Like most people, when I was younger, I never expected to work in customer support. Throughout high school, I never set my eyes on any specific profession, and the only thing that I had in the back of my mind was that, eventually, I wanted to work for myself.
When I got to college, I worked at the local Best Buy full-time. All I knew then was that when I graduated, I wanted to get a job working Monday through Friday so I could have nights and weekends to hang out with my friends. So, when graduation approached, I seized my opportunity and signed up for an on-campus interview for a tech recruiting company. I was the only one who showed up, so they pretty much had no choice but to hire me. Everything was great—I had gotten the Monday through Friday job that I wanted. Turns out that job really sucked, though. I spent the majority of my time trying to convince developers that places that I knew were crappy places to work weren’t crappy places to work, and that they should take jobs there. I was decent at it, but I hated it.
About a year into working as a recruiter, my then-girlfriend (now wife) forwarded me an article from the local paper and said I should look into it. The article mentioned a brand-new tech company, LinkedIn, was opening an office in Omaha, right nearby. I’d used LinkedIn in my job as a recruiter, but I did some more research and it seemed like they were much different than other “normal” office jobs around town. The job closed before I could apply, but I became obsessed with trying to figure out how to get my foot in the door.
I told myself that the next time they had a position open, I was going to apply for it no matter what it was. A few weeks later, I saw they had a posting for a customer support role and I applied. I didn’t care about the role, I didn’t care what I was doing or know anything about support, I just wanted to be at a cool, fast-growing company. I got an interview and spent the whole time convincing them that, as a recruiter, no one knew their customer needs better than me. Their users were a bunch of recruiters after all. It worked, and they ended up offering me a job. It was a 25% pay cut from what I had been making, but I didn’t care. I was young, had few expenses, and I finally had my foot in the door.
When I first started, I am not sure if I knew that customer service meant that I was going to be sitting at my desk, answering 100 emails a day. It doesn’t sound glamorous now, but I found out really quickly that I loved it. I loved getting immediate feedback from customers if I was doing a good job, and had all sorts of metrics that would allow me to see what I was doing well and what I needed to improve on. The best part was that I really believed in the product I was supporting. It was far from perfect, but I knew first hand from my recruiting days what value LinkedIn could provide, so it made it easier for me to help other people understand it as well. I wasn’t selling people lies anymore.
I was on the front lines for just over a year before I moved to another role as a Product Operations Manager. I spent a lot of my time working doing analysis on customer support data, training our support team on new features we were launching, and helping build products that were being used by our support team. I loved it even more because I felt like I could have an impact on the support we were able to provide at an even larger scale. Instead of just answering questions, I could help impact our processes to make those answers even easier to get.
After working in the product role, I spent my last few years at LinkedIn leading a few different customer support teams. It was my first time as a people manager and it was clear that success and failure was much less black and white than it was when I was on the front lines answering tickets, but I loved it because the impact I could have was even bigger. I was leaps and bounds from my desire to just work somewhere that let me have my weekends off. I was able to change what wasn’t working instead of just sitting in the discomfort.
Eight years into my run at LinkedIn, I finally made the decision to leave. I loved the company, but it was large enough where I knew there were time consuming processes that were going to slow down my ability to make and implement ideas and projects. After I left, I joined a local startup, Flywheel, that was in hyper-growth mode as their Head of Support. When I joined, I was tasked with figuring out how to grow our team from covering normal North American business hours to being a 24/7 support team. This meant hiring and training new employees across Europe, Asia, and Australia. The support team went from 12 people in one location when I started, to 34 people distributed across the world a year and a half later. That sort of growth came with pains for sure, but we handled it and learned a ton in the process as well.
While working at Flywheel, I also met my cofounder, Ben. He is probably the best combination of someone whom you’d want to start a company with. He’s an excellent engineer, marketer, and is just generally a super-positive person to be around. He’s too humble to say any of that, but I can assure you he is. Ben and I started grabbing drinks and throwing around dumb business ideas. As absurd as some of our ideas were (I still think flip flops for chickens would be great), we kept coming back to customer support tools that would help teams scale with their growing customer base. I wanted to make tools that I had wished for back in the day.
Eventually, we were no longer spit-balling over beers. It got to the point where Ben started actually building out an idea we thought of for a new chat tool with a viewer that would automatically display what your customer was doing on your site. Think of it like screen-sharing, but limited to your website or app only. At first, the majority of the app was faked. The browser screenshare (we call it CoBrowse) didn’t actually exist. We just inserted a GIF of someone browsing a webpage as a placeholder to demo the product. I then started showing it to a bunch of my peers in support roles and they immediately seemed to understand the value of it. After doing a bunch of early customer feedback sessions, we decided we had enough good feedback to quit our jobs and work on it full time. I figured that building tools that made the lives of customer support people a bit easier was a great way for me to accomplish my goal of making the biggest impact on people’s ability to provide exceptional service. It brought me full circle.
After a bunch of iterations, we decided to scrap the idea of building our chat product altogether and just focus on the CoBrowse. We made sure it played really well with the existing chat providers and the other tools that support teams use every day. So now we spend our entire day building, selling, and supporting the tool I always wanted when I was answering support questions.
Looking back, I didn’t expect that I would end up making an entire career (and company) focused around customer support. Or that I would be passionate enough about it to sacrifice my weekends and pull so many late-nights. I just kind of fell into it, but I’m sure glad I did.