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Hopeful Customer Service | Customers, Etc

Hopeful Customer Service | Customers, Etc
By Ben McCormack • Issue #26 • View online
Measuring the quality of individual agents is important, but where should we focus when it comes to quality?

I don’t know about you, but last week’s article about exploitive customer service left me feeling sad and even a bit powerless. What can I do to effect change in the face of a system that’s stacked against people who work in customer service?
I got a taste of hope when I attended a virtual conference hosted by Stella Connect earlier this week. The people I heard speak are focused on the people of customer service and support, not just the numbers.
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash
Coach, not catch
There were a lot of great talks, but one that stood out was hosted by Micah Citti and Jennifer Lien, who both work in Customer Operations at ESPN.
Jennifer generates tons of reports, but her favorite is the one with direct quotes from fans—their word for customers—that surface in the customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys. And they’re a big hit with leadership. Even though I suspect most of their reports are heavy with charts and graphs, the report that everyone wants to read is the one with quotes from fans.
I was really encouraged by this quote from Micah about what guided them in choosing Stella Connect for their survey solution:
“I don’t want to catch them [support agents] doing wrong—I want to coach them.”
Contrast this to last week’s story, where failure to meet one of 25 (!) metrics can get you fired. ESPN, on the other hand, set up a system that creates opportunities to coach people and celebrates wins by quoting positive fan interactions with leadership.
Focus on people
Screenshot from
Screenshot from
While this isn’t an endorsement of Stella Connect, I’ll tell you what caught my attention when I first checked them out: they’re focused on people. When you get an email survey, it doesn’t ask, “How would you rate the support you received.” It asks, “How was your call with Mariana?” Mariana is a person. She likes hiking and Thai food, and, we’d like know, how would you rate the call? It puts the person front and center before asking for a rating.
I think this fundamentally changes how customers think about leaving feedback and grounds that feedback in a human experience. It takes the focus off the score and puts it on the people. That’s going to make a difference not only in the experience you provide; it’s also going to impact how customers perceive that experience.
“But what about survey bias! When you’re focused on interactions with the individual agent, that skews the objectivity of data. The surveys need to be the same across all agents! You won’t be able to trust your CSAT numbers!!!”
Who cares. Seriously, who cares?
Will you still get numbers that you can directionally influence via behavioral change, both for individual agents and for the entire team? Yep.
Will you still get beautiful reports that you can share with leadership? You bet.
But you’ll also get a survey tool that innately values both the agent providing the service and the customer who received it. And that matters in terms of the quality of service you intend to provide.
Focus on people
What do you think happens when we take our focus off the numbers and instead turn our gaze to the humans on both sides of the relationship? Customer support agents end up feeling more like people, rather than a collection of numbers, which in turn means they can deliver a more human experience to customers. This isn’t rocket science—and the numbers are still there if you want to look at them—but it really is as simple as choosing what to focus on.
This newsletter started with a reflection on focus. It’s very high level, it’s a think piece, blah blah blah, but it’s also real. What we focus on matters. It matters to the people we work with every day, and it matters to the customers whom we’re privileged to serve. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend Stella Connect’s Level Up conference and hear the stories of people who are focusing on what matters.
Etc. (QA Tools Edition)
You should have more than CSAT in your QA toolbox. Here’s a short list of QA tools I’ve used or explored in the customer support space:
  • Stella Connect - FullStory uses Stella for CSAT surveys on both support interactions and for webinar attendees. We integrate with Slack, posting positive customer feedback to #cx-wins and negative feedback to a private channel called #cx-grumpies.
  • MaestroQA - As I shared two weeks ago, FullStory uses MaestroQA for regular manager and peer review of support tickets. The rubric is based on our watchwords (not a checklist or numeric score), so it keeps us focused on the values that lead to a remarkable support experience. For a deep dive into how we implemented the watchwords in customer support at FullStory, check out my talk with MaestroQA: In Defense of Brand
  • Klaus - Klaus is a newer entrant into the QA space, and for Zendesk users, looks very promising. Definitely worth a look.
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Ben McCormack

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