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Part of Readdle that will Never be Completely Automated: Customer Support

Having human-to-human customer support for a tech company may seem rudimentary. Why would you invest in great customer support when you never see your customers in person? Why not using progressive chatbots and FAQs? Cross fingers that customers will find answers they need by themselves and won’t go further to send you an email or worse — call you. 

At Readdle, we develop productivity solutions that help millions of people around the world. Our products have been downloaded more than 150 million times, and this number continues growing. For a company that scales fast, of course, it could be tempting to find salvation in automating some of the business processes. But there is one part of our business that will never be completely automated and will always have a “human touch” — Readdle Customer Support. 

We have built our customer support to be an effective and well-structured process while keeping in mind the ultimate goal - helping our customers fulfill their needs and solving their problems in the best way. 

Readdle Customer Support: why it exists and how it is wired 

First, we would like to clarify what "excellent customer support" means for us at Readdle. 

WHY IT EXISTS

  1. Ultimately we want to empower people with Readdle solutions and help our customers to stay on top of their productivity. Sometimes, our customers need help to uncover our products' full potential or find the right way to use them.  
  2. Help our customers to solve tech issues and requests the fastest we can and with the best quality. 
  3. Build a human interaction with the people for whom we create our products. This helps us build long-term relationships with our users. It also allows us as a business to validate our ideas, do market research, and collect more valuable information on customers' needs. 
  4. The customer support team is the "face of the company." Imagine a customer of our Spark or any other app. They interact with the product, and for sure, this is what represents Readdle the best - solutions we create. But when it comes to human interaction, there is a possibility that this user will never have the chance to speak with someone from our team, except for our customer support. And what we want is to showcase our culture, our mission, and our character in the best way with any possible interaction, especially in the conversation on the human level. That's why our customer support managers are those people who represent Readdle culture and our values to the World.
  5. When we speak about the Customer Life Cycle (see below), customer support plays a tremendous role in shaping our customers’ happiness using Readdle products and building their loyalty to us. 

*Retention & Loyalty: this is where customer support's quality makes the difference to long-term business success. 

HOW IT IS WIRED

Requests and opportunities

Most of our interactions with customers are led by email. Our users can send us a request right from the app or through the feedback form on readdle.com/support. To help you shape the picture of the volume of the interactions we have, here are some numbers from March 2021: 


Types of requests we get Opportunities we see in them
Feature requests We create Readdle apps for real people. So who can know better what people want to see in the product more than users themselves?

We collect feature requests and make sure product teams are aware of the trends and customer needs. This is the way to make our products better and solve our customer's needs in the best way.
Appreciation & recognition This is our favorite kind!

Customers also send emails of appreciation and gratitude to compliment both our products and our customer service.

We make sure to share the “thank you” words with the team because this is the opportunity to be proud of our results and continue doing the great job that we do!
Problems with using the product This is the best opportunity to catch "bugs" we didn't notice before.

Issues in our products are not something we do on purpose, but things happen, and if something doesn't work, we want to know the soonest and fix it the fastest way possible!

It also gives us a chance to discover new user scenarios we didn't know before.
Complaining. Expectations + Reality = no match Sometimes people need to complain, because they were expecting something different, or they have a bad mood today, or they didn't understand how the product works.

This is an opportunity for us to connect with customers personally and discover customers' needs more. It may be that we get some amount of the same issues and implement improvements in the future.

Sometimes even to show that we listen and hear the customer is enough to make their day. Because when the world is not perfect, and maybe the Readdle app didn't do something specific today, there is still an opportunity to text Readdle customer support and know there are people who will listen and try to help.

How do we measure success

For the Customer Support team, as much as for anyone else on the team, it is crucial to think about how we help our customers, and constantly assess whether we do it well. So we have focused on tracking the following metrics: 

Metrics What do they tell us
Customer Satisfaction Rate
Market target = 85%
After we helped our customer and closed the request, we need to know how well we did our job. We offer our customers to give us feedback and rate how satisfied they are with our help.
First response speed
Market target = 1 h
The fast response speed shows our commitment to helping our customers fast, not making them feel they have to wait for days to get heard. There is no other priority for us at the customer support team rather than help fast and in the best way to everyone who requests it.
Resolution speed
Market target = 24 h
Even though this metric is on the customer support list, this one actually shows our capacity as a whole organization to help our customers and resolve the issues they face with the best quality and speed.
Overdue requests We also want to know if there are people who wait for their issue to be resolved longer than 48 hours. This helps us analyze the most challenging cases, which take more time to be resolved, so we are more prepared in the future.

