Chase that Ghost

This is my first post for the 6 week Support Driven writing challenge. For this post, the topic is “Our history shapes us – what path led you to Support? Was it a planned career? Or did you happen upon it?” I revisit the Origin Story I wrote for the 2015 flavor of the #challenge.

… I didn’t set out to become a Support Professional.

  • Me (2015)

When I look back at my professional history, I realize that I was on the path to becoming a Support Professional from the beginning.

One of my grandfathers serviced typewriters and other machines for a bank, this type of role that would become “IT.” Growing up, my dad managed a support desk. My mom calls me her help desk for when she has a question about her iPad. This type of work is in my DNA.

When I was in college, I shunned a non-help desk internship, for a help desk position in the Political Science Department. And since graduating college, I’ve only held roles in the support industry.

Becoming a support professional was no accident. The accident was thinking that I could be something else.

Going into my college career, I choose Civil Engineering as my major. Becoming an “Engineer” was something I aspired to be. Chemistry and I could never get along, so I quickly transferred to a business degree. After graduating, this would haunt me for the next ~5 years as I chased the ghost of engineering.

After college, I joined a big bank working in their support department. It was hard work, being in a phone queue for 8+ hours a day, working with loan officers trying to close deals while having technical issues, and adhering to strict metrics. Looking back it was good for me, I learned how to get pushed around by people and bounce back 5 minutes later, and I learned how to work with people in stressful situations. It has become the foundation of my career.

The first job after the big bank gave me the opportunity to create a title. “Oh, Fancy!” I thought. I gave myself the title of “Support Engineer.” At the time I was so excited, here, the guy that couldn’t get through chemistry still had “Engineer” in his job title! The next job was similar–my title still included “Engineer,” yay me!

Fast forward a few years and my job title at Wildbit is “Customer Success” and I couldn’t be more proud that it doesn’t include “Engineer.”

What changed? After discovering the Support Ops podcast, Support Driven, and reading numerous books I’ve adopted a Customer Centric view for my career, I realize that being an “Engineer” has no notion of anything that I’m good at and was a dream that 18-year-old me was chasing.

Today, I’d much rather have a “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore Your” philosophy and work from there. I’d prefer working hard in the weeds, and value learning over a job title.

Each day, I’m going to become a better support professional. Some days, I might learn new thoughts on Customer Success, others it’ll be how to handle an email better, and sometimes it’ll take me in a direction I never expected as I learn more. For example, I’ve been reading “Setting the Table” and it’s opened my eyes on what hospitality means and why it matters when making a great customer experience (Hint: It starts by empowering your colleagues).

As I think about my future, I remind myself a great blog post Gregory Ciotti wrote, titled “If You Aren’t Cringing, You Aren’t Improving.” Just as I want to cringe at the “Origin Story” post I wrote over a year ago, I’ll cringe at this post someday–And that’s okay! The only way to keep cringing is to keep improving.

Other Posts In This Series

Support is the Home Team

While watching Game 1 of the Word Series, a thought hit me: Support is the home team.

In baseball, the home team has the advantage of batting at the bottom of each inning. They’re able to “answer” and have the last at-bat in a game.

Support teams are there to help solve mistakes. If your team has the last inning mindset, each case that comes in is an opportunity to win. No matter how dire a case might look at first.

When an issue comes in, the team should have all of the tools available to them to answer and resolve the issue. The team should also realize creative solutions are sometimes necessary. Or, if you screwed up, admit and be transparent in ways you’re working to avoid the mistake in the future.

For example:

A case might not be resolvable right away – Sometimes a case might require further investigation or escalation. Take the issue to “extra innings” and let them know what’s going on, keep your customer in the loop, and follow-up when you have an answer.

Shortly after signing up a customer decides they need to cancel their account and asks for a refund – Happily give them the refund, you never know when they might have a need for your service in the future.

If your DNS provider goes down – Find a way to provide your customers IP addresses to keep using your service for critical functions they use your service for.

By the way, I’ll take one ticket to the Cubs bandwagon 😀.