Customer Success 101: Addressing the Fundamentals

What happens when you’re hired by a startup to transition their service team from a simple ticket processing center to one that’s on the forefront of customer relations?

First up

When I started at StyleSeat as Head of Customer Success in August 2018, I wanted to get to know the team right away. The team is pretty fresh with just two people having been with the company a year or more and they’d been without a dedicated leader for a while. Numbers were down and team morale was low. I started immediately with weekly 1:1s with each team member focusing, at first, on getting to know them as individuals: what they like and don’t like about the job and the business, what they’d change and what they’d do more of, what they do in their spare time and what their long-term career goals are. I also do weekly quality reviews with each team member. While the reviews take a good chunk of time each week, being able to give each person direct and timely feedback has been valuable.

Embrace Ambition

It’s not a surprise that customer service isn’t a long-term career goal for many folks as there aren’t many avenues for growth outside of management (though there are opportunities for lateral movement). I’m not worried about this team wanting to drive their careers in directions other than customer service. We have budding graphic designers and people who want to start their own small businesses and I want to help them achieve those goals. Our CS rep who wants to run a small e-commerce business is constantly honing her skills as she imagines what her future customers would need; this is a win for us today and a win for her future. We have also seen high performers move on to different teams bringing deep customer experience and insight across the business.

When phone screening candidates, I look for a couple things: CS Intelligence and desire. Being bored at work is no good for anyone, so I look for folks with a lot of desire. Do they desire to serve, desire to excel and have a desire to learn? We can train on our tools, but we can’t train desire. CS Intelligence doesn’t have to come from previous experience in tech; retail and food service also require high levels of customer service smarts and I’ve found those skills can translate well into startup environments.

Start with the objectives

The CS team should be driving the business and the best way to do that is to make sure each employee understands how their work affects the bottom line. Drawing those lines for the team helps them understand how everything they do drives the company toward success.

I dove into our business to understand how the CS team can support our objectives as well as supporting our professionals and clients. The CS team has deep insight into the health of our customer experience about everything — current features, feature requests, bugs, happiness, dissatisfaction, pricing, and on. Communicating business goals and priorities to the CS team means they’re better equipped to serve our customer base and then, in turn, communicate the info we have back to the product and engineering teams.

Live support

In October, we launched live chat serving our beauty professionals and their clients. After addressing key needs on the team a big goal for me was adding customer support channels to better address our customer’s needs as quickly as possible. Our email response times are in the hours which is too long for our pros and clients to wait. Our pros are on their feet all day serving their clients and building their businesses and need help in the moment. To solve this problem we launched Zendesk chat (we already use Zendesk for support email) which is available both via our app and for pros on our desktop site. We immediately saw a positive response from both our beauty professionals and their clients — they love getting support immediately. Our average chat duration is 6 minutes with a 92% CSAT. Chat is a great return on investment.

When we were planning on launching chat, I mistakenly assumed we’d see a relative decrease in the number of emails we were receiving. I was wrong. Adding chat increased our overall contacts but this is a good thing as this means people who may have abandoned us are now reaching out and getting the support they need.


Since I’ve been here we’ve had some good wins on the CS side, the team is more invested in their careers here and we’ve improved our relationship with the community. Now we’re thinking about scale which brings other challenges but I’m excited to tackle them by prioritizing our customers alongside this amazing team of people.

In the new year, we’ll launch SMS as a support channel for our pros and clients. We know that 80% of beauty professionals prefer to communicate with their clients via text message so we’re going to meet them where they are. I’m shooting for a 3 min conversation time. With the addition of SMS support, we’ll have four channels customers can use to get in touch with us: email, chat, social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and SMS. We’ll evaluate how all these channels are working in Q2 and then decide if we want to venture into the land of live phone support. However, turning on live phones means roughly doubling the size of our CS team and comes with great operational costs so we’re hoping SMS will get us almost all the way there with outbound calls picking up the last bits.