Today’s Tech Role Model is Mike Hamilton. Currently, Mike is a Senior Customer Support Manager at FiscalNote, a DC-based software, data, and media company. Mike always preferred opportunities to work with people, especially when he got to teach or make something better. He initially pursued a career in public education but took a detour to a call center. Through that opportunity, he discovered that he could do the work he enjoyed in environments besides a classroom. That insight led him to his current role and inspired him to continue learning and evolving throughout his professional life.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I am a Senior Customer Support Manager. I’ve been this particular role for a little over a year, with an additional six months of prior experience in a junior role at FiscalNote.
What attracted you to this customer support manager role?
I get to help people solve problems and learn every day. Moreover, my role is highly interdisciplinary and allows me to flex skills in both client-facing and technical fields.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
I start my day with a team meeting in which all members of customer support identify our priorities for the day and quickly discuss any recent or impending developments. Throughout the day, I keep a window for Zendesk and a window for Slack open so I can communicate with customers and colleagues. Through these applications, I field questions about bugs and data as well as product feedback, training, or administrative concerns. I communicate with engineers or product managers through Slack or Jira to align on technical requirements for projects and updates. I attend weekly meetings to track the analytics of customer-facing resources and to stay on top of new developments with the company’s products.
Lunch is usually between 12 and 2. I tend to eat at my desk so I can catch up on work or read the news, but occasionally I’ll pull up a chair at a table with colleagues.
What skills/technologies help you to succeed?
I started using Zendesk in September 2014, and it remains the center of my work. It’s an awesome tool for managing relationships with customers because it’s incredibly customizable with great technical documentation that explains any task. It also just feels fun to use the software and watch conversations evolve from requests to solutions. My time in a call center opened my mind to working in customer support and refined the communication/analytical skills I developed for public education. Zendesk was my gateway to applying new technology to customer support. I’m using a lot of different software today, but Zendesk remains my favorite tool.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your customer support manager role?
My role is incredibly flexible, and I get to try something new every day. On one day, I might be helping an important client resolve a question. Then I might write content for our Help Center or manage an integration that will enhance my team’s operations. I can start conversations with people across the company, from salespeople to engineers and peers to VPs, about key initiatives or projects. Never a dull moment!
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
How I spend the most valuable resource – time! In support, a lot comes at me and everything can feel urgent. Keeping a to-do list is key. I try to get as much information as I can about the requirements and priorities for the things on my plate. Then I can separate the important-and-urgent from the important-but-not-urgent. Some things have to get done ASAP, and some things need to go to the back burner for a bit.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
Customer Support touches a lot of different teams across the company, from Sales and Account Management to Product and Engineering. For example, I receive product feedback from clients and it’s my job to make sure that feedback gets to the attention of the Product team. One time, after receiving a significant amount of feedback from a particular client in a short timespan, I connected with a colleague in Product and we determined that we needed to get a better sense of that client’s workflow. We both did research and held a meeting with a colleague from our Professional Services team who we knew was very familiar with the client.
The information we gathered informed the way the Product team could prioritize development to fulfill the client’s most important feedback. It also helped me devise a workaround that the client could use in the meantime.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your customer support manager role?
Using SQL. Our software products involve a lot of data, and sometimes I need to find something for a client. There are times when I need to ask a data manager or an engineer for help with complex queries. My goal is to become more independent so I can turnaround queries quickly. Moreover, SQL is pretty fascinating.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your customer support manager role?
Patience: Sometimes it can take a while to get to the bottom of a problem.
Creativity: Everyone perceives technology in different ways, so it’s important to find ways to engage everyone.
Attention to detail: Gathering as much information as possible about a problem greatly contributes to a speedy resolution. This means I ask customers a lot of questions, including specific directions as necessary. “What’s the browser you are using? What version? Does a hard refresh help? What’s the operating system of your machine? What page were you on when that happened? Could you hover over that icon, then click on the menu option that’s second from the top?”
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this customer support manager role?
Before I started working in tech, I never opened Excel or Google Sheets. I found formulas to be intimidating and mysterious. Fortunately, I have had bosses who sensed this was an area for improvement and steadily assigned me work to ramp up my skills. At first, I got coaching whenever I hit a stumbling block.
But then I learned where to go online for resources and I felt comfortable practicing independently. After a while, I started using spreadsheets outside of work to organize data in my personal life. Now, VLOOKUP and CONCATENATE are tools I used every day. While I still have a lot more to learn, I feel empowered to go after more spreadsheet knowledge.
In your customer support manager role, what metrics define success?
First Reply Time (FRT): The difference between the time at which a customer opens a conversation with me in Zendesk and the time at which I send a message back to the customer. A low time is desirable since it signals that I am highly responsive.
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): After I conclude a conversation with a customer, Zendesk sends a simple survey that the customer may complete. They can rate my customer service as “Good” or “Bad” and leave qualitative feedback. Zendesk converts and aggregates the feedback to a percentage. My benchmark is that 97% of customers who complete the survey rate my service as “Good.”