Sunny Xu
Sunny loves learning and sharing new things, which is why she is now at Periscope Data! Previously, she graduated from Princeton and then worked in finance to practice reading the mind of the Federal Reserve.

How Periscope Approaches Customer Support

June 20, 2017

If there is one thing that sets Periscope Data apart, it's our obsession with customer experience. With a five-second live chat response time (really!), we continue to redefine what exceptional customer support looks like. How did we get here?

Exemplary customer service is in our DNA. Our CEO Harry used to personally take chats and calls with the customer himself. Even today, he owns up to the Customer Advocate title on his bio. In the company’s early days, our founders realized how important customer feedback was. In fact, you could say these conversations were more valuable for Periscope than they were for our customers. This crucial feedback helped shape our product roadmap. Each bug, nit, and feature request gave us the insight we needed to focus on building a product people love.

Over the years, we’ve built a scalable and stellar team that customers know—and often request—by name. I’m often asked how we’ve been able to accomplish this. It comes down to three main components: 

  • A Knowledge-Driven Team
  • A Customer-First Approach
  • Collaborative Processes

Developing Depth of Knowledge

In building the team, our most important focus is acquiring teammates who are knowledge-driven—because of this, everyone actively learns, evolves, and improves the information delivered to the customer every day. This mentality vastly expands the scope of questions the team can handle and the depth of answers the team can provide. No matter what questions our customers asks—whether it’s about SQL, product features, backend heuristics, or account details—our Solutions team is directly answering their question, not referencing a manual or delegating to another team.

This technical aptitude also allows us to be small but mighty. There’s no gigantic call center: there’s Andreas, Chris, Charlotte, Josephine, Kyle, and Britton. Because we’re close to both the product as well as the customer—their motivations, their pain points—we’re in a unique position to add value to these areas to the rest of the company. For instance, teammates regularly act as sales engineers, support customer onboarding, train users on the product, draft documentation, and offer consultations.

As a result, our knowledge-driven emphasis has created a virtuous cycle to attract the same—or even higher—caliber of talent because of the stimulating variety of day-to-day roles. For our customers, our team becomes their trusted advisors when we demonstrate goodwill through our depth of knowledge and wide array of skillsets.

Bolstering Customer Centricity

Periscope is constantly aiming to overachieve for our customers on all fronts—sales, product and engineering, and solutions. There’s a two-pronged approach when it comes to working with a knowledge-driven Solutions team on being customer focused:

  1. Continuous drive to resolve every single customer issue
  2. Perpetual analysis into patterns in customer outreach, including education on complex features, missing features, or product bugs

This commitment to customer success aligns with the team’s thirst for knowledge—what we learn translates to a better experience for the customer. There have definitely been times when a customer question resulted in the entire team staying after hours to learn about higher-level SQL methods or why our engineers developed a feature a certain way. Our team will often go out of their way to talk with other people in the company related to the customer or product feature to get additional context. We ultimately pass what we learn along with possible solutions to our customers, who come out of conversations even more engaged in the product.

We take notes on every customer outreach. It’s no secret that we’re a data-driven company, and we use our own product to analyze user behavior. The data we've collected on customer questions has helped the team improve our documentation and develop internal tooling to more quickly resolve future occurrences. It's also positioned us as a trusted team internally. Product and Engineering have been able to lean on us to represent our customers’ best interests. And Sales is quick to make sure customers know we’re always available to help solve their challenges.

Our coordinated company-wide efforts has earned us an anthology’s length of positive written feedback from customers. This positive reinforcement motivates the team to do even more for our customers. 

Cultivating a Culture of Internal Collaboration

Part of engineering a good culture is forcing the processes that spark good culture. Our team embraces processes where in-team and cross-functional collaboration is a must.

For instance, there are no assigned accounts for team—we service all accounts together, which is pretty unorthodox for a company with more than 800 customers! And we take a pretty radical approach to communicating about customers: We talk to each other. Offline. As the team has grown, sitting next to each other and talking about our customers has become the most efficient way to transfer knowledge and quickly troubleshoot issues. This constant chatter at our desks has really brought us together as a team.

To keep collaboration high with all of the different roles our team plays, we moved to a rotational structure: In the morning, one group will focus on customer support, while another focuses on documentation, customer trials, or onboarding; we then rotate in the afternoon. This setup ensures the team works to be well-rounded, but also that no one is working in a silo. One teammate may be leading a project in one of these roles and directing other teammates who are helping out in the same project. This rotational structure creates further overlap in idea development that requires the team to work together and share one voice when communicating with external teams. 

This high collaboration has allowed knowledge specialization to be shared, good ideas to become better ideas through discussion, and minimization of duplicative work.

What’s Next for Customer Solutions at Periscope

Periscope and our roster of customers are quickly growing, meaning the Solutions team will have to as well. Naturally, our core focus is to maintain the culture and quality of work as we scale. Part of this is paying close attention to the types of employees we bring in. To keep culture intact, we’ll need people who thirst for knowledge, thrive in our customer-centric environment, and crave collaboration.

Another challenge we’ll have to tackle is dividing up responsibilities across a larger team. Naturally, people who were once generalists may start to specialize and focus on just one or two areas. The key to successfully accomplishing this will be to set up processes that encourage equality across roles. It’s a balancing act between making sure everyone is learning a similar skillset while still ensuring individuals get to exert ownership over specific projects.

Some parts of our existing organization won’t fully scale; for instance, we’ll eventually have to get to the point where we break up our Solutions team into smaller pods that focus on a certain set of customers. However, I’m fully confident that the spirit of the Solutions team—our can-do attitudes, personalized service, and commitment to excellence—will stay with us, no matter how large our team gets!

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