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Cordless interview series: 9 august 2023

Rosa Suarez
Senior Customer Support Manager at Nextivity

In this episode of Cordless Interview Series, Rosa Suarez - Senior Customer Support Manager at Nextivity shares her insights on customer support and team management. With 13 years of experience, she believes prioritising customer issues and making customers feel heard is crucial for successful customer support.

Prefer to read? Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Luba: [00:00:03] Uh, great. Well, welcome to the Cordless Interview Series where we talk with customer support leaders about the latest trends and best practices in the industry. And today I'm very pleased to introduce Rosa Suarez, Senior Customer Support Manager at Nextivity. Welcome and thanks for joining me today.

Rosa: [00:00:22] Thank you. First of all, want to take the time to thank you for allowing me to be part of this interview series. I'm really excited just to share my experience in this field.

Luba: [00:00:32] Thank you. Um, I guess to just get us started, could you please introduce yourself a little bit and tell us a couple of words about your career so far?

Rosa: [00:00:40] Of course, just a little bit about myself. My name is Rosa Suarez. I'm currently the Senior Manager of Customer Support at Nextivity Inc. I have been with Nextivity for seven years now. Um, I have over 13 years of experience in customer service, mostly which I've spent in the telecommunications industry. So either with like AT&T for example, I was there with, I was with them for five years and now with Nextivity for seven.

Luba: [00:01:10] Sounds good. Thank you. I guess with 13 years of experience in customer support, what do you think is the most important thing to make customer support a success?

Rosa: [00:01:20] So I think my for me, my number one priority is always making customers feel like they're my number one priority. Um, I want them to make sure that I'm prioritizing their issues and I'm making them feel like their voice is being heard, um, all the time. When, you know, when you, when you prioritize them and you make them feel like you're willing to help and happy to help, they're more willing to walk through with you, like with troubleshooting and, you know, provide all the details that you need in order to help resolve their issue.

Luba: [00:01:49] Yeah, yeah, of course. Um, I guess being a customer support leader and managing a team, especially when the team is quite big, it must be quite hard to maintain the quality of support. How do you do that with your team?

Rosa: [00:02:06] Um, so currently we do have, um, a lot of training. So just to make sure that we're all on the same page with products, um, anything that we're, we're doing as a company want to make sure that they are aware of anything that's happening as well as any ongoing product issues. So we have like a weekly call that we schedule that we schedule with all our support engineers as well as far as our support agents. So everyone's on the same page. We talk about the most common issues or happening or issues that are kind of complicated that we haven't unable to resolve. So we'll talk about these hot topics and try to get any feedback or any information from also the engineering team as far as what they think the issue might be or if there's a trend happening. So obviously, we want to make sure that we monitor any type of trends with any product issues. So we obviously don't want a widespread issue. So this is we use this weekly call to just kind of discuss those hot topics.

Luba: [00:03:02] Yeah. And how do you track these issues and trends? Do you do tagging? Do you do something else?

Rosa: [00:03:07] So yes, we do tagging. And then our support desk platform, which we use is Zendesk. So it allows us to do tagging on tickets as well as group tickets for if there's a common issue that we know that is affecting, affecting multiple users, um, we basically create this mass ticket that encompasses a, you know, one product issue which is not very common but I mean with, with any tech company. It can happen.

Luba: [00:03:36] Yeah. Sounds good. And then it sounds like, I mean, obviously customers call you with all these issues and then you pass it on to the rest of the company to help solve them. How do you how did how does this process work for you?

Rosa: [00:03:49] Correct. So we use the same meeting as well to kind of discuss these topic issues with engineers. But if it's something that we've been unable to resolve, we also use JIRA, which is another platform to log any issues or bugs or feedback as well. So we do get a lot of feedback from customers as requests for certain features or enhancements. So that also gets logged into our JIRA. And then that way our engineering team or development team has time to take a look at those tickets and then see if they have time to either develop some of those features or, you know, obviously if there's a bug, we want to prioritize that and make sure that those get looked at and fixed.

Luba: [00:04:28] Yeah. Makes sense. Um, and then in terms of maintaining the quality of support, do you do quality assurance? What is your process and thoughts on this?

Rosa: [00:04:39] So we definitely do have a quality team as well. Um, so if there is any ongoing issue with the hardware or software, they are aware of it and are on top of it to make sure that if there's, it needs to be a rolling change or anything change with the product itself, their attention is also being looped in. They're looped in.

Luba: [00:04:59] Yeah, I guess when I say quality assurance, I mean in your team. So for instance, do you read conversations of your team or how do you make sure that they have enough training and coaching or what to focus on next? Yeah.

