Customer Service Lessons, When Your Customer is an Entire City

by Craig Hillelson

Part of the ethos of Intersection is ensuring that the support of our products echoes the ingenuity and creativity that goes into building them. My job is to shape the look and feel of the support we provide both internally and for our clients, while remaining focused on advancing people’s careers. As we prepare to take a huge leap in the scale of support we provide for LinkNYC and other public projects, we’re adapting our practice from B2B to B2Everyone.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke at Zendesk’s Relate conference on this topic. As we move to B2Everyone, we’ll draw on our experience supporting businesses and adapt our approach to meet demand. From both my past experience and what I observed at the Relate sessions, these are my insights and take away lessons on maintaining the best customer service at scale:

Have a Clear Vision

In approaching support, the first agenda item is to give the support team a clear idea of what support should feel like. In my view, purpose and vision come before process and procedure. Being clear about how support should feel and exposing engineers to great service is more vital to build a successful support organization than scripting scenarios. For example, the service at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café has always impressed me. His book, Setting the Table, is required reading for Intersection’s support team.

Build a Self-Correcting Culture

With anything this complex, there will be problems. I believe that if we consistently tune our monitoring systems, apply smart analysis and communicate in a timely and effective way, we’ll win the public’s trust. I think Zendesk does a great job in this regard. Their product performance is exemplary but there is clearly a very dedicated team behind the scenes that keeps things running and notifies customers at the first sign of trouble. Empowering our support team to react quickly and encouraging them to continuously refine our approach is the most efficient way to scale.

Ask for Advice

If you’re getting into something you’ve never done before, ask for help. Talk to people who’ve done it before. If you work in support, the instinct to help runs deep. For example, we consulted Meetup and Kickstarter. Both were very generous with their time and gave us great advice regarding their support strategies.

Intersection’s New York Downtown Office

Integrate Teams. Analyze the Data.

At Meetup, they integrate Engineering and Support in a deep and meaningful way. Both teams have a clear idea of their role in the organization’s success. Additionally, each team valued the other’s contribution. This approach echoes ideas in Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman’s Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated. One strategy the authors champion is giving engineers the opportunity to support what they’ve built. Doing so informs their work and results in better products. Additionally, it’s in line with Tony Hsieh’s philosophy that if service is important then everyone should be fluent in providing great service.

At Kickstarter, their support team splits their time between providing support and analyzing data to better understand how to empower their customers. Support informs analysis and analysis informs support. Based on their support team’s findings, they tune their self-service offerings and see customer satisfaction climb as a result.

Drawing on our years of B2B support, we’re excited to begin the challenge of providing support to a dynamic, diverse, and demanding user base. While remaining committed to the expansive vision of these public projects, we’ll stay self-critical and draw inspiration from everyone who contributed to the LinkNYC initiative and everyone who connects to it.

Follow our updates on LinkNYC on Twitter at @intersection_co.