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Customer Success Interview with Collin Wheeler

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

For this weeks interview I decided to focus on Customer Success. The subject I picked is a little different; my dad. He also held the Customer Success position over a decade ago, and now works at a Technical role.


Non-verbatim Interview


What was the customer success role you were in?


It was different levels of tech support. I worked for HP in their corporate tech support. When I was first starting out as a help desk technician I was answering the phone doing basic trouble shooting for customers. It wasn't necessarily HP products, more just Windows stuff. It was all fairly simple. "This program is crashing", "I can't get this thing to work", "my password is locked", that kind of thing.


Did you go into this position wanting/knowing what it was?


I knew exactly what I was getting into. But it was hard for sure. I wanted to do it way more than my previous position which was answering the phones at Progressive Insurance, talking to angry customers about why their insurance rates went up.


What kind of person do you think is best suited for a customer success position?


For the role that I was in, being able to work with people and being able to describe things well. Being able to walk people through different types of processes. Being a calm person is very helpful, because a lot of times people are calling up and they're trying to get their work done, and if your product is not working for them, they're really freaking out. They have their work to get done too, they have responsibilities. So it's good to not get upset when somebody calls you and they are upset. Most of the time, those are the best people. If you can turn that thing around, and get them on your side, get their stuff working in the end, they remember that experience far more than if it were a simple thing where they weren't stressed out and you didn't have to de-stress them.


Were you well suited for this position?


I was. It was a two-part position in a sense. The first part was a series of soft skills: answering the phone, talking to people, deescalating situations. These were all things I had learned in my previous position. I learned how to take people's calls who were MUCH more upset. And the second part is having a good technical mind, troubleshooting, solving problems, stuff like that.


Rate your liking of the position on a scale from 1-10


It was not a bad job. It was probably around a 7. Not amazing, I wasn't trying to get everybody involved in it, but at the same time, it was better than an average job. It paid well, the people I worked with were smart, I learned new stuff all the time, and it gave me a large foundation of technical knowledge that I would use later.


How does it compare to your job now?


It's very different. In any job you have customers, there is always a customer of some type, even if you're helping people that are internal. If you work in HR your customers are your fellow employees. It's a different type of thing now because my customers are technical people themselves. I've taken everything that I've learned at that lower level and have gone up exponentially. The role I'm in now is, instead of describing how a product or service works, I make the infrastructure on which the product is developed and tested.


Why is customer success important to a business?


No product or service is foolproof, and you have to be able to (at least in my experience in customer support specifically), is be able to help with anybody any problems, any questions, any concerns that they have. But even going past that, customer success is the way you get repeat business, it's the way you get customers to value what you have and for them to trust you. It's not when everything works great that you get the most loyal customers, it's when they have problems and you solve their problems.


What are the misconceptions or stereotypes about this role?


I don't know what the misconceptions would be, but the stereotypes are if you happen to work in tech, people that work in customer support tend to be gamers and tend to be hardware junkies. Misconceptions I don't know though. I never had people go "wow I didn't know you did that". People kinda know what you do.


Would you do it again?


Not any more. Of course, if it was necessary sure, but I enjoy what I'm doing now. Because with customer success, it's very much a routine. I know from the very start I sit at my desk, get my machine running, get my headset on, and start answering calls. Even though the calls can be different and there might be some interesting problems, it's a very similar thing from day today. Now I do more stuff that is project-based work. My day to day now can change dramatically. What I will have plans on doing may never come to fruition because we have more urgent needs within the business.


What was the hardest or most rewarding part of your customer success job?


The most rewarding is when you have a very difficult problem someone's having and you're able to fix it for them, or at least help them fix it. The hardest part for me was when people were very upset and frustrated and emotional. It makes sense of course, and I felt bad for them, it was just hard for me to deal with.


Are there any ending thoughts you think people should know about this role?


Customer success is just another way a business provides value. It's something, unfortunately, a lot of companies see it as an expense instead of an investment. Maybe it's gotten better since I've done the role, but it was something companies thought they had to do rather than something that could create more customer loyalty. I think at the time I worked in this role it was difficult to get the metrics on it, "how much is this actually making the company profitable at the end of the day?"


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