On stage at this year's Chicago UserConf, I put up these slides.
I was using those increasingly wacky titles as an introduction the main point of my talk: Instead of making your support team be heroic in order to get their job done, build your company, policies, processes and products so that great customer service is almost automatic. You can read the full details in this post.
Recently on a SupportOps hangout my friends Jeff and Carolyn discussed the importance and power of language in customer service, a topic close to my heart. They disagreed (in the politest way!) with my characterising job titles as unimportant, and made some really solid points in their defense.
- "Happiness Hero" and similar names send a signal to your team (and the rest of your company) about the importance of the role to customers.
- Customer service people at Wistia and Buffer (and indeed at Campaign Monitor) do much more than 'tech support'.
- Alternate titles can be more fun, people enjoying having them and dealing with people using them.
I agree with all of those things, I really do. But I still think that job titles really aren't important. Here's why.
A customer mostly won't care what your title is, they care about whether or not they are getting the help they need. A fun title might help make a connection with a happy customer, or it might piss off an already upset customer. Let's call that a draw.
When it comes to the support team members, and the rest of the company, is the title an important part of building great service? Does it really matter?
Will you try something for me? Rank by order of importance these various ways of showing the value a company places on great customer service.
- Consistently spends more time and money on the overarching customer experience than their competitors.
- Provides reliable, consistently great service to customers over time.
- Gives their customer service department and team broader, more fun titles to dissociate it from normal customer support, and elevate perceived importance.
- Gives their frontline staff authority to go outside the guidelines when it makes sense to help a customer.
- Gives their staff tools and resources so they have access to more and more capabilities over time, and are less often forced to hand off customers.
- Pays above the market rates so they can get the best team members.
- Treats their customer service team as full members of the company when it comes to entitlements, input, and career development.
- Promotes the success of the customer service team internally and externally.
Where would you rank the importance of a job title on that list? Job titles and team names matter, undoubtedly. It can be that extra little recognition of value and culture. They just matter so much less than everything else. If you're in support and your company is doing all those other things up there, then you won't care what your title is. You will know deeply how important you are and how important your work is.
If your company isn't doing all those other things, but you've got a cool title.... well how meaningful is that going to be? Language is absolutely powerful, but it can be used to deceive as well as to promote. If Comcast changed their retention team's name to 'Happiness Enforcement", we all know that job still sucks.
Jeff and Carolyn are great leaders at two fantastic companies who genuinely value customer service and consistently do great work. But it isn't their job titles that made them that way. They did it the hard way. Just like you have to.