Why every designer should experience customer service
It's common when joining a new company to get thrown straight in at the deep end. Whilst not always true, often the reason for your employment is because the team is currently understaffed and need additional bodies to help get things done or that there's a big new feature/product area that needs work and another colleague is needed to deliver that.
When this is the case, it's easy to overlook the value of ensuring that new employees experience a bit of frontline action. And in the case of my new role as a Product Designer at Moneybox, the experience I've had so far is as a frontline customer service (CS) agent. My first two weeks are being spent alongside the wider CS team, learning about our customers' pain points first-hand, as well as those moments of delight---such as someone being able to buy their first home thanks to our LISA---and providing them with world class customer service.
This is the first time as a designer that I've not been designing something from day one, and honestly, it's the best feeling. Whilst I'm itching to get started on my first design project, easing into a company who's product I've used as a customer for the past 4 years by experiencing the CS role has been one of the most enjoyable onboarding experiences I've had.
So far, I've seen a trend; things that come up via CS enquiries turn into new product features. Period. Obviously this can't be true for everything we hear, including many customer feature requests, but for anything that is a clear customer issue that appears regularly, this is 100% the case. And this tells me something important; at Moneybox we care about our customer experience and it is embodied throughout the business.
The common requests that come up often (I can't talk specifics right now due to them being unreleased features) aren't things that we can't resolve already. Two of our new features are really straightforward to handle from our CS admin. But the truth of the matter is, a customer should just be able to do it themselves. So that's what we're doing. We're shipping features to make that true. And that embodies for me a culture of customer care and one of shipping necessary features often. It shows a connectedness across the business, from CS to Ops, Design to Development, Insight to Marketing. All of these departments are interconnected, and, woven throughout all of this is a desire to do the best for our customers. That's a place I want to be. Period.
- Customers do often know exactly what they want, but they won't always express it. Look for common pain points amongst the vast base of customers you or your colleagues speak to. Dig into the underlying need, don't take what they say at face value as a feature request.
- Customer Service is hard. Even with pre-written responses to the most common questions, it's a repetitive and demanding task to say the same things over and over with a positive attitude. It's also relentless. Take a moment to be grateful for your CS team and maybe have a coffee chat with one of them next week. Thank them for their efforts.
- Not doing your day job from day one is a really great way to start a new role. For all you managers out there, not trying to get a new employee to hit the ground running from day one is actually a really good thing. It'll help you to get the most out of them when they do actually start their role officially, and it'll help them to appreciate more of the wider business. Whilst intros to different departments are useful, they're a far cry from actually having to do the job for a bit.
- Secondments can be really valuable. Ask your employer for secondments into other areas of the business, even if just for a day, if you feel it'll enhance your role to do so. As a designer, spending time with CS, marketing/insights or development could have a significant positive impact on your day-to-day and allow you to see opportunities to improve your processes or push for a specific feature to be promoted in importance.
- Build a culture of connectedness. By encouraging departmental secondments, you ensure that you build a wider respect for different departments and connect your teams through action. A sales colleague may gain great value from spending time with marketing to understand how the product is sold direct to the consumer; a marketing colleague may find value in joining data science for a short time to gather insight about how they think about data; a data scientist may benefit from spending time with insight to see the true impact of the latest feature shipped. Not all secondments are created equal, but there's so much value that can be gained from time spent in another department.
I'm sure I'll have plenty more to say, but for now, these are my immediate raw thoughts on the process of being a CS for my first week. Ultimately, a secondment like this is nothing but a positive experience so if it's possible to do this in your company for new hires, make sure you do!