Here’s an open secret: everyone at TextExpander—even our CEO—spent a week working customer service as part of our onboarding.
Shep Hyken, a top influencer in customer service, says, “Customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee – from the CEO to the most recently hired.”
“It’s one of the things I love about the TextExpander hiring model,” says Ty Schalamon, who recently transitioned to sales at SketchUp after serving as a technical support manager for many years.
“Having worked in support for so long, I think more companies should do that. Because you really get to understand the customer and what they need, which then translates to anywhere in the business, like sales,” Schalamon says.
Schalamon has been using TextExpander for over 8 years—since he first started at Trimble, SketchUp’s parent company, and tells us that he’s saved over 73 days of typing time in total. What could you do with an extra 9 days per year?
Customer service training helps your team learn the product
Here at TextExpander, we have an extensive library of shared Snippets to answer almost any customer support inquiry. This helps us respond to most customer issues within 4 hours and often in a matter of minutes. And thanks to TextExpander’s inline search feature, our customer support team and new hires can not only quickly search for a problem but can quickly drop the answer into a Help Scout message.
But there’s also a fringe benefit: since our new employees are relying on TextExpander to answer customer queries, they’re learning TextExpander in a live environment, not only from using support Snippets, but also from directly seeing customer questions and feedback.
SketchUp also uses Snippets for employee training, and that became invaluable during the initial COVID outbreak.
“We actually doubled the size of our team during COVID. But we were all remote. And so all of the training was remote,” Schalamon says.
“Because we had [TextExpander Snippets as] our knowledge base, it was really easy to train people because you teach them how to search TextExpander to find things and what keywords to look for,” Schalamon says.
“Then when customers ask that question, [the customer support reps] can type in some of those words from that email, find the answer, and just expand it. They don’t even really need to understand what it is they’re sending,” Schalamon says.
Of course, the team members learn more over time, but Schalamon says that TextExpander Snippets help new reps quickly ramp up productivity as they’re learning.
It teaches your team about your customers
If customers are continually complaining about the same issue, you can’t just chalk it up to user error or PEBKAC. Your teams have to ask whether it’s a user experience issue, a customer experience problem, a documentation flaw, or all three. Getting ahead of the problem increases customer retention, reduces support inquiries, and keeps competitors at bay.
SketchUp employs a similar system. At least once per year, product and project managers spend half a day with customer support to read and listen to customer feedback and get a gist of where the rough edges are.
“A lot of [employees] started in support, but things have changed. And so it actually helps inform decisions about the future of the company and the product. Because they have this feedback fresh in their mind,” Schalamon says.
Customer service training can reduce support costs
When your entire company has customer service training, everyone in every department instinctively knows what decisions may lead to more customer service inquiries. That helps ward off issues in advance, keep your customer service team lean and effective, and reduce your overall support costs.
As Bill Price, Amazon’s original Vice President of Customer Service, said, “The best customer service is no service.” The best resolution for both your company and your customers is if they never need to contact customer service at all. Of course, you’ll never get 100% of the way there—even Amazon has a customer service department—but you can greatly reduce complaints by anticipating them first.
Schalamon’s customer service experience is proving invaluable in sales for doing exactly that.
“Now, what I’m doing is, instead of fixing issues after they buy, I’m helping prevent issues before they buy,” Schalamon says. “I tell them, ‘Yeah, you could buy this cheap one. But really, you need to buy this one. Because that’s what you’re telling me you want. And I know that that’s the version you’re going to need,” Schalamon says.
“And so having that deep understanding of what the customer needs and what they want, we can prevent some of those issues even before they even buy,” Schalamon says.
We asked Schalamon if he believed training an entire company on customer support would reduce support costs.
“Absolutely. And I think it would make the customer experience and the overall process better,” he says.
Schalamon says that when decision-makers are in tune with customer needs, they no longer have to guess what’s going to resonate.
“They’re not making decisions based on what they think the customer wants. It’s, ‘No, I talked to these people, I know what they want. I’m going to build this product in that direction because I know exactly what they’re looking for,” he says.
It prepares your employees for other roles
Customer service is stressful, and Schalamon tells us that a rep usually only lasts two years in that role. “I did support for 15 or 16 years at a few different places. Most people can’t do it for very long,” Schalamon says.
“Support is stressful. It’s very emotionally giving, and you don’t get much back. And we actually would talk about this regularly with the team because nobody reaches out to support when they’re happy,” Schalamon says.
Turnover is expensive. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing a single employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary. A 100-person organization with an average salary of $50,000 could expect annual turnover costs between $660,000 and $2.6 million… and that was before COVID. In the post-COVID world, employees are increasingly difficult to retain. Smart businesses need to get ahead of the problem and be prepared to transition burnt-out customer service reps to other roles.
Schalamon says that his extensive experience in customer support helped prepare him for a sales role.
“Sales and support are the customer-facing parts of most companies, And for the most part, unless someone has a problem, I may be the only person at SketchUp they ever talk to—or the only person at Trimble they ever talk to—unless they have a problem,” he says.
And with those customer-facing roles, it’s important to be the best possible representative for the company.
Sales is known to be a stressful field, but Schalamon personally finds it much less stressful than managing customer support because he’s helping customers build things instead of putting out fires.
“When people are reaching out to sales, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna learn SketchUp. I’m gonna build the next Sistine Chapel’” Schalamon says.
“I tell them to slow down a little bit, but we’ll get you there,” Schalamon says.
Customer service training creates a culture of customer service
As Shep Hyken says, customer service isn’t a department, it’s a philosophy. Often your employees who aren’t trained in customer service are the ones who may have the most impact on your customer. Hyken uses the example of a warehouse worker:
As an example, the warehouse team member who improperly packs a box will create a problem for the customer when the package arrives and the contents are damaged or a part is missing. Sure, that warehouse employee never talks to the customer, but what he or she does every day, picking and packing products, has a big impact on the customer. At a minimum, the warehouse employee needs to understand the impression the company is trying to create for the customer, and how he or she fits into a culture that is customer-focused. And, that takes training.Shep Hyken
When everyone at your company is steeped in a customer-first philosophy, great things happen. It worked out pretty well for Amazon!
Try TextExpander yourself with a 30-day free trial and discover what TextExpander can do for you and your team. When you’re ready, contact our sales team to supercharge your support team. Team-based pricing starts as low as $8.33 per user per month.