Rosa: [00:05:12] So we actually have like small huddles every week where we discuss like certain hot topics or any news that we get, you know, that gets updated as well as ongoing training. So we take advantage of our free time to train, um, about the new products or read as well. We also have what we call Selfie University, which is a online platform where we can take training. So that's also a tool that we use to make sure that everyone's on the same page when it comes to our products. Product launches, any type of marketing material or webinars makes sense.

Luba: [00:05:48] How do you assess the performance of your team?

Rosa: [00:05:52] So we actually have Zendesk has really great reporting. So I kind of like go through tickets and I pull that information as far as, you know, how they're handling tickets, how fast they're responding to tickets and as well, like the good thing is that we're we're hybrid, so I'm able to be in the office with them as well. So we're all in the same area. And then I can just either, you know, listen into phone calls, I'm there, you know, with them 24/7. So if they have any questions, they're, you know, they're able to reach out to me. So I make myself pretty much available to my team at all times.

Luba: [00:06:27] That's amazing. Um, you mentioned that you have phone support, but also I think email guess managing these different channels and scheduling people to support these different channels and juggling them could be quite difficult. How do you do that? And also, why did you pick specific channels to support?

Rosa: [00:06:44] So we support. We provide support via, like you said, phone, email. We also have chat available. And then we also offer self-help. So with us being a global company, I think demand for customer service is always a thing for us. So we want to make sure that we have enough resources for our customers that, you know, have different preferences as well. There's some that are on the field that want, you know, a call. They want a call and they want to help right away while there's people that, you know, like to prepare ahead of time that would rather just get all the information via email. So we just want to make sure that we make ourselves available for, you know, everyone's preference because everyone's different and some people prefer to talk to someone. Some people prefer email, some people prefer to chat or text. So we do have those options available for our customers. Yeah.

Luba: [00:07:36] Yeah. Sounds great that you're so customer-centric and offer multiple options. Um, what is your biggest challenge right now? Like what keeps you up at night?

Rosa: [00:07:46] I think right now is just the demand for customer service 24/7. I mean, I've heard it from multiple customers of ours that they would like to have options to talk to someone 24/7. And, you know, since we are a global company, there's, you know, some lapses in time. But we have some coverage in Singapore, some coverage in the UK. But sometimes, you know, there is those a couple hours where, you know, no one can be reached or, you know, we can be reached via email but not via a phone. So I think with that demand and with COVID, it just kind of increased that demand for, you know, a lot of companies is scaling to provide 24/7 support. So I think that's our biggest challenge right now is trying to figure out how we how we help with that demand and how we help customers make sure that they have all the information they need even when we're not available.

Luba: [00:08:32] Yeah. What's your like big next step in that direction? Do you plan to open a different office or offer more self-service? Like, how are you thinking about resolving this?

Rosa: [00:08:44] So we are in the process of offering more self-service. So we have I think just this year we launched a partner portal where we're working really hard to make sure that we have everything available that our partners and customers need. And we are kind of in talks to see what options we have as far as making support available 24/7 and having the ability of, you know, maybe having more people that can work other shifts to make ourselves available.

Luba: [00:09:13] Yeah.

Luba: [00:09:15] Um, sounds good. So hot topic these days everyone is talking about AI and Chat-GPT. How are you thinking about this for your team and are you planning any projects or experiments in that area?

Rosa: [00:09:29] So, I believe, it's a really, really hot topic, I guess, right now with Chat-GPT, because I believe that it plays an important role in customer service. I think that it, it's very helpful, um, to have, you know, or AI or Chat-GPT provide some basic answers to customers. At the moment we don't use it. I have used it and played around with it. And I mean, it's, it's pretty amazing what it can do. But also like I think my, the way I feel about it, it just takes the human touch out of that interaction. Um, I can see it working for like basic questions or, you know, FAQs or something, you know, that you need to be responding to pretty quickly. Um, but with our customers, you know, we like the good-natured banter with our customers. We like to, you know, break the ice because a lot of times we get on calls and they're pretty frustrated or, you know, upset because something's not going their way or working. So for me is I think it will play an important role. I don't think it's quite there yet. Um, but I do prefer having that, you know, human interaction and that emotional intelligence added to those conversations. So yeah.

Luba: [00:10:37] So you're not planning anything at the moment.

Rosa: [00:10:40] As at the moment we're not planning anything. But, you know, I can't speak for the future. We, you know, I do see it helping. So maybe just, you know, basic questions or, you know, basic, you know, knowledge, base articles, things like that we could use.

