Talking Customer Support with Ed Yealu – Support Lead at Hubspot

Ed Yealu discusses the importance of empathy in customer support.

Zight | May 14, 2021 | 5 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 02, 2023

Talking Customer Support with Ed Yealu – Support Lead at Hubspot

Flipping detractors to loyal customers has been Hubspot’s M.O. for the past few years. This has no doubt played a part in helping them turn into a thriving public company with over 5,000+ employees and 56,600+ customers. In this episode, I sat down with Customer Support Lead at Hubspot, Edmund Yealu, where he touches on the keys to attracting loyal customers, how Hubspot powers the remote workplace, and the importance of being well-versed in every single nuance of your product.

Ed’s Background

His customer-centric career began at Livestream (later acquired by Vimeo) in a support role, before being promoted to team lead, and then frontline support manager, where he oversaw approximately twenty reps. After about three years in the management role, Ed was ready for the next challenge.

Around this time Hubspot began looking for their first fully-remote manager to oversee a fully remote customer support team. At this point Hubspot had already become known for their exceptional customer support, so Ed was excited to jump at the opportunity.

Now having been at Hubspot for about two years, Ed has seen the team grow from 8 to 27, across 22 different cities and 3 different time-zones.

The Bread and Butter of Customer Support

Frontline customer support often deals with some sticky situations and at times, tough customers. Ed’s philosophy on handling these situations and converting potential detractors into advocates is simple, “I want to have a culture on my team where every person is committed to understanding the customers’ problems and relaying solutions.”

Due to his professional background, whenever Ed encounters a less-than-ideal customer support interaction he finds himself analyzing what went wrong. It usually comes from the person on the other end not taking the time to understand what his goal and where the confusion point is coming from, or not asking the quantifiable questions that can most efficiently provide a relevant solution.

By taking just a few minutes and a little bit of care, customer support teams can make all the difference in providing a previously distressed customer a great experience. It all comes down to identifying solutions as opposed to just relaying answers.

It All Goes Back to Empathy

It’s important for anyone in customer success to constantly be putting themselves in the customer’s shoes. No one takes time out of their day to call or email support if everything is going perfectly, so it’s important to understand the frustration the person on the other end of the line might be experiencing.

The range of knowledge and skills a support team encounters also varies astronomically, so being able to meet the customer where they are whether they’re a software engineer or a senior citizen who discovered the product today is crucial.

It might also be key to note that the average person is going to try to find the answer themselves via any means before reaching out to support, whether that be by a Google search or phoning a friend, so when they come to your companies team it is a last resort, and that is a crucial moment in the customer experience. Going above and beyond at this point can make a huge difference, which is why Ed coaches his team to know their own Hubspot product front and back, but to also familiarize themselves with any correlating or integrated products that could potentially be playing a factor.

Setting Expectations

We all know remote work presents a unique set of challenges, but as someone who worked remotely before it was legally mandated in a global pandemic, Ed mentions that it’s not usually like this and that this transition to full-time remote work isn’t giving an accurate picture of what it looks like under normal circumstances.

When managing a remote team, it’s important to set expectations early without micromanaging, giving your team the tools they need to be autonomous and at times asynchronous, while meeting the target goals.

Ed makes a particular point of saying how it’s important to acclimate new hires as quickly as possible. Oftentimes with onboarding, there’s too much of a focus in the early days of logistics or more general matters, but giving them an accurate picture of what their day-to-day will look like immediately is the best thing a manager could do for that person and the team. As a manager, this lets you know what’s considered normal for their workflow and quickly determine strengths and pain points.

Group Management

Throughout this episode, Ed talks several times about how important the group dynamic is to the professional ecosystem. This can be something a bit lacking while working remotely, so he has a few tactics he uses to try to assist in new employee management.

  1. Create a Slack channel dedicated solely to a new hire recruiting class, in this space, they can vent free of judgment, ask questions, and build confidence.
  1. 1 on 1s serve their purpose, but team meetings and more group-oriented management can offer a lot of insight into greater problems and general pulse checks for the team. As a manager, it also saves time, whereas as opposed to giving 15 individual points of feedback it only has to be said once and can be dug in a little deeper by the group.
  1. Stress the importance of utilizing resources and tools to your new employees. Helping them understand how to use certain tools and when to escalate can not only empower the support rep but also increase efficiency in problem-solving.

Future Thoughts

When asked about the future of customer experience, Ed foresees a lot more transparency.

Whether that be coming from SaaS companies or B2C apps, the customer will be far more informed of the full product lifecycle from beginning to end. That can sometimes be seen now with companies often rolling out betas for customer use. Customers gaining insight into the entire process will play a factor in their decision-making process and influence how they perceive a company’s customer experience.

Listen to the episode here.

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