How to live a double life: Using customer support superpowers when building community
Developing customer service skills feed into our communities
One of the great benefits of my current position at SuperHi is that it is a hybrid role where I am also a lead in Customer Support. Beyond just working in our community, I am in charge of our Tier 1 support requests and assist with Tier 2 as well.
There are a lot of great lessons and skills that I have learned while working in Customer Support which I wanted to share with other Community leaders that are looking to expand their skill sets.
When you work in Customer Service, one of the more important skills is being able to de-escalate sticky situations. You are often in the first line of defense, so even if the customer’s dissatisfaction has nothing to do with you, you’ll still end up taking the brunt of it.
While this might sound like a terrible position to be in, learning how to de-escalate tense situations is a great skill to have because it allows you to rebuild trust with the customer. Plus, it’s often a skill that management really appreciates and rewards.
The saying “kill them with kindness” goes a long way and is something I try and strive for on a daily basis. Arguing with the customer or trying to prove how they’re in the wrong often isn’t helpful. It can have the potential to make the situation worse.
How this relates to your Community role: Most of the time, people just want to be heard and understood, so even just listening to their concerns might be all that is needed. De-escalating in community can have extra complications, specifically more people involved in the de-escalation. The issue may need to be flagged to other departments or people, see how you can help facilitate this without putting extra work on the community member. Small acts can have big impacts.
Tracking feedback is vital when working in Customer Service because you’ll want to keep a pulse of the common complaints, praises, and suggestions that you can raise to the team.
For our team, this means having a main feedback database that acts as our source of truth and the main point of reference when we review feedback.
How this relates to your Community role: Just like CS, you will also get feedback in your community and it is important to keep records of this.
An example that might work for you is to create a feedback channel within your community where members can drop in and leave suggestions, ideas, and complaints.
Having a database like this is important because you’ll have concrete data that you can bring to other departments in your company (such as the product team) and can start implementing changes.
Surprise & delights
Back to the first point of being able to de-escalate situations, one helpful strategy for this is doing Surprise & Delights.
This idea can be used for unhappy customers but also can be used for members just because you want to offer them something above and beyond.
When people aren’t expected to be rewarded for something, it often leaves a lasting impression on them about how you care for them as a member.
How this relates to your Community role: At SuperHi, we utilize Surprise & Delights on a weekly basis. Each month we have a set budget where we can reward our members for any reason. Doing this frequently, we have noticed that not only are members happy that they get rewarded with a gift card, food delivery, etc. they also end up wanting to participate more in the community afterward.
Don’t have a budget? Don’t worry! Often the best surprises are intangible. Recommend someone for a role. Leave them a LinkedIn recommendation. Mention them in your newsletter. Or perhaps best of all, notice and compliment what they are good at.
People get busy and sidetracked all of the time, so if you are waiting for an answer, you should follow up. This is especially true in Customer Service as sometimes we are waiting on responses from members who simply meant to reply but didn’t for one reason or another. Setting notifications for yourself to follow up helps with making sure your member gets what they need, but for you also to close your open tickets.
How this relates to your Community role: If you are reaching out to your members for 1:1 interviews, onboarding, etc. make a note to follow up if a member has responded to you in a few days. In your follow up you can ask them if they need any more clarification or support from you.
A good way to keep track of this information is to create a database in a tool such as Notion, which you can reference to know when to follow up and check in with your members. Not only does it show that member that you care about what they have to say, but it also will get you clarity on the information your member has to share.
If you work in CS, you already know that you need to have a firm grasp of the product that your company works on. You don’t always need to have all of the technical skillsets to de-bug problems (depending on your role), but you should be able to know enough to flag it to the right department on your team.
How this relates to your Community role: There is a likely scenario where community members have questions related to your company’s product and if you know how to best point them in the right direction, it’ll save them a lot of headaches.
For me, one example of this is that when a community member has a question about this, I will flag it for a team member to either help me in a response or point me to where I should send this member to. I’ll also respond to the community member and let them know that I’ll be back with a more thorough answer shortly.
Want to level it up? Consider highlighting the input or solutions that existing members have already created. Not only does this show people are not alone in the problem, but it also creates a connection.
Plain and simple, being on top of your time management skills will benefit you a great deal in CS. There is a constant supply of new inquiries on a daily basis on top of your other tasks, so being able to prioritize how and when to respond to your members helps with customer satisfaction.
Time blocking can help a lot with this where you dedicate certain hours in the day to focus on replying back to your members.
How this relates to your Community role: Most Community Managers that I know get a lot of messages and questions from their communities on a regular basis. It can be extra challenging when they can come from so many different avenues, DMs, email, social, and more! In addition to time blocking, a good idea here is to set expectations for when your members can expect a reply back.
Having a Customer Support mindset while working as a Community Manager can be super beneficial. One thing that I am learning more and more is seeing how other departments work and implementing any ideas that would make my work better. We can all learn from each other!
Did I miss anything else? Let me know in the comments below!
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Big thank you to Rosie Sherry & Danielle Maveal for the title suggestion and for helping edit this post! :)
Great stuff Max! Coming from a similar situation in our organization I really appreciated your take.
This is FULL of many great tips that relate to the crossover of Community + Customer Success! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