Support is the pulse of a business. It’s what unifies customers with an organization’s internal teams. At Marvel, our Customer Support Team is the gateway to product excellence—the voice and face of our company.
Today, we refer to support functions as the “Success Team.” They help our users understand and succeed with the product. Second, they speak for our customers and share feedback with Marvel staff to push our product forward.
Like any startup, the past three years have been a crazy journey. We set a mission to democratize design through quality and simplicity and people have responded.
From supporting 1,000 users in December 2013, to our 1,000,000 users today, the growth has brought some very valuable lessons. Notably the importance of customer success for keeping a business on an upward curve.
What else did we discover along the way? Read on to find out.
Set up your support team early
Our Success Team is made up of just two people: Sophie Fitzpatrick, who has a background in product support and research management, and Marilyn Magnusen, who formerly ran Florist. That’s right, just two people. To many, this comes as a shock.
Even more surprising? In the beginning—we’re talking less than 100,000 users—our CEO Murat Mutlu managed support, product design, and fundraising.
Back then, Marvel was nothing more than a fun experiment that Murat ran with Cofounder Brendan Moore. Little did they know that the company would balloon to the size it is today.
Despite his manic schedule, Murat managed to stay on top of surging support tickets while keeping responses personable. However, support soon reached a point where answering tickets took up every minute of his day.
Legend has it that Murat was even responding to tickets while perched atop a mountain during his holidays.
“When answering support tickets keeps you from other roles, it’s time to build a dedicated CS team.”
We were swimming in support tickets, barely keeping our heads above water. That time could have been spent more wisely, which brings us to our first point: build your support team early.
Here’s more from Murat on the early days:
“Because I dealt with support, we probably lost a lot of time on the product. Instead, we could’ve set up a knowledge base and put tools in place much faster. It would’ve prepared us better for the future.”
Define key personality traits
As a company, Marvel strives for perfection—from the product to the teams that help shape it. That’s why we developed a clear mission and strategy for hiring. We asked ourselves, “What makes a successful support team?”
Then we nailed down these three key personality traits that we think are vital for support roles:
Supporting customers means repeating yourself often and advising people who aren’t always familiar with the product. That takes patience. Patience helps you walk through things slowly and make sure that you tailor conversations to people’s needs.
For unhappy customers, resilience becomes very important. Because you never want to carry negative energy from one ticket to the next.
And then there’s curiosity. Support employees should approach every ticket through a new set of eyes. And then breaking tickets into little pieces makes things more manageable.
“We’re commonly referred to as ‘sleuths’ at Marvel. We string together information to form clues in order to find solutions to problems.”
A bonus trait? Honesty. Marilyn tells us more:
“You can’t always help a customer. Saying that honestly gains people’s respect.”
Be good to customers and they’ll be good back
Marvel has developed a loyal family of customers. And we’ve become strong believers in good karma. Because the way you treat customers always comes back to you.
Users who’ve been with us since the beginning often know the product just as well as we do. So we listen when they tell us that something is off. Usually, these “superusers” don’t even want a response, they’re just letting us know.
And tickets are sometimes just a case of a customer being stuck or not knowing how to get past a certain point. This can be a huge blocker in their workflow.
So be helpful, be attentive, and stay focused on the problem. Remember that good support is an investment.
“It’s a great ‘thank you’ to see all the love we get on Twitter from such loyal customers. It makes it all worth it.”
Build relationships across the company
Marilyn and Sophie pride their support process on relationships with every team across the business. These include teams of designers, developers, and marketing staff. More from Sophie:
“We have meetings with other teams to stay on top of feature releases, discuss bugs, and prioritize updates. Because we know what’s irritating our customers, and sometimes we need to fight for fixes we think need to be quickly addressed.”
This collaboration works both ways. The Support Team also needs direction from product teams, because new features always affect support in some way.
Which leads to our next point.
Brace yourself for changes
New features, launches, or announcements mean a storm of questions for Support. Whenever something gets deployed, we brace ourselves. Here’s a tip from Marilyn:
“A product map is more like a cheat sheet for when you’re likely to see an influx of tickets.”
For instance, when the company POP joined the Marvel family, it created a huge need for collaboration across the business. Things like getting the word out, migrating users, and making sure Support prepared for the worst. With another 500,000 users crossing over to our company, we knew the team would be flooded with tickets.
To prepare for the tidal wave, Support anticipated customer questions, analyzed differences between the two products, and produced new help center articles.
How did it go? Here’s Sophie:
“Despite all the preparation, the migration went so well that we never got the ticket increase we expected. But it’s always better to prepare for the worst. We tracked everything, so we could learn what we could do better in the future.”
Add support to the onboarding process
Last year, Marvel was still a very small company with around 10 employees. While our heart was in the right place, at such a small size we found that time was spread thinly. So there was less time to focus on the onboarding process.
Today, we’re sitting a little larger with a team of 27 and growing. We now have the time and resources to onboard each new employee. And our new policy is to have every new team member spend a day in support, regardless of their role in the company.
We find it helps newbies understand our product and our users—providing the perfect initiation into Marvel’s central hub: support.
And there you have it. The key things we learned so far about customer support during our journey from 0 to 1,000,000 users.
We’re proud of where we are, but we still have some big goals for the future—both product and personnel wise. Marilyn and Sophie continue to develop our support processes into tip-top shape, and we’re now looking at expanding the team.
But no matter how big we get, we’ll continue to make sure that our users feel the same passion as we do.
After all, isn’t that what building a company is all about?