Provide accurate support without sacrificing human connection!
Hire people who aren't afraid to bring themselves to work!
Onboard people really well! Make sure they know what a good conversation looks like!
Have a bomb QA program to reinforce rapport-building moments 💥
Good customer interactions are grounded in human connection. Squarespace, the all-in-one website platform, provides excellent customer support by scaling personalized interactions through quality assurance coaching and development. The art of conversation for Squarespace lies in how they use a quality assurance program to prioritize an individual yet consistent approach to every interaction.
Elise Arnett, the Director of the Customer Operations Learning Team at Squarespace, oversees Training and Customer Service Quality, and has been at the company for around six years. This is her story:
For Squarespace, really great customer support means that it’s immediately obvious that there’s a human on the other side of the chat. Additionally, advisors (support reps!) then provide accurate support without sacrificing the element of human connection that Squarespace really values.
And the reason for that is based on Squarespace’s brand, and the passions of our customers: both the customers that come to Squarespace and our brand as a whole are both very people-oriented. Many of our customers come to Squarespace to get their small business off the ground, or get a side passion going. Whatever the great, big, giant idea is that they are passionate about – they come to Squarespace, and they write into customer support for us to help them get that going.
Our customer base happens to be real people doing real things, and trying to achieve their goals. They’re bringing to us a very human drive to succeed or complete a goal of theirs. If our customer support isn’t as real or human as our brand is, or as our customers are, it would feel inauthentic. On the other side of a chat, our support team should be a real person helping that customer achieve those goals.
People use Squarespace to connect with the world, either to bring their projects to life and out into the world, or to connect their small businesses with their communities. So it’s our job to connect with them whenever we can.
I've been in the customer support world for a very long time. One of my first jobs in high school was in a customer support role. If you look back 10 or 15 years, the way that support works is just so different now. In the early days of my career, I was on the phones mostly and we all followed scripts based on the specific question that the customer asked. We would look at our handbooks, flip through the pages to find the right section and then read off of the script that the company wrote for you. And Quality Assurance at that time was oriented around making sure that people followed those scripts correctly.
You could match the tone of the customer, and obviously you were supposed to be friendly, but injecting who you are as a person, and any unique traits about yourself, or trying to connect on a human level with customers just wasn’t a thing then.
Efficiency really drove the expectations of customer support, and at the time, that type of support worked for brands and customers.
Customer support has, of course, evolved over time, in a really nice way. And efficiency is still important to some degree, but the thing that keeps customers coming back to your company now is the feeling that companies care about them. And human connections are a huge part of that fiber that drives customer loyalty.
There’s a new competitive element to customer support quality – they want a fabulous interaction, and bad support is super hard on customer loyalty.
In most industries now there is so much choice. The competitive landscape has broadened significantly. As a customer, if I’m not getting effective customer service – if I'm talking to a robot, or someone who’s sticking to a script so much that they're not really helping me – I won’t feel like I'm getting my money’s worth.
The new competitive landscape has made real connections with customers a competitive differentiator – it also allows us to be who we are more, and it’s really nice.
There's nothing quite like a really really solid interaction with a customer support rep to just give me complete faith that the business overall has their act together. It’s my only touch-point of talking to someone who works at the company. So I will of course be judging the business based on that interaction.
And if you have a great interaction, you tell people about it.
The thing that holds true through every interaction is that our advisors are experts on our platform – so they can easily answer any technical questions. They have full confidence in their knowledge of the platform, which makes them comfortable being exactly who they are in the chat. They aren’t nervous about being able to answer the question or not, so they’re able to be fluid and themselves.
When you build rapport early on, it does make confronting some of the more negative sides of the potential conversation easier. It smooths that out a little because you have a foundation. Those points of rapport that you built earlier allow the advisor to step in confidently to give the customer some tough information.
By connecting in the beginning of an interaction, the foundation of trust is there to ease any bad news.
By injecting who we are in a customer interaction, being authentic to ourselves, and connecting with the customer in a real human way, it helps customers know where the advisor is coming from. It makes it so that the customer knows that the advisor isn’t trying to ruin their day.
It’s all about intention. Rapport and real connection allows customers to acknowledge that the advisor’s intention is positive, even if the information that they’re giving might be a bummer. If you’re behind the screen, you can’t see the person, and you don’t have any indication that they care or that they’re a real person, it's easy to assume negative intent or negligence. But when you have a baseline understanding of trust, humanness, etc, you’ll assume positive intent way more.
Generally speaking, it starts with who you’re bringing in – so you need to get your hiring profile right. We hire our advisors knowing the customer experience we expect in every interaction, so that’s where it starts. Bring in the right people to do the job in a way that is representative of the company. I think we do a good job of targeting that profile, and bringing right people in. We want people who can be themselves, who are excited to work at Squarespace.
The next thing really is setting the right expectations in onboarding. From the outset we explain that we’re not a script driven organization, we really want advisors to be who they are in customer interactions. So we hit that hard during onboarding – we set the expectation that a good customer interaction is one where the advisor meets the customer with the energy that they want out of the interaction. They read the room emotionally and also answer all technical questions correctly.
The other place that we support and constantly reinforce this idea is through our quality assurance program. Our rubric is built in a way that allows us to zero in on the things that matter. There are on-negotiables in many interactions like verification, security, and making sure we’re giving the right information. Things like that certainly have to be there.
But we provide a bit of wiggle room in the unique approach that the advisor might take to support their customer. Once we know that the information is correct, and the account is secure, then we encourage advisors to meet customers where they are emotionally. If they’re chatty and over-the-top, advisors can meet them there! If the customer is focused and to-the-point, then meet them there.
We reinforce these moments of rapport building through coaching, and we annotate the moments in the ticket when advisors have connected with customers. When they see their quality reviews each week, they are reminded of how important rapport building is to Squarespace.
I was at Yahoo for a long time. I did support for Yahoo small business and I was working with a customer who had a small business website, and he was setting up his ecommerce account. I was not an account manager but I became an account manager with this guy. He got my personal desk phone number, and he called in several times a week for a month, and was very demanding. He didn’t want to wait, he expected exceptional customer service quality every time.
As a new customer support rep I was kind of overwhelmed – I didn’t know how to deal with this guy. Eventually I just started answering him straight up about limitations and what we could and couldn’t do. And he was so appreciative of me being very direct, and not reading from a script, though frankly I felt like I was being abrupt.
But later he actually sent me a copy of his book, and he wrote an inscription on the inside of the book that said something about chapter 24 – so I went to chapter 24 and it was all about direct communication. And that felt like a big lesson that I continue to think about in my role now.