Hearsay customer support: Embracing kaizen inside out

Hearsay customer support: Embracing kaizen inside out

Last year, I had the pleasure of working alongside and developing our email and phone Product Specialists as the Director of Customer Support at Hearsay as we crossed some exciting milestones.

Throughout that time, there was one constant thread—a deep commitment to kaizen (or continuous improvement, in Japanese)—not just for customer support metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, customer effort score (CES), percentage of phone calls answered, or number of tickets created and closed, but also for the less tangible metrics around developing and strengthening relationships with customers and between team members.

Using data to humanize customer support 

When I joined the company over two years ago, our team had a CSAT score that didn’t fluctuate a few percentage points beyond 90%—nothing to scoff at, but I knew we could be doing better. Looking at survey responses, I saw a gap in data that demanded attention. For example, beyond a simple thumbs up/thumbs down and a few notes, I couldn’t see what our customers thought or how the team made an impact.

After doing some research, I came across—and we ultimately implemented—a new platform called Stella Connect, which upped our data and insights game on several fronts. Customers could add specific information about why their experience was good or bad, and for the first time, our Product Specialists were able to view real-time customer sentiment and feedback. The feedback request form featured a headshot of each team member, with a snippet about their interests and hobbies underneath, immediately humanizing their interactions. Instead of clicking thumbs up/down for satisfaction, customers could simply specify between one to five stars. Within the first three months of deployment, our CSAT score rose to 96%; today’s it’s at 98%. 

Importantly, we also had an opportunity to turn around dissatisfied customers. Before we implemented this new tool, we rarely reached back out to customers who left a negative rating, which meant they were always going to be dissatisfied. Now, with any feedback rating that’s one to three stars, a support ticket is automatically created, allowing me to proactively reach out to the customer, introduce myself as the team manager, and ask what I can do to make it right. When that ticket closes, we send a second survey to see if we were able to turn the service around, and in over 55% of cases, we’re successful.

Beyond a more humanized survey, we also have the ability to QA tickets randomly, annotating what went well and what can be improved. This allows my team to receive consistent feedback meaning that we have more impactful coaching conversations. 

The data we’re able to access in order to improve our coaching efforts and uplevel our customer experience was just one team milestone, which critically, would not have been possible without the culture of customer focus and kaizen that is so ingrained at Hearsay.

Leaning into a culture of kaizen, collaboration and career mobility

Unlike other companies, where technology procurement might involve extended application, review and approval processes, I was pleasantly surprised that migrating to a new CSAT survey tool was viewed as sensible and feasible at Hearsay. It just goes back to kaizen, which is the norm for how our teams operate. Faster resolution times, fewer escalations and a higher CSAT score, all while benefiting the team and humanizing the customer experience? Go make it happen!

Because the team is geographically distributed in Manila, Philippines, and across North America and Europe, fostering team bonds and recognizing achievement was critical. To build a tight-knit culture, especially during COVID times, we hold team stand ups twice a week, and a collective support team meeting every Friday. Our teams use Slack regularly to help each other out on challenging tickets. We recognize hard work by shining a light on the team member with the highest CSAT score from the previous week, and also give a $50 gift card to the individual who had the highest CSAT score for the month. Using Stella Connect, we review all customer responses received and acknowledge the positive impact the team has delivered. I’m proud that our team consistently has one of the highest scores on employee pulse surveys, for the statement “My teammates have my back.” They’re dedicated not just to helping our customers, but helping each other succeed as well. 

In turn, Hearsay is dedicated to helping my team grow professionally. When I joined the team, we had a flat organization, without defined pathways to advance professional development, even though we had team members doing more complex work, with different responsibilities. Working with our People Ops partner and my manager, we created a new career path within the support team with new clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Immediately, we promoted four members to become Advanced Product Specialists, and one team member to become Principal Product Specialist.

As I reflect on the past year, I’m proud of the milestones that our Customer Support team has achieved, but also look forward to exploring how we can be better, knowing that Hearsay’s culture of kaizen and collaboration will be there to support our initiatives.

Jon Schlueter
As Director of Global Customer Support, Jon Schlueter oversees all aspects of Hearsay's customer service policies, objectives, and initiatives. His team is dedicated to resolving customer inquiries in a timely fashion, while exceeding customer satisfaction. Outside of work, he loves being a new dad to his 9-month old daughter, and exploring NYC with his 35mm camera in his limited spare time.

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