That’s what they say and it makes sense to me. In entrepreneurship, there is no right or wrong. There are only fine balances and “going all in”. At Exotel, one of those balancing acts that we strive for is great freedom/autonomy without loss of accountability. This balancing act can be seen throughout our organization. For ex, our techies fix their own bugs and do their own QA. But “Support” is tricky. Who really owns support? To answer this question, lets try to answer who gets the credit for great support:
Great support results in satisfied customers. Satisfied customers typically talk a lot about our product to their friends and colleagues who then help spread the word! That looks like “Word of mouth” or referral marketing. So, the marketing team has a piece of this cake.
On the flip side, lots of customers reaching out to you asking too many questions indicates that the product is not clean and intuitive enough. Increased load in support indicates badly designed product that does not provide for what the customer is looking for. Additionally, listening carefully to a complaining customer typically provides a solution far more elegant than from a product manager’s intuition. So, low support load indicates a greatly designed, self serving product! Another piece of the cake to the product team.
In India, it is generally accepted that “Do it for me” works better than 100% “do it yourself”. At Exotel, we have “account managers”: Enablers who understand the customer’s requirements, give opinions on whether Exotel is suitable for them and eventually help set up the phone system thus saving everyone’s time. These account mangers are incentivized for every additional customer they are able to get. They know the customer best and the value they derive out of our system. If they get incentives for adding a customer, should they also not get incentives for helping the customer understand the product better so that they are better engaged? So, when these customers call up support to discuss their problems, shouldn’t the account manager be picking these calls up? It looks like “post-sales” or “operations” people also have a pie in the cake!
One of the primary reasons customers choose exotel over other products is because of our superior reliability . Our infrastructure team does not shy away from making this promise. And if this team does that, shouldn’t they also be responsible for buckling up at the time of disaster? What if a certain API does not work in the intended manner? What if the system goes down late in the night when everyone is sleeping? Looks like techies also have a role to play.
Thus started our endeavor towards “zero support”. Zero support isn’t really zero support. We just don’t have a team called “support” whose job description is to take all the customer rant without any handle on fixing the issues! Unlike other companies, we don’t look at Support as a “cost center”. In fact, support isn’t a center at all! In an ideal world, If all of us delivered on what our promise, there is no need to support anything else.
And now, we seem to have achieved that. Thanks to all the hooks in exotel – We have now managed to decentralize support. This is how it works:
Calls – All calls to our support numbers behave the same way. If the call is from a number registered with us, the call goes straight to the account manager. If the account manager is busy, then it goes to his manager and if the manager is also busy – falls back to the technical support team.
If the call is from an unknown number, they are presented with an IVR. People calling up to find out more about Exotel get routed to the marketing team. Existing customers are requested to call from their registered phone so that they don’t have to go through the torture of IVR.
There is also an “everything else”. These calls go to our admin department.
Emails – Just like calls, Emails from registered email addresses automatically gets sent to the account managers. All tickets that are from unknown people run through a dictionary based classifier (with manual assistance) and gets sent to the right teams. For ex: A ticket with subject line “My calls are not connecting” automatically gets sent to the infrastructure team etc. Further, this “manual assistance” is also decentralized. Every new joiner in the company has to go through support for a week and these days, we seem to be hiring a person a week and so, this chain can be maintained.
This is now in place for a few weeks and strangely, I noticed that our first response times and SLA misses have actually increased! This could mean a few things:
a) We haven’t understood the seriousness of attending to a customer.
b) We are over worked.
c) The classification & automation is broken somewhere
Most likely, it will be a little bit of all of the above. A great process is one that works when you are not around. So, I take the blame and will continue to tune these for better customer experience & compliance. In the meantime – If you are a customer, consider mailing or calling us from your registered number or email ID. Better yet – Use the multiple ways available to you inside the product to reach out to us. If you have any ideas on how to make this better, leave us a comment below please. So, now you know what I mean by “Zero support”!