Who here has never contacted customer service?
It’s become such an expected service when any problem arises, that sometimes it’s taken for granted. Scores of support agents answer questions from the basic to the esoteric every day. No doubt about it, the customer support industry is essential.
Customer Support Agents are the first line of communication between a brand or product and the customer. They, in more ways than one, are the faces (and voices, and chat responders) that represent a company, which is especially true here at Philo. A good experience with a support agent can make a customer’s day, maybe even week, and hopefully keep that customer around for many years. A poor interaction can seed distrust, and erode public sentiment, and worst of all, result in losing that customer.
At Philo, we take customer support very seriously. We pride ourselves on our friendly and helpful service. Whether by phone, email or live chat, Philo’s 100+ person support team across multiple sites, are available 24/7 — just like live TV. With a diverse customer population comes a big responsibility to serve them at all hours of the day. So, how do they do it?
A day in the life of a support team member is always different. Some days, the support calls are fast and furious – like during the premiere of Yellowstone – while other times, it’s just trying to keep the ship steady. Regardless of how busy the agents are, they remain focused on maximizing each experience to leave customers with smiles on their faces.
While Philo is at the cutting edge of cord cutting and streaming, our customers may still rely on good old fashioned telephone calls to meet its needs. Even with the rise of instant messaging, AI chat bots, and other customer service tools, picking up the phone call to connect with another human is still at the core of what many customers desire.
“They want to fix their issue instantly,” Philo Global Customer Support Manager Jenny McCullough said. “So we’ve really staffed our team and set ourselves up from a technical perspective to be there for our customers whenever and however works for them.”
A big part of what makes Philo’s customer service more Philo-y, is a core tenant: our customers are just like us. How would we like to be treated?
With Philo’s built-in culture that believes in respect and giving voices equal weight, it’s second nature for the support team to be open-eared and open-hearted.
And when we say customer support is part of our culture, we mean it. Every new Philo employee is strongly encouraged to listen in on a Support call or two. During this snapshot into the customer support experience, Philo employees get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of the world of diagnosing a problem, and working diligently to solve it. It’s a concept that is credited to Philo CEO Andrew McCollum and Head of Support Laura Dechant.
The premise, in part, was to build rapport between company departments, but it’s also to underscore the importance of our subscribers, and the work we do to support them. It lets every employee know that without our customers, there’s no us. It’s a point of pride for all of us to provide customers with empathy in channels – especially via support.
Within the customer support fabric is a dedicated effort to leave the customer with a positive feeling. Even if a dispute isn’t immediately resolved, with the right care, a customer support agent can brighten a subscriber’s day.
Part of that formula for success lies in a Philo homonym: FILO. First in, last out.
The moniker is something to strive for, and a mentality that the customer support team holds dear. And it’s also a literal logistic. During a pain point, whether it be an outage, or perhaps even just rumblings of a potential issue, the support team is typically the first on the scene, and is the one to handle the problem until a resolution – last out.
“We are going to be the front line of defense to alert the company something’s happening, try to come up with a solution, and then take care of the customer in a way that’s satisfactory,” Jenny said.
A trait that shines within the support team is a willingness to jump in, roll up the sleeves, and do the work. It may be a bit of the DNA of what makes Philo, Philo. That, and a daily desire to keep learning.
And that is where we meet Arlene.
Arlene Rahe is one of the shining examples of excellence in the support team. Her bubbly personality, zest and desire to connect with people, and high emotional intelligence make her stand out. She originally joined Philo in October of 2017 as one of the first customer support agents, a team that consisted of eight people and has now grown to more than 100.
“I was actually in the medical field and when I hit my 50th birthday, I decided, you know what? I need a career change,” Arlene said. That, and a little encouragement from her son.
She joined the Philo team, though it wasn’t the easiest transition. “I was so out of my element,” Arlene said. “I kid you not, I was probably the slowest in the training class. And I’m not embarrassed or anything because of the support that Philo gave me at that time.”
The inward support Arlene received from the team encouraged her to keep learning and improving. Once she hit the production floor, she literally found her calling.
“I mean, a lot of people may not say that, but experiencing it from a customer service agent’s perspective now is like, wow, why haven’t I been doing this longer,” she said.
A promotion gave her the title of quality analyst, which she served as until 2020. Then, Arlene made the journey from front line support member to a customer service manager, helping level up agents with all the knowledge she gained. She’s served on the very front of the frontlines, and now, like an officer commanding a battalion, helps more customer service agents find their path forward.