Luba: [00:10:54] It makes sense.

Luba: [00:10:57] Slightly different topic. I often hear that customer support is thought of as a cost center at different companies. How do you what do you think about the statement and how do you navigate this with your team?

Rosa: [00:11:11] Um, so in my opinion, the customer service or customer support being a cost center is something that's kind of slowly changing. I believe that like there is a right tools that we can use to measure customer service, customer support and how it can be a big source of value for our customers. I think that we, you know, we deliver good customer service and good customer support that will actually protect and grow our relationship with the customer and as well as our brand. So I do see this changing and I do see that in turn. When you provide good customer service and good customer support, customers are more loyal. So they come back, they buy your product because, you know, they like the support. They like being able to talk to a live person. I mean, I've heard it so many times where, you know, customers tell me, oh, wow, actually, I'm talking to a live person. That really never happens right away. You have to go through like hurdles and, you know, different options. So I think it will add value and it adds loyalty to the brand. And I believe that, you know, by having good customer service, you're strengthening your brand and strengthening your partnerships and your business overall. And how I deal with it with my team, I think it's important to emphasize to the team that the work that they're doing is bringing value to the company as a whole, and I think it's important to let them know that their work is important and their work is much needed. Um, and make sure I tell my team all the time, um, you know, without our customers, we wouldn't be here, we wouldn't have a job. So our job is pretty important and we make sure we want to keep all our customers happy.

Luba: [00:12:53] So yeah, yeah, 100% agree. Yeah. Actually, a follow-up question on this. How do you measure the success of your team?

Rosa: [00:13:02] So, you know, obviously, customer feedback is very important. So we mostly work off of that like customer satisfaction. We, we have customer satisfaction scores that we have to keep up. I think our, our, our goal for the month is 92%. So as long as we're over 92%, that basically tells me that, you know, we're doing a good job, we're keeping our customers happy and we're meeting all our goals. And then obviously customer feedback, not only do I ask for feedback from, you know, the customers or partners, but also our sales engineers or, you know, our sales agents want to make sure that if they get any feedback as well, it gets kind of streamlined to me as well because I want to make sure that, you know, a lot of times they have other conversations with clients or customers, and I don't get that feedback, but I want to make sure that I also get that feedback from the, you know, the sales team as well.

Luba: [00:13:51] Makes sense. Final question.

Luba: [00:13:55] Can you tell me one company or maybe two whose customer service you really admire and why?

Rosa: [00:14:03] Okay. So I think this was really hard one, because I'm like trying to think like what companies do I admire. But I think one that always comes to mind for me is Costco. I mean, I love Costco. I shop there myself. And I think that they're like return policy, for example, is really great there. It's next level, I want to say. They have like customer-first culture, so they make sure that the return policy is pretty flexible. Even if customers want to return a used item or anything that they've had for a while that you know they're not happy with. And not only do I focus on the customers, but, you know, I've heard from a lot of employees there that they're really happy. They love working for Costco. And not only do they love working for Costco, but, you know, Costco provides very great benefits and perks for their for their team members. So, I mean, that's one company that I really admire is that with all the revenue that they make every year, I mean, they still keep their customers happy, their employees happy. And not only that, but like me as a as as a shopper at Costco, I always feel like I always have a pleasant experience all the time. So I think that's one of the companies that I do admire. Um, on a second one, I think from personal experience, I haven't really done too much research on the customer service, but I've never had any bad experience with Amazon, for example. I feel like every time there's an issue with the lost package or something showing up at the doorstep, I think that they're there really quick to take care of it and respond. I love the chat feature because sometimes you don't even need to talk to a live agent. You can just talk to someone and then they'll get your issue squared away.

Luba: [00:15:40] Yeah, I find that Amazon is a really great combination of self-service where somehow you manage to find your answer and where you can't. You actually can chat to someone but make you go through self-service, but not in a bad way. Like when you actually find that answer, you feel happy like, Huh, I managed to.

Luba: [00:15:59] Yes.

Rosa: [00:16:00] Even self-service is never it's never in a bad way. I feel like it's always been a pleasant experience. It's been very quick, so I've never really found myself getting frustrated with Amazon. So I think that they're yeah, they do a really, really good job of combining the both. I would agree with that.

Luba: [00:16:14] Yeah. Sounds good.

Luba: [00:16:15] Well, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoyed our chat. Thanks for joining me.

Rosa: [00:16:20] Yeah thank you so much!
Luba Chudnovets
Co-Founder and CEO