If you’ve recently graduated from college, you probably feel like you should put your degree to use. This post illustrates that it may not be your degree that guides your early career choices, but the opportunity to learn, develop real world experience, and work along side interesting people in a company that makes you feel valued. Oh, and one more thing, don’t make assumptions.
Guest post contributed by Karin Robinson, Senior Support Engineer, HubSpot
Like many people, my image of customer support roles when I was in college looked something like the stock image above. Packed call centers, tiny cubicles, unskilled workers, rigid scripts and customers at the brink of losing their patience (or their minds) as a result of long wait times or the ineptitude of the person on the other end of the phone–sound familiar? Yep, thought so.
As a result, I hadn’t given much thought to a role in customer support when I graduated from Wellesley College in 2012. I took a job in journalism for a few months after studying sociology, and began my career as a freelance writer for Ad Nation News. I envisioned a fast-paced work environment, the ability to craft really interesting stories, and feedback from readers and editors to help shape my work and improve and grow both personally and professionally. Instead, it felt like I was playing to an empty room: I got very little feedback and often wondered if anyone (other than my immediate family and my roommate) read anything I wrote. Mostly, I wrote about advertising buys on buses and benches throughout New York City, and at the end of the day, it felt like I was writing about the past, not the present.
Then a friend of mine told me about HubSpot, a software company in Boston focused on transforming the marketing industry from an interruptive model to a more efficient and effective model centered around the way modern consumers actually shop and buy. I decided to take the plunge, joining HubSpot’s customer support team sixteen months ago. Here’s what my average day actually looks like:
No suits, no scripts, just another Red Pants Thursday (a proud HubSpot Support tradition) and a few of my incredibly bright and talented colleagues. Below are a few of the insights I’ve learned from being on a customer support team and why I think new grads should strongly consider a similar role to launch their careers:
“The Buck Stops Here.”
One of the fundamental challenges of typical support models is that support reps aren’t actually empowered to solve a customer’s problem. Instead, they are expected to serve as the middle-man, herding customers between various teams until the problem is solved or until the customer finally loses patience and hangs up. At HubSpot, each of us is empowered and expected to serve as the point of contact with the customer until his or her problem is solved. If that means looping in another colleague, we are responsible for seeing it through, but in the vast majority of cases it’s something we individually are empowered and trained to solve. As a result of this expectation, I’ve not only developed the ability to think of my feet, but also improved my HTML and CSS skills (among others). Regardless of whether you go on in life to become a doctor, a teacher, or a CEO, you’ll be asked to be the person individually responsible for addressing a problem or issue, so this is front line experience that cannot be replaced.
“The Customer Should Never Be Made To Feel Stupid.”
The old adage that the “customer is always right” is in my opinion misguided and outdated. In reality, whether the customer is right or wrong is often irrelevant. What matters most is that she gets her problem solved as quickly and efficiently as possible. I always fall back to the notion that “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Typically, someone doesn’t pick up the phone to call support until she’s already frustrated, so by the time you connect live, their stress level is already elevated. I spend time picking up subtle verbal cues to give me a sense of a customer’s mood, and leverage that to pinpoint what’s really bothering them. Either way, steering the conversation so that it empowers the customer instead of belittling him is paramount, and a life skill that’s incredibly valuable regardless of the industry or career you choose moving forward.
Humans > Robots
One of my favorite TEDX talks is from an MIT professor who questions what we refer to as “good” jobs versus “bad” jobs and the tradeoffs we make with that distinction. It’s very tempting, particularly as a soon to be college grad, to oversimplify your career choices based on stock photography and historical archetypes, and to discount roles that don’t fit in a neat little box of careers you considered in middle school. What I hope my experience reveals is that sometimes the jobs less traveled can make all the difference: by casting aside my stereotypes of what customer-facing roles represented, I landed a great job at a fast-growing company, built out a more robust set of technical skills than I could have imagined, and solved more than 5,000 problems for HubSpot customers worldwide. Most importantly, I did all of it while being able to interact with a lot of smart people and while having fun–no suit, headset, or script required.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.