What’s the playbook?
“It’s called being human,” Arlene said. “Taking the robotics and all that other technology and documented scripts out of the way and just letting the customer know that you’re another human being that they’re talking to.”
“We hear a lot of stories from customers that are really struggling and TV is their life,” she shared. “It’s what they live for, believe it or not. And that’s why we have to understand where they’re coming from.”
In a world of noise, in a culture that often rewards those with the loudest voices, and in a system that prioritizes talking, it would be easy to think what’s said matters most. The actual linchpin to great support? Listening. A key skill that could benefit anyone, if it’s taken to heart.
“And that’s we’re just different in that way, because we care,” Arlene said. “It’s about passion. And that comes across to the agents and they feel it as well.”
So, what’s a day like in the life of a customer support specialist?
She begins her day consulting her own oracle, the Customer Satisfaction Survey results.
The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a frequently utilized gauge for assessing the level of contentment consumers have with a business’s offerings. This score is calculated using client opinions and is presented as a percentage, where 100% signifies excellent satisfaction and 0% represents poor performance.
“I get up, I jump, I have my coffee, I’m ready to go,” Arlene said. “ The first thing I want to know is from the day before, what did we not do right? What did the agents not do right? Why was this customer not satisfied? Was it something related to the product? Was it maybe an internal process we need to look at? Or was it maybe the agent, having a bad day and didn’t handle something well?”
If an action needs to be taken, feedback is shared with business process outsourcing partners. That feedback manifests with a support agent being trained on how to improve the customer service experience. This constant refinement of process allows for Philo to stand out amongst its competitors and peers.
Arlene and her team will listen in on calls or check in on random live chat exchanges. This random sampling allows the team to get a general pulse on the type of care that is being provided, and make in-the-moment directions, if the situation calls for it.
Another large consideration, especially in live chat sessions, is ensuring that customers experience our Philo voice. This means revisiting documentation that may instruct a support agent on what to say, and ensure that if the same question is asked twice (or more), that an agent can quickly find the solution. This root-cause analysis is important to saving customers, agents, and, well, almost everybody more time when deducing a problem.
If the Philo voice isn’t coming across clearly, or the right mix of human touch isn’t there, Arlene is there to coach agents to better serve our customers.
And, in those infrequent occurrences when agents are befuddled, Arlene and the rest of the support team will jump into action, working to find a solution across departments.
Nobody would blame you for thinking of problems when you hear the words “customer support.” After all, we seek out support when we’re having trouble and need help. While the genesis of a solution comes from a problem, that doesn’t mean all the focus has to be on what’s wrong.
“A lot of times companies focus on, well, what’s all the bad,” Arlene said. “We also look at what’s good. I’ll go through on a daily basis and see how these great customer interactions were handled and we’ll share them with the team.”
The positive reinforcement can have a snowball effect. When one agent finds a particular method of leaving a customer inspired to rave about them, other agents may try the tip out themselves. All of it allows the support team to better understand the customer journey.
“There’s a ton of inspiring people and influencing that she does in her role,” Jenny said. “Across our three sites, we have two support agencies we work with, and Arlene is the one meeting with their leadership and coaching people outside of our organization.”
Arlene and the support team will travel to various sites to coach agents on what they need to do, and measure the results. It’s a very involved process that requires dissection of support interactions, and identifying a better path forward.
“She owns a lot of that,” Jenny said. “And so that trickles right down to the front line, which is what ensures a better experience every time someone calls.”
Part-time support specialist, part-time coach, full-time empath – it’s the perfect mixture of what makes up a Philo support team member.
Another key part of the day is to send updates from the frontlines to report to other departments what’s happening on the battlefields that day. Sometimes, that includes sending notes to the product team, if customers keep fumbling with a recently discovered bug, or perhaps it’s a new channel request that can be shared with the social team to fill a gap.
Documentation is updated in real time, via technical writers and other specialists at Philo. Honing these docs to have the most up-to-the-second information, and ensuring editorial accuracy, is, in itself, a full-time job, too. Without proper documentation, customer service depreciates, which in turn drops CSAT scores.
Overall, we’ve found that these extra touches of empathy lead to more happy customers. And, especially in the world we live in, a little bit of empathy goes a long way. Thanks for reading about our customer service Philo-sophy. As always, we welcome your feedback.