long story short: It is a good place to start your career in a cool company!