Customer Support vs Product Team

The Readdle Customer Support team is very well integrated with other parts of the company like QA and Engineering regarding the tech issues we get from customers’ requests and make sure we are aware of them and fix them efficiently. But also we had to make sure we are well integrated with the Product Teams overall. 

Customer support is one of the main sources to validate the customer needs, understand how well our new product features are adopted and which requests are most wanted by our customers in each of the products. 

A few years ago we decided to change our team structure to implement a great integration of the customer support insights into product teams. Currently, we have 3 CS teams, which work specifically on the requests of the separate Readdle Products. How does it work in practice: 

  1. Each CS representative works on requests from users of a specific product (Spark, PDF Expert, Documents, Calendars, Scanner Pro, or others).
  2. CS Lead works together with a CS Team on analyzing requests and collecting a well-rounded insight into the performance of the product in terms of product adoption, tech issues, and feature requests. It helps our product teams to rely on the “data from real users” while making future product decisions.
  3. CS team, dedicated to a specific Readdle product, participates in Product Weekly Meetings and is always aware of the product plans, while also is always able to be a part of the business conversation from the customer point of view.

Customer Insights

This year we implemented a brand new initiative to make us even closer to understanding our customer’s needs. 

Customer Insights is a project aimed to learn and understand our users’ needs, behaviors, and emotions to yield insights that inform product strategy and guide the design of the solutions we create.

How do we do it: 

  • We proactively reach out to our users and offer them to share their experiences and feedback.
  • Channel: a phone interview or a survey. 
  • Topic: we work closely with the product team to make sure we help them to do research on something current and on top of the priorities. For example, when the product team works on the prototype of a new feature, we can make research to validate how our users will adopt new functionality and how it fits their needs.

For example, we were reaching out to Spark users who use team features. While interviewing, we have noticed that some people mentioned that they would like to improve the current way they work with the calendar in Spark. Our users have highlighted that they actively work with their calendar in Spark during the day, so they frequently switch between the two tabs: Inbox and Calendar. 

We have asked them to describe their workflow in detail, organized such use cases together, and shared them within a team. Next week our designers have reached out to us and showed a prototype of Spark, and we have discussed if a newly created way to work with a calendar would be more convenient for our users. 

Our team is always eager to learn more about the apps' use cases and the feelings of real people, as we genuinely believe that it allows us to improve our apps.

Customer Support Values & Qualities

Our customer support team has always been a place where our Readdle values flourish, where people on the team have a strong moral compass on what is “right” and “wrong”. 

The first of the Readdle Values is about putting our customers first: 

  1. We Put Customers First
  2. The Great Power We Have is Our Team
  3. We Aim for The Best Result
  4. We Create Valuable Products for Real People
  5. We are Professionals at What We Do

As in any other team, Readdle values have their roots in the mindset of our founders. From the very beginning, our company founders were building the company, which is not focused on finding successful ways to earn money. But finding the most successful ways to help people with technology. And the better we do it - the more profitable we would be as the business. And profit, sustainable profit and long-term success, comes only after we created something meaningful and useful. So when we think about the strongest focus on our minds at Readdle - to help people with technology - our customer support team helps us make sure we are fulfilling our goals.

Being on the front-line of communication with customers, the customer support team also serves as an ambassador both ways: 

  1. Representing the company in the eyes of our customer
  2. And representing the customer in the eyes of all the other teams in the company

It is a high responsibility to do both ambassador’s missions great. We wanted to make sure we understand the qualities expected from the customer support representative and have them listed. So some time ago we asked our team members what are the qualities of a great CS manager, and here is what we’ve got:

1. Empathy 10. Being able to let go
2. Politeness & kindness 11. Accountability
3. Patience 12. Being truly interested in software products
4. Resilience 13. Constant cravings for improvement
5. Attention to details 14. Being a team player
6. Perseverance 15. Being a fast learner
7. Curiosity 16. Being analytical and able to systemize information
8. Courage 17. Willingness to get to the cause of the problem
9. Sense of humor 18. Ability to explain information in a clear and simple manner

And even though this list looks quite long and it is hard to imagine all these qualities to be contained in one personality, these are the things we encourage in our team and look for in our new hires.

People who make things happen: Customer Support Team

Today we have 26 people in the Customer Support team and continue hiring. 

Like thousands of other teams, we are now working from home and adopting new ways to stay well connected and bonded remote. 

We have created a few routines that help us sync up and be always in tune with each other: 

  • Monthly Meeting. Once a month, we sync with the whole Customer Support team to discuss our challenges of the month and the results we delivered.

  • Weekly Meetings. Each Customer Support team (Spark Support, PDF Expert Support, etc.) has weekly meetings to ensure everyone is in sync in terms of priorities, discuss the progress on KPIs, and overall see how everyone is doing. In one of the teams, we even have a fun part of the meeting tradition: at the end of each call, the team reviews fun memes that someone prepared in advance.
  • Customer Support Team Chat. Each day we say “hi” to each other in our group chat when we start the workday and “bye” when we are off. This is a chat where we can discuss anything, ask for advice, share a story, and sync up on something important with everyone and fast.
  • “Love-Is” Slack Channel. In this chat customers share their personal stories with us, tell how much they love Readdle, and appreciate our work. Here are some examples:
  • Welcome Meeting. When a new team member joins us, we have a team call to welcome a newbie. And to make this call informative and fun for everyone, we take our pets, make tea or coffee, and everybody shares a fact about themself. This way, we help our new members get to know us personally a little better from the very start.

What does the team say

I value my team enormously! And as much as I want to tell you everything that is great about Customer Support and what drives us, I decided that no one can do it better than the team itself. 

Anastasia, Customer Support Lead (7 years on the team):

“I am driven by the ability to directly meet people who use our apps and cannot imagine their work as productive without it. I have the opportunity to help solve the problem as soon as possible, sometimes restore the person's trust, remove that annoying little problem in their favorite application. We are very lucky: we rarely have angry users. Usually, if a user starts using CAPS or too many exclamation marks, this is, on the contrary, a signal for me that something went wrong on our part, and this is a challenge for me - to find out what has broken. Or where the misunderstanding happened, and I need to find a solution.

I am proud of the stories when we do not give up in the most confusing situation, and we connect everyone we possibly can to solve the problem. In the end, we find the problem and fix it. I am proud and inspired by users who do not give up and help us with researching problems. 

The team is everything! Thanks to my team, I try to become better myself and help them develop, keep up with them, and learn from them, and I know that I can always count on them. Every day we face new challenges, and it is thanks to my team, we not only cope with those challenges but become even stronger and more united.”

Daria, Customer Support Specialist (5 years on the team): 

“Readdle’s attitude towards products the company develops and those who then use them fascinates me the most - it’s unique and embraces such vital categories as high quality of the service brought to the market, loyalty to ideas that drive the people working in Readdle, and desire to perpetual progress. 

I’m proud to be a part of the team and watch how our joint efforts bring people around the world joy by making their everyday life simpler. 

Here, on the support team, we’re passionate about providing our customers with the most effective assistance. Last but not least is an opportunity to collaborate with other teams to enhance our products, knowing what customers strive for exactly and eventually create truly superb software.”

Vlad, Customer Support Specialist (2 years on the team):

“Customer-first! Two pretty straightforward words which are a fundamental principle underpinning the company's success. As I see it, this concept works bidirectionally. I mean, every R-employee is valuable to the team the same way as we value our users. So, what I like about Readdle is the treatment of staff as people occupying the essential role. Little wonder much attention is focused on processes in teams. While you can come across a fairly high entry-level, should you pass it, this ensures you are among professionals. And I can honestly say that I’m proud to be a part of the team. All of us have a voice we can share that affects further R-products development. It is often claimed that the spirit within the team also determines moral satisfaction. While it is true that we are all different, I enjoy a climate of openness. Thus, it’s always possible to talk with Cofounders about the company prospects and discuss pressing concerns with a team lead.”

Nikol, Customer Support Specialist (1.5 years on the team):

“I love being able to communicate with people from all over the world. Everyone has their own mentality and vision of the world. It's great that I can make someone's day better by helping to solve their problem with the app or listening to their needs. We have really cool productivity apps that make life easier, and more people are discovering it and start using them.

I really enjoy the team spirit. We have the most progressive corporate culture of all the places in which I have worked.

Everyone's feedback is taken into account and heard. We have a focus on our users and development, both personal and development of us as a team. It seems to me that each of us is genuinely interested in the product and in helping users. And also, each team member is an exciting and mature personality.”

Olya, Customer Support Lead (5.5 years on the team):

“I am usually most driven by the result. It's always great to see users' positive feedback when our solution to their issue helps them.

I am proud of every case when it was possible to prevent some kind of breakdown or just unpleasant/illogical behavior in the application even before the users wrote to us about it.

We have a rather large team, and everyone is very different, but we are all united by one goal - to help our users and provide great service from Readdle, the company they have trusted into.

Maybe because we are looking in the same direction, there is an exact feeling that we can always rely on each other. This helps maintain a warm and good-natured atmosphere, which is also very helpful in work!”

Max, Customer Support Specialist (1.5 years on the team):

“The dictionary defines love as ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection’. 

My definition of love is ‘PDF Expert and Documents Support Team.’ I have never been a champion of friendship with teammates. Before I got to Readdle. 

Now, my favorite day of the week is Wednesday because it’s our weekly meeting day. I see the guys, I hear their stories about their users, we share our concerns, and we help each other in solving our pain points. It is this feeling of deep love that drives me the most. I greatly appreciate the proficiency and shrewdness of each of my teammates.

No matter what bugs, miscommunication, business-related matters, or changes the product faces, the executives may rely on our support. 

And I am extremely proud that our users are as happy as never before though the world fights the pandemic. When a day in the office starts and I open my MacBook, I am overwhelmed with this fear of excitement to do another achievement with the best team ever.

And it’s a perfect miracle to be a teammate to these great ladies and gentlemen.” 

Sasha, Customer Support Specialist (1.5 years on the team):


“The opportunity to help people and find out I succeeded in it is what motivates me the most. We have a great team, with a warm atmosphere and cool people! That's how I felt on the first day in the company, and my opinion is only getting confirmed stronger with time. I am proud that I work and have the opportunity to develop with the best team for almost a year and a half now!”

Anastasiia, Customer Support Specialist (5 months on the team):


“The team consists of people who are always ready to help not only users but also each other. I would describe our team as open, energetic, interesting personalities with a desire for constant development. Involuntarily it motivates you to move forward yourself!"

Customer Support Alumni

Even our CEO started from Customer Support. Well, it is not a complete truth. Our founders, Igor, Alex, Dmitry, and Andrian, did everything at the beginning with their own hands and minds: from coding to creating marketing communication and replying to Readdle’s first customers. 

Igor Zhadanov, our CEO and co-founder, remembers how crucial it was for future business success to have real conversations with customers: 

“Customer focus is in our DNA! That’s why my partners and I answered every email from customers by ourselves for the first few years. I remember I was answering about 50 emails per day. And on top of it - creating products, marketing, design, etc. It was crucial for us to reply to everyone. We knew this is the right thing to do at the moment, and it will help us create better solutions in the future.”

Tata Mitkova, Localization Team Lead, shares her thoughts on why “no true success story” is possible for the company without great customer support:

“Working in the support team has taught me to listen to users and always be on their side, even in the most controversial of situations.

Working with this particular team has shown me that every review, be it positive or not, only says that the person on the other side of the screen is not indifferent to what you are doing.

I managed to take this valuable skill with me when moving to another department. Now I am working with the app localization in different languages, but this has only strengthened the connection with the support team. Without a support team, it is almost impossible to come to an agreement with the user – customer specialists can fix the problem, inspire hope, understand, convince, teach and never give up.

It became increasingly apparent to me, that no product can write a true success story without competent, and timely customer support. And our support team just so happens to be that!” 

Another alumni Ilona Demkovska, QA Automation Engineer, remembers the skills she gained working in Customer Support, which remain valuable in her role's current challenges.

"No matter how far you advance your IT career, the practical experience you gain while working in a tech support role will remain valuable. I can jot down a few most useful skills and qualities I’ve acquired working as a tech support specialist that still come in handy:

  1. Problem-solving. The job teaches you to figure out exactly what the problem is and resolve it efficiently. This often involves a lot of googling and creative problem-solving approaches.
  2. Structuring your thoughts and expressing them in a clear manner. In this line of work, you communicate technical matters to people with different backgrounds, which means you learn to explain the issues and solutions in a way that is equally understood by a complete novice and a tech-savvy user.
  3. Patience. Every now and then, tech support engineers deal with frustrated and impatient clients. Addressing the needs of these users calls for patience, composure, and empathy. If you don’t have patience in the beginning, you will slowly develop it when you deal with different people. When you got it, you are confident, and come across as a knowledgeable and reliable person, and that is something you can benefit from in daily life.
  4. A bunch of hard skills. That’s what ‘technical’ stands for in the job title. Basically, it’s an opportunity to dive into a broad spectrum of information systems and gain valuable practical experience. The specifics obviously depend on the project you support, yet it’s definitely a given that you’ll become an iOS and macOS power user, knowing all ins and outs.”

Wrapping up

There is one more teammate whose thoughts were not shared above. Someone who can, for sure, make an impact. Whether you’re raising your productivity using Spark, Calendars, Documents, any of Readdle’s apps, or maybe just got to know us while reading this article - we are glad to get to know you. 

Seeking talents, we welcome everyone who shares our values and is eager to help people as a Readdle Customer Support Specialist to apply. Check out current openings here, or send us your CV and Cover Letter at hr@readdle.com. 

And thank you for boosting us!

Authors:
Alexandra Pashel
Olga Pochtarenko